Tuesday, 16 December 2014

The Hobbit: The Battle of the Five Armies

"The Lord of the Rings“ is to a lot of people my age what “Star Wars” is to those of the generation before us… although, let’s be honest, “Star Wars” has lost none of its fascination. So I feel very lucky that from 2012 on, we have been getting a new Middle-Earth film each year and will be getting new films from a galaxy far far away starting next year. If that doesn’t excite you, I frankly don’t understand. Many people on the internet have criticised Jackson for splitting the movie into three parts. Me, I was always happy for more Hobbits, Dwarves, Elves and what not.

“The Hobbit: The Battle of the Five Armies” is the final part of Peter Jackson’s Middle-Earth saga, that now spans six movies, an epic of epic epicness one might say. “The Battle of the Five Armies” concludes the journey of Thorin Oakenshield’s (Richard Armitage) company, who have now set up shop in Erebor, the old dwarven kingdom inside the lonely mountain. But the giant treasure inside the mountain has attracted the attention of more than just a small company of dwarves, and now they have to see if they can keep the hard-won mountain.

If you were wondering where Benedict Cumberbatch’s Smaug is in that synopsis, you probably haven’t read the book. Suffice it to say he doesn’t play that big of a role in this movie, although his presence is certainly felt.

If you have been one of the people criticising the Hobbit-Saga for being bloated and not getting to the point, then this is the one for you. “The Battle of the Five Armies” delivers on its name. The pace is incredibly fast. Within half an hour, the battle starts and from that point on, it doesn’t stop. Helm’s Deep and the Pelennor Fields set the bar for cinematic warfare pretty high, but the Battle of the Five Armies can hold its own by comparison. “The Hobbit” saga has been a bit more over-the-top than the “Lord of the Rings”, and that shows in the battle, both in the bombastic scale and the amazing creatures it includes. Seeing an elven king riding to battle on a giant elk or an army of dwarves on the horizon instills a sense of wonder in you, just as seeing the Mûmakil attacking the Rohirrim did in “The Return of the King”.

On the human/dwarfish/elvish/orcish side, the characters that have been added throughout the trilogy finally pay off. The battle would have no impact if we didn’t have recognisable faces on the different sides of it. Legolas and Tauriel play an important part in the battle, more than I would have thought, and they do so well. The young elven prince can once more show off that no man, orc or battle-hardened dwarf is his equal, with some scenes that rival the insanity of his mûmak takedown on the Pelennor Fields.

The most character-work goes to Richard Armitage as Thorin Oakenshield, who is going to some pretty dark places, greedily searching the gigantic treasure for the Arkenstone, the gem that would grant him the allegiance of the seven dwarf kingdoms. The dwarves quest to take back their home becomes distorted and it falls to Bilbo Baggins to keep the situation from derailing completely.

Armitage and Freeman have grown into their roles perfectly and it is a joy to watch them. Freeman injects some comedic moments, although this film is much more serious than its two predecessors. But when it comes to drama, both he and Armitage deliver in heaps. Most of the other dwarves stay in the background, with the notable exception of Balin, played by Ken Stott, and Aidan Turner’s Kili, who gets to explore the romance with Tauriel a bit more. This romance, which was one of the few problems I had with the second part, does get a nice payoff in here.

I don’t know what else I can tell you, I loved this movie. It looks great, there is an insane amount of spectacle in it and the end ties in with “The Lord of the Rings” perfectly.

I should mention that, while I don’t think that this is as good as any of the “Rings” movies, there is one Academy Award that can already be engraved in its name, if you ask me. Billy Boyd’s end-credits song “The Last Goodbye” skilfully blends the emotional impact of Bilbo’s adventure with the fact that this is the end to the brilliant Middle-Earth saga.

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