I gave the first Hobbit (An Unexpected Journey), 6 out of 10 (it was beautiful, but long and slow, with a surprising amount of singing). I gave the second Hobbit (Desolation of Smaug) 7 out of 10 (better, more interesting, and Dragon!) . And now, we have (finally) the third Hobbit movie, The Battle of the Five Armies. Be forewarned – this one is long, mainly because I feel compelled to explain everything that happened – also, be doubly forewarned – I have not read the books!
The tail end of this epic is once again directed by Peter Jackson, and this one is 2 hours and 24 minutes, which is the shortest of the three (2 was 2 hours 41 minutes, and 1 was two hours 49 minutes) and picks up immediately after the ending of the previous film – which ended just as Smaug had finished berating Bilbo for what felt like hours and the dwarves had tried to drown him in gold. That didn’t work, because as you know – dragons love gold (still befuddled by that). In any case, he heads over to destroy Laketown as the elf Tauriel takes Fili, Kili, Oin, Bofur (those are all dwarves) and Bard’s children (those are human Laketown residents), out of the city. Bard breaks free and kills Smaug (after Smaug talks at him for a bit) with the black arrow.
The survivors of the town wash up on a shore near them and head over to the ruins of Dale (which apparently was a city just outside the gates of Erebor – the dwarf kingdom, or that place under the mountain that Smaug was in). Kili tells Tauriel he loves her, and she seems about to go with it, when Legolas and his wig show up, and she decides to go with him to Gundabad because those orcs were suspicious, and he’s worried about what the orcs of Gundabad are up to. Meanwhile – Kili, Fili, Oin, and Bofur arrive at Erebor, and learn from Bilbo that Thorin Oakenshield – the dwarf king – who was the point of this mission (to get him back to his kingdom) is now suffering from dragon sickness – or, you know, wanting to hoard all your gold. He’s going a bit crazy looking for the Arkenstone, which Bilbo has ‘borrowed’.
As you remember (or, if you’re anything like me, you don’t), Gandalf is still being held at Dol Guldur in a cage. He seems to telepathically call Radagst, to ask for assistance, which upsets Sauron and his nine not-quite-yet ring wraiths. They appear, not really corporeal yet, and Galadriel, Elrond, and Saruman show up like a bunch of badasses and kick the wraiths back to the where-ever-it-is they were coming from. The big Sauron eye shows up for a second, but Galadriel uses some sort of elf magic to cast him into the horizon. Seriously – he just drifts away towards the sunset. This wears out Galadriel, but does free/revive Gandalf, who gets taken away by Radagast and his still-awesome jackrabbit-pulled sled, who he then promptly ditches to warn Erebor of the approaching army of Orcs, led by Azog the Defiler – even though Bolg (who has no nickname) is heading north to get another army of Orcs from Gundabad. Saruman tells Elrond to take Galadriel to leave Sauron to him (treachery is the way of the Sith), which is apparently when he starts working with the big eye.
Bard and the Laketown folks stay in Dale, and he leaves Alfrid (a horrible, terrible person who worked for the Master of Laketown before he was killed by falling dragon) on watch. Alfrid of course misses the fact that Thranduil has shown up overnight with his army of wood elves in super shiny armor and supplies for the people. Thranduil (who is the wood elf king, and Legolas’s father) is riding the most magnificent giant deer/elk/moose ever CGIed, and is all pissy because apparently there are elf gems in the treasure pile in Erebor that he wants back. Bard wants the pile of gold that Thorin promised the people of Laketown – after all, everything they had is gone due to the dragon that Thorin pissed off. Thranduil and Bard decide to work together to go into Erebor – since Thorin has commanded the dwarves to block up the entrance (which they accomplish really quickly, or maybe really slowly? There’s no way to tell how much time is passing in this movie).
Gandalf arrives to warn of the approaching orc army, and Thranduil and his ego doubt all that. Bilbo uses the ring again (each time you use it, it corrupts your soul! And calls out to its master! Stop using it!) to sneak out, he tells Thranduil, Bard, and Gandalf that Thorin is completely bonkers, and that he took the Arkenstone. He gives it to Thranduil and Bard, telling them that Thorin will trade whatever they want for it – since he wants it more than anything else.
The next day – the dwarves are gearing up – and Thorin gives Bilbo a mithril shirt (elvish chain mail, that will come into play in the LOTR stories). The armies of Bard (which is not much of an army, just some poorly equipped Laketown survivors) and Thranduil meet up at the gate of Erebor and tell Thorin they have the Arkenstone, and ask him to trade for the gold/elf gems. Thorin doubts they really have it, but Bilbo tells him it is the real one, and that he gave it to them. That pisses Thorin off, and he’s about to throw Bilbo over the wall, when Gandalf distracts him and Bilbo gets away. Then, randomly, a dwarf army shows up, led by Dain (Thorin’s cousin) – apparently having received word that Erebor is back in dwarf hands and Smaug is dead (how did they get that message?). They threaten the elves, who are not impressed, and are preparing to attack when Azog’s army or Orcs shows up – forcing the dwarves, men, and elves to fight against them together.
Thorin at first refuses to fight, and has a bit of a trippy guilt sequence, when he finally regains his mind and leads his dwarves out of Erebor into the fray. This bolsters the army that was being outnumbered by the orcs and the tide starts to turn. Thorin takes his best fighters (Dwalin, Fili, and Kili) to Ravenhill (which apparently is a big hill of ruins that was right next to Dale the whole time, and is where Azog is leading his forces from) to kill Azog – thinking that will break the rest of the orcs. Tauriel and Legolas arrive back at Dale, just as Thranduil was thinking about retreating, because he’s seen enough elf blood spilled (what about those gems you were so serious about a minute ago?). Legolas and Tauriel head up to Ravenwood to let Thorin know that Bolg is coming in from Gundabad with another army of orcs and bats (bats? What?). Bilbo volunteers to go tell Thorin as well.
