“The Hobbit” saga comes to a close in “Battle of the Five Armies,” directed by Peter Jackson. The film starts moments after the end of the second film, “The Desolation of Smaug.” The dwarves, led by Thorin, played by Richard Armitage, have regained their kingdom containing endless piles of gold and the evil dragon Smaug has been set free.
After leaving the mountain kingdom, Smaug begins destroying the nearby lake city. The fact that Smaug has now left the gold in the dwarf kingdom, though, has been spread by word of mouth and it sets in motion the events of the final installment as a number of armies descend on the location.
Three times I’ve sat through a “Hobbit” film now and all three times I’ve noticed the same issue, the story is simply stretched too thin. “The Hobbit” was originally a single book and splitting it up basically made Director Peter Jackson pull things out to unreasonable lengths by adding new subplots that weren’t in the original material.
It creates a problem in this final installment as the movie follows so many characters and different subplots that it starts jumping around too much, making it almost impossible to wrap everything up in a nice bow.
Another problem this movie has is it is one giant battle and the entire film takes place at the same place. One of the best parts of the last five films in the franchise has been visiting all of the places in Middle-Earth. The fact that everything was contained to one location made the movie feel constrictive, as if it couldn’t stand on its own two feet.
The best praise that “Battle of the Five Armies” can get is the performance by Martin Freeman as Bilbo Baggins. Every moment he is on screen he manages to steal the show. Freeman gives the character so much life, which made Bilbo become the heart and soul of the picture.
Another returning member of the cast to throw in a solid performance was Armitage as Thorin. The character’s greed with the dwarf gold and his commitment to fight against the evil orcs are in full display in the movie and he gives the picture more emotional weight.
Thorin’s friendship with Bilbo was also done well, as Freeman and Armitage were able to have good on-screen chemistry. Toward the end of the film it was clear the characters saw each other as brothers in arms and it was believable.
Cast members who were added in the second installment once again felt out of place, mainly with Evangeline Lilly as Tauriel and Orlando Bloom as Legolas.
While their performances were better than in “Desolation,” their subplots felt like they were there to add more story to make the movie into three flicks.
Longtime characters were portrayed well, though, by veteran performers such as Ian McKellen as Gandalf and the actors who played the rest of the dwarf company.
In a movie called “Battle of the Five Armies,” the action should at least be great. While the action was fine in some parts of this installment, it didn’t hold true for every moment. Too many times something was done by one of the characters that was just too over the top.
“Battle of the Five Armies” isn’t the best way to leave Middle-Earth. The action scenes can keep a person entertained and the performances from Freeman and Armitage make for dramatic and compelling filmmaking. The issues are still prevalent, though, which keep it away from reaching the heights of the last trilogy ender that Jackson did in which he won 11 Academy Awards. 3 out of 5.