In what seemed like something that ended years ago, and was a constant re-jog to my memory as I had to be reminded that a new installment was coming out, the final Hobbit movie hit the screen with the culmination of two films (and nearly six hours) came to a close with the long hinted battle. But instead of being a fulfilling wrap-up of the events that happened in the previous films like Return of the King, Battle of the Five Armies felt more like fan service or the penultimate episode of a Game of Thrones season rather than a conclusion to any sort of story.
The Hobbit series is truly a frustrating one as there is such a rich, fun story behind the pages of J.R.R. Tolkien’s novel that it seems crazy to think that something gratifying couldn’t come out of it. Instead, director Peter Jackson returned to what seemed like treaded ground with the new trilogy. Maybe it was a mistake to make what was expected to be two movies into three, maybe it wasn’t the right fit to bring Jackson back as the director, or maybe it just wasn’t handled particularly well overall.
Whatever the excuse is, the point is moot. The trilogy happened and while some of it seemed bloated and unnecessary, there were many glimmers that showed that Jackson, and this story, were still able to capture the spirit of The Lord of the Rings even if it couldn’t eclipse it.
But where Battle of the Five Armies falters most (even more than the other two movies) is that it never feels like a part of the trilogy, but rather some bonus content that Jackson put on the extended edition to pump fans up. This problem begins in the beginning when (spoiler alert) we pick up with the ending events of Desolation of Smaug and start in Laketown with the dragon approaching for an attack. In what would become a 15 minute scene that included the iconic moment of Bard (Luke Evans) slaying the dragon with the one arrow, this giant moment (that mind you was the entire buildup of the previous film) seemed so minimal after such a giant build-up.
For the past two and a half plus hours (from the last movie), we were building to the moment when Smaug (voiced by Benedict Cumberbatch) would ride into Laketown, after a brief skirmish with Bilbo and the dwarves, and attack it pushing the events into the giant battle that would ensue. Instead, this death was quickly and swiftly taken care of, which begged the question: why save it for this movie when it would’ve made more sense as the ending of the last one?
It never really subsides from there as the next portion of the movie is set-up for the giant battle that we have been promised from day one. As a fan of the novel, I remember daydreaming of the scale of this skirmish that would pit creatures against each other in something that could possibly rival battles from The Two Towers or Return of the King. Instead, the battle seemed more like extra topping on a sundae that felt already finished up.
There are moments of fun as characters such as Legolas (Orlando Bloom) plow through orcs and other villains while trying to save the dwarves that we have come to enjoy having around after the past two movies. But in what should’ve been a conclusion of Bilbo and these dwarves instead became a sort of spectacle that felt so detached from the rest of the story.
It is truly unfortunate that it felt like that since the performance as Bilbo by Martin Freeman was the pillar of this entire series (completely eclipsing Elijah Wood as the lead in Lord of the Rings). His humor, humanity, and lovable demeanor made him someone you could relate to and cheer for, but even he was hidden behind the facade of this epic battle.
Overall, The Hobbit: Battle of the Five Armies isn’t not entertaining, but for a concluding note in a trilogy that always seemed to lack any solid ground, it seemed to create even more disconnect with the audience and left me hallow for a franchise that I apologized for many times because deep down I knew it was a lot of fun.
I guess I was wrong.