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Hobbit: The Battle of the Five Armies, The (2014)

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Score: 5/10

Genre: Fantasy Running Time: 2 hrs. 24 min.

Release Date: December 17th, 2014 MPAA Rating: PG-13

Director: Peter Jackson Actors: Martin Freeman, Ian McKellen, Richard Armitage, Lee Pace, Evangeline Lilly, Luke Evans, Cate Blanchett, Orlando Bloom, Hugo Weaving, Christopher Lee

“T

he Battle of the Five Armies” is a fitting subtitle to the last chapter of Peter Jackson’s “The Hobbit” trilogy, as incessant troop gathering, wordy negotiations, and turbulent scrimmaging fill the screen with little else. The final episode neatly concludes the epic quest started so long ago, but as the forces of good and evil collide in prolonged warfare, it’s easy to forget the original motives and backstory; notions of love, loyalty, and friendship don’t resonate clearly, since the brunt of such interactions occurred in previous entries. And as the franchise draws to a close, exaggerated pauses, war cries and grimaces, and slow-motion posing cause more moments of absurdity than awe, replacing plot with repetitive face-offs. Visually, this finish delivers what fans clamor for, but it’s obvious that the most creative bits of J.R.R. Tolkien’s novel were partitioned into the preceding films.

Acting on his threat to bring destruction to Lake-town, fire-breathing dragon Smaug (voiced by Benedict Cumberbatch) leaves the mountain stronghold of Erebor and begins setting the nearby city aflame. As the townspeople flee, brave archer Bard (Luke Evans) must stand up to the beast alone. But defeating the raging monstrosity is just the beginning of their tribulations as Bard and the human survivors must then partner with an elven army led by Thranduil (Lee Pace) to reclaim the treasures promised to them by dwarven King Thorin Oakenshield (Richard Armitage). As hobbit Bilbo Baggins (Martin Freeman) attempts to find a peaceable solution between the opposing parties, wizard Gandalf the Grey (Ian McKellen) warns of an approaching army of orcs intent on claiming The Lonely Mountain for themselves.

“The Hobbit: The Battle of the Five Armies” actually starts with the desolation of Smaug. It reminds audiences of the cliffhanger conclusion from the previous entry, which may have been a decent spot to leave off, but then dispenses with that buildup even before this final act truly begins. The main focus is not thwarting a winged serpent, but ramping up anticipation for an enormous confrontation between thousands of warriors. As the shortest of all the Middle-earth movies, by nearly 20 minutes, it’s very evident that there isn’t enough story left over to warrant a division of three separate episodes, especially as the action here is limited to a single, albeit monumental, swords and sorcery clash. This absence of substance likely explains why the cowardly Alfrid (Ryan Gage), whose unimportant supporting role serves only to irritate and represent traitorousness, receives so much screentime.

“She has spent much of her power,” comments Saruman (Christopher Lee), motioning to the exhausted Galadriel (Cate Blanchett), collapsed on the ground after attacking the apparition of Sauron. Once again, magical abilities are not clearly defined, leaving it up to contrived chance whether or not certain feats will triumph in various encounters. The discord between powers of lightness and darkness has never been grayer. The related showdowns are frequent, overlong, and terribly overdramatic, carrying on with so much perturbation that they relinquish all the suspense generated from the detailed sequences of readying for combat.

Oakenshield, who conducted heroic deeds in the prior pictures, is maddened by dragon sickness, leaving little room for sympathy or redemption after raving like a lunatic and sustaining hostility during the majority of this adventure. When he finally comes to, the entire tide of war is unbelievably changed by a mere thirteen dwarves. As a war of attrition, the terminal skirmish makes no sense; the sheer number of orcs would dictate total defeat of the humanoids. Still, a series of penultimate one-on-one duels demonstrates that there are only two orcs capable of standing up to opponents – and that they’re the equivalent of hundreds of foot soldiers “bred for war.” When it’s noted that a new squadron of enemies approach (“goblin mercenaries, no more than a hundred”), the response by two dwarves is: “we’ll take care of them.” That quote sums up the lack of gravity and threat imposed by countless legions of towering, armored, sword-wielding combatants. These tremendous battalions of monsters are knocked aside as if inanimate bowling pins. Nevertheless, the orcs and their kin represent the most visually impressive elements of the production, especially when seen in close-up for shots with real makeup and prosthetics, as opposed to the less convincing CG.

– The Massie Twins

 

 



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