Directed by Peter Jackson
Expectations: The highest of high.
The Hobbit, as a whole, is hands down one of the most entertaining fantasy films out there, and The Battle of the Five Armies is perhaps the most entertaining piece of the trilogy. The idea that the films are bloated and stretched too thin remains somewhat incomprehensible to me. I can understand if you think the Tauriel/Kili love story is unnecessary — because it totally is — but it also allows for elves to hang around and do a bunch of slick elf stuff, so I don’t really see a problem. In any case, the richness that three films brings to this adaptation is exceptional. I can’t even imagine a one-film version, or even two films. If that was the case, so many of my favorite “unnecessary” moments would be left unseen.
This film picks up immediately after the events in Desolation of Smaug, as Smaug flies towards Laketown to burn it a new one. This is one hell of a thrilling opening, and it whets the appetite for what’s to come… basically two solid hours absolutely bursting at the seems with thrills. I can’t really think of a film quite like it. It’s nothing like either of the previous Hobbit films because the adventure the party set out on is essentially complete. The dragon has been slain, Erebor has been re-taken, what’s left but to dive headfirst into the gold like an unkempt, bearded Scrooge McDuck? Apparently a lot! The Battle of the Five Armies is also nothing like the Lord of the Rings films, so don’t expect anything with the weight of Return of the King just because this is the third film of a trilogy. The Hobbit is and always will be a lighter tale that happens before everything in Middle Earth went to hell in a handbasket, so it’s just wrong to expect it to hit the same way as Lord of the Rings.
By including material from the appendices, specifically what Gandalf gets up to while Bilbo and the dwarves venture onward, The Hobbit trilogy is able to become the prequel it needed to be to the Lord of the Rings films. Yes, “needed.” With a specific focus on only telling the novel’s story, The Hobbit films would seem largely unrelated to the previous version of Middle Earth and even more tonally different from Lord of the Rings than they already are. With an established screen version of the universe already in place, Jackson and everyone involved would be a little daft not to at least make use of it, if not expand upon it. By delving into Tolkien’s appendices the authenticity is there as well. And besides, without these sections can you imagine the current crop of nitpicky reviewers not finding fault with Gandalf leaving the party at towards the beginning of Desolation and only coming back partway through Battle of the Five Armies?
It’s probably unnecessary to say at this point, but I loved The Battle of the Five Armies. I’m sorry for anyone that can’t have fun with it because the Hobbit films, especially this latest one, are the kind of fantasy filmmaking that fans have dreamed unsuccessfully of for years. Upon my first viewing of the concluding chapter of Lord of the Rings, I hoped that the trilogy’s success would lead Hollywood down similar paths, greenlighting lots of exciting high fantasy tales. It still has yet to happen, and at the end of Bilbo’s journey, 11 years later, I don’t hold any similar dreams. Thus, I savored every entertaining, high-fantasy minute of The Hobbit‘s “bloated” runtime, and it has left a huge smile on my face.