Directed by: Peter Jackson
Starring: Martin Freeman, Ian McKellen, Richard Armitage, Orlando Bloom, Lee Pace
WARNING: Contains spoilers!
Tolkien critics and fans alike were perplexed when Peter Jackson decided to split the Hobbit into three films rather than two. Is there even enough content in a 300-page book to sustain three movies? we all wondered. So many franchises (Harry Potter, The Hunger Games) have followed the trend of splitting books, with the result being slow-paced movies with stretched plots in order to accommodate limited content.
The Battle of the Five Armies, I’m sorry to say, jumps onto this bandwagon. A paragraph-long battle sequence is extended to 45 minutes. That’s a third of the movie. Not that I didn’t enjoy the battle sequence, but it’s unnecessarily long, slightly monotonous, and the overuse of CGI means that it lacks the authenticity that Lord of the Rings had.
The Legolas/Tauriel/Kíli (Orlando Bloom, Evangeline Lilly, Aidan Turner) love triangle has been absolutely cringeworthy ever since it was introduced in the Desolation of Smaug. The romance between Tauriel and Kíli is still uncomfortably forced, and is used only as a plot device for the Elves saving the Dwarves.
Which brings me to another issue; The Hobbit novel is about Bilbo (Martin Freeman) and the thirteen Dwarves overcoming the hardships of their journey, and the introduction of the Elves really detracts from this narrative. Instead of having Dwarves being badass and holding their own, we have Legolas and Tauriel continually saving them while performing physics-defying feats. Peter Jackson has obviously valued commercial success from audience familiarity over staying true to the actual story.
All this being said, the expansion of Gandalf’s (Ian McKellen) experience in Dol Guldur is an excellent addition to the film. We are given a deeper insight into the major powers of Middle-Earth and the history of Sauron, which sets up the Lord of the Rings trilogy quite well.
However, the Hobbit films’ strength has always come from the characters and The Battle of the Five Armies does not let us down on this point. It’s great to see minor characters such as Bard (Luke Evans), Thranduil (Lee Pace), and many of the Dwarves being given much more depth. Thorin (Richard Armitage) and Bilbo’s friendship also develops nicely, and their conflict just enhances the realism of their relationship.
However, it is the acting that truly brings these characters to life. Richard Armitage makes Thorin’s stubbornness infuriating and his last words heartbreaking. Martin Freeman is on point as ever; Lee Pace manages to transform Thranduil from a villain to a sympathetic character; and Aidan Turner expresses Kíli’s rage wonderfully.
Overall, The Hobbit: The Battle of the Five Armies is a mediocre adaptation that attempts to match the epicness of Lord of the Rings but ends up being over-dramatic most of the time. The characters are written beautifully and the actors are brilliant, but the simplistic, stretched plot shows Peter Jackson’s commercialistic intentions rather than his knack for good storytelling.
Review by: Andrea Luo (Guest Contributor)