At Ravenhill – Thorin and company suddenly have to deal with an army of Goblin mercenaries (which is no problem for them – the goblins are on screen all of 2 minutes, maybe)after riding up the hill on mountain goats (where did they come from?). Both Fili and Kili get killed by Azog – Tauriel takes this really hard, because she realizes she did love Kili, and he did get killed trying to protect her. Legolas battles Bolg to save Tauriel, and Thorin battles Azog on a frozen lake (why is there a frozen lake on top of a mountain of ruins?). Thorin wins – but is mortally wounded. Bilbo wakes up to see the giant eagles appear carrying Radagast and Beorn the sometimes a bear – sometimes a man guy from the previous story into the battle. He makes it over to Thorin just to make peace with him as he dies.
Legolas tells Thranduil that he can’t go back with him (not sure why), so Thranduil suggests he ride north to meet a ranger named Strider, because it will be key in the next book. Bilbo says goodbye to the remaining dwarves and heads for home with Gandalf. Gandalf leaves him just before reaching the Shire, telling Bilbo to be wary of magic rings, and Bilbo lies and says it fell out of his pocket – you have to know by now you cannot lie to wizards. Bilbo arrives home to find his possessions being auctioned off, because he was presumed dead. He clarifies who he is, and goes into his house. We then catch up with old Bilbo – just on the day Gandalf comes back to visit 60 years later.
The cast is the same, there’s no one really new in this one,
- Ian McKellen plays Gandalf, still gray, and still grumpy, but fun.
- Martin Freeman plays young Bilbo (Ian Holme plays old Bilbo). He really does a good job in this movie as Bilbo begins to step into his own and gain some confidence.
- Richard Armitage plays Thorin, and while the going crazy sequence was weird – he did a great job everywhere else. The final battle between he and Azog was great.
- The other dwarves are once again, almost indistinguishable – except for Kili. Ken Stott plays Balin, Graham McTavish plays Dwalin, William Kircher plays Bifur, James Nesbitt plays Bofur, Stephen Hunter plays Bombur, Dean O’Gorman plays Fili, Aidan Turner plays Kili, John Callen plains Oin, Peter Hambleton plays Gloin, Jed Brophy plays Nori, Mark Hadlow plays Dori, and Adam Brown plays Ori.
- Orlando Bloom plays Legolas again, and in this one, he’s all determination and bitterness.
- Evangeline Lilly plays Tauriel, and say what you want about her being a made up character for the movie – she’s great, and I’m glad she’s there, otherwise there would be almost zero women in the movie. Unfortunately, she is belittled with a love triangle storyline between Kili and Legolas, but at least she was there.
- Lee Pace is once again the very best part of this movie. He was the best part of the second one, and was barely in it. This time, he gets to be in the majority of the movie, and ride that awesome deer-thing, and fight a bunch of orcs, and chew the hell out of all the scenery – awesome.
- Cate Blanchett plays Galadriel, and she gets a little scary when banishing Sauron.
- Hugo Weaving has basically a cameo with a hero’s entrance as Elrond.
- Christopher Lee plays Saruman – and I really don’t know how anyone trusts him, he’s clearly evil.
- Mikael Persbrandt plays Beorn the Bear – very briefly.
- Sylvester McCoy plays Radagast the brown.
- Luke Evans plays Bard, the sudden leader of Laketown, who was pretty great with that black arrow to defeat the dragon, then really steps up in the battle.
- Ryan Gage plays the terrible Alfrid, who never gets his comeuppance, which I found very irritating – but perhaps that character turns into the Wormtongue character in the LOTR stories? Otherwise, I could not understand why he gets away.
- Manu Bennett plays Azog – and once again, I really wish he had been a practical effect instead of a digital one, it would have made a difference for me.
- John Tui plays Bolg – same deal there.
- Benedict Cumberbatch voiced both Smaug and the necromancer, who turned into the big eye that would become Sauron.
- Billy Connolly brought some fun to Dain, the dwarf who rides into battle on a war-pig, and has tusks in his beard to match his steed. He was fantastic.
So – overall, I suppose I liked it, but I sure didn’t love it. Once again, the movie looks amazing, but I have to say – I really miss the guys-in-suits look of the Orcs from the LOTR movies. The orcs in this series are all CGI, and that makes me check out a bit from the story. Azog was an impressive figure, but why not have Manu Bennett in prosthetics, instead of CGI? It had this amazing ability to have too much going on, and be boring at the same time. The battle sequences are so big that they can overwhelm the audience, and again, they caused me to check out a bit. The smaller fights that were more one-on-one were more interesting to watch. I would have loved more practical effects, and I almost could have used a map here and there to help figure out where all these locations were in relation to one another. At least this one ended once – well, maybe three times – instead of the six endings on Return of the King. It’s beautiful, and it’s fun, it’s still a little too long, and there are a lot of loose ends (what about the elf-gems? Where did those goblins come from, and where did they go? What was the deal with the bats?) And, what were the five armies? Elves, Men, Dwarves, Orcs – then the goblins? Or the second Orc army? Or the eagles? But, overall, it’s certainly entertaining.
7 out of 10, tied with the previous one. Lost points for the aforementioned questions, and gained points for Lee Pace.
Bonus Video 1: How the Unexpected Journey should have ended.
Bonus Video 2: How Desolation of Smaug should have ended
Bonus Video 3: Honest Trailer for LOTR
Bonus Video 4: The 2014 San Diego Comic-Con Hobbit Panel - hosted by Stephen Colbert!