Release date: 26th December 2014

Director: Peter Jackson

Cast: Martin Freeman, Richard Armitage, Luke Evans, Orlando Bloom, Evangeline Lilly

Classification: M (Fantasy Violence)

Review by Peter Gray

And just like that, another saga has come to an end. After audiences waited with bated breath to see how the ‘Lord of the Rings’ trilogy would end (and end and end and end…) Peter Jackson’s magical world of Middle Earth is farewelled yet again in an extended battle sequence that should please long-standing fans but, once again, fail to rope in outside audiences. If you haven’t bothered with any of the previous ‘Hobbit’ films – 2012’s ‘An Unexpected Journey’ and 2013’s ‘The Desolation of Smaug’ – ‘The Battle of the Five Armies’ won’t sway you in any form, and so this film picking up exactly where its predecessor finished (not even a “Previously on ‘The Hobbit’ to catch us up to speed”) plays into its core-audience mentality.

After a surprisingly short opening action sequence which sees the city of Esgaroth doused in fire and dust from the destruction of the beastly Smaug (voiced ever-so-effectively by Benedict Cumberbatch), the survivors of the attack seek refuge and the treasure they were promised by Thorin (Richard Armitage). Having given in to dragon-sickness and betrayed his friendship and loyalty to those who both trusted and travelled with him, Thorin searches for the legendary Arkenstone to keep for himself, and as its hidden somewhere deep within the vast treasure under the Mountain, Thorin isn’t giving up his wealth without a fight. As we know though it’s not only the Dwarves and the neighbouring cities that desire the treasure, and (as the title suggests) there’s a hoard of other armies perfectly willing to go to war over the vast wealth. The battle begins, and ends, here.

I’ll be the first to admit that the ‘Lord of the Rings’ trilogy did very little for me, blasphemy (to some) I know, and it’s not that I don’t appreciate the grandeur that director Peter Jackson has created as visually he has succeeded at bringing the rich world and characters of J.R.R. Tolkien’s classic works to life, but the films were always too long, and a little too indulgent, for me. There’s also never been a need to split ‘The Hobbit’ into three films, and that’s particularly evident with ‘The Battle of the Five Armies’ as you take away the extended battle sequence that essentially is the entire film, and what are you exactly left with? There are some amusing moments peppered throughout the massive war scenes, Thorin’s stand-off with a monstrous orc on a bed of ice is a highlight, but Jackson’s need to stay ahead of the technology curb by releasing the film in HFR (high frame rate) only stifles these would-be wow moments with each action appearing overly choreographed in its ultra-realism, and the special effects failing to impress as much as they should with the technology only exposing their use more.

In many ways these films are critic proof as there’s an audience already built-in and no amount of criticism will deter them. It’s easy to attack the film and pick it apart, and I can be easily accused of not giving the film a proper chance as I wasn’t a ‘Lord of the Rings’ fan, but I stand by my less-than-enthused reaction as one big battle does not a movie make. Jackson has given the fans something to savour, and the appearances from Hugo Weaving, Cate Blanchett and the always marvellous Ian McKellan will go down a treat, but a story as majestic as this deserves a stronger send-off.

My rating: 2.5/5

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