Six blockbusters, 13 years, and 1031 minutes of accrued running time later, Peter Jackson has concluded his adaptation of J.R.R. Tolkien’s original works with The Hobbit: Battle of the Five Armies. We bid a melancholy farewell to Bilbo, the little hobbit with a big taste for adventure, through a variety of spectacular action sequences throughout the film. Unfortunately, these action sequences do not distract from the lack of character development and powerful emotion that fans expected in the concluding chapter of a gargantuan franchise that has become dear to audiences’ hearts across the globe and through generations.
If you have yet to see the past two films in The Hobbit trilogy, Five Armies is not for you. The film picks up right where it left off in the last movie, The Hobbit: Desolation of Smaug, where the dragon Smaug (Benedict Cumberbatch) has awoken from his slumber and is unleashed upon the civilians of Laketown. What follows is an epic action sequence of fire-breathing and arrow-wielding as Bard the Bowman (Luke Evans) slays Smaug, opening a window of opportunity for dwarves, elves, and men alike to siege Lonely Mountain and the treasures it holds. The dwarves, led by a greed-driven Lord Thorin (Richard Armitage), claim the mountain as their own, setting stage for an epic battle that will determine the fates of many beloved Hobbit characters, and of Middle-earth itself. But when the Orcs, warrior goblins known to be ruthless in battle, are summoned, elves, dwarves, and men must decide between uniting to fight against their common enemy, or perish alongside each other.
While much of this sounds exciting, the Achilles’ heel of Five Armies is probably its emphasis on spectacle as opposed to context. The film is a cavalcade of action scenes, sparsely dotted with sequences that shine light onto character plot lines. The character-driven drama that made The Lord of the Rings series so incredible seems lost, with these moments replaced by the brute force of swords clashing in battle. So many loud things are happening simultaneously that even our main character, Bilbo, is cast to the side. There is also an ill-advised attempt at humour in the form of Alfrid (Ryan Gage), a minor character from Laketown, whose cheesy quips and unappealing personality takes up time that could be spent creating more emotionally powerful scenes – or, really, just time spent on anything else but him.
Still, the action sequences are undoubtedly spectacular. Even if you have not seen the previous films, watching the ultimate battle of Middle-earth will send chills down your spine. Armies that were initially in opposition come together to protect each other from the Orcs. Many main characters, such as Thorin and Legolas (Orlando Bloom), also get their chances to shine as the focus shifts to one-on-one battles and more emotionally driven scenes. The film redeems itself in intermittent touches of emotion, including the forbidden romance between elf warrior Tauriel (Evangeline Lilly) and Kili (Aidan Turner), and when Thorin comes to his senses and decides to fight with his fellow dwarves.
The Hobbit: Battle of the Five Armies may not be groundbreaking, but is nevertheless a fitting conclusion to the prequel trilogy. Though lacking in character development and flawed in various plot lines, it is a spectacular box-office supernova that is charged and action-packed from start to finish. Despite not focusing on harvesting the emotional potential seen in the earlier series, there will be moments to laugh, moments to cry, and moments to fondly remember Bilbo’s adventures through the three films.
Perhaps it is slightly unfair as The Hobbit trilogy will always be compared to The Lord of the Rings series and, as a result, will live in its shadow. Regardless, audiences of Five Armies will become travelling companions on the final leg of Bilbo’s odyssey, and though the film is not quite a momentous masterpiece, it is a satisfying adieu to our good friend from Middle-earth.