Review - The Hobbit: The Battle of the Five Armies

The Hobbit: The Battle of the Five Armies (2014), PG-13, 144 minutes -Originally subtitled 'There and Back Again', 'The Battle of the Five Armies' marks the final installment in director Peter Jackson's adaptation of J.R.R. Tolkien's The Hobbit. This portion of the story shows the events surrounding the party of dwarves - led by heir to the dwarven throne Thorin Oakenshield - reclaiming and then defending their homeland, the Lonely Mountain of Erebor.

We are thrust into the action as 'The Battle of the Five Armies' picks up right where 'The Desolation of Smaug' ended, with the dragon Smaug (Benedict Cumberbatch) attacking the people of Laketown. Smaug's vacating the Lonely Mountain allows Thorin (Richard Armitage) and his crew, including Bilbo (Martin Freeman) to re-enter the mountain and begin searching for the Arkenstone, the crown jewel of the dwarven treasure. As the search lengthens, Thorin is increasingly afflicted with 'dragon sickness', a lust and paranoia brought on by great amounts of treasure. The dragon sickness causes Thorin to be overly defensive and standoffish when Bard (Luke Evans), stand-in leader of the people of Laketown and Thranduil (Lee Pace), king of the elves arrive, expecting for help and a promised share of the dwarven treasure. The only thing that keeps the dwarves from warring with the elves and the humans is an impending attack from Azog's (Manu Bennett) orc army who want to claim the Lonely Mountain for its strategic position in battle.

This film boasts an enormous cast, the important pieces of which carry over from 'An Unexpected Journey' or 'The Desolation of Smaug': the aforementioned Armitage, Freeman, Evans, Pace and Cumberbatch as well as Ian McKellen (Gandalf), Ken Stott (Balin), Graham McTavish (Dwalin), Aidin Turner (Kili), Orlando Bloom (Legolas), Evangeline Lily (Tauriel), Cate Blanchett (Galadriel), Hugo Weaving (Elrond), Christopher Lee (Saruman), and Ian Hom (Old Bilbo).

While 'The Battle of the Five Armies' wraps up Jackson's Hobbit adaptation well, it does feel a bit long. It feels long in the same way the previous two installments did, and that can be tied directly the new characters and content that were added to the tale when being adapted for the big screen. This isn't a 'when is this going to end' feeling, but a 'this wasn't in the book is it really necessary?' feeling - hard to avoid when a small novel is stretched into not two but three two and a half hour long films.

If you have enjoyed the rest of Peter Jackson's Tolkien adaptations, you'll enjoy this film as well. The Lord of the Rings films were, for the most part, quite faithful to the source material. This trilogy takes more liberties with the story and its characters, which isn't necessarily bad, it just doesn't feel quite the same to those who are familiar with Tolkien's written works. Differences aside, I have enjoyed Jackson's tales from Middle Earth and I'm a bit sad that they have been completed.

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