To paraphrase Thorin Oakenshield near the conclusion of the noticeably more-epic third entry in The Hobbit saga, The Battle of the Five Armies, "If more of us valued food and cheer above hoarded gold, it would be a merrier world."
I absolutely loved this movie. Part of me loved it more considering I had just finished reading J.R.R. Tolkien's classic novel for the third time the morning of this film's release, and had subsequently viewed the extended version of the previous film entry, The Desolation of Smaug, to which this film feels like a direct continuation. To say the least, I was primed and ready to take in this last voyage into Peter Jackson's film adaptation of Middle-earth.
One thing I must make mention is that part of my loving of this movie came into context of my knowledge of what was written on the page of the book, all of which Jackson has claimed (even back in production of the original Lord of the Rings trilogy) would be in cohesion with the films. What you see in the book can be taken into account as the backgrounds of characters, unless otherwise noted differently on screen. I know that, despite The Battle of the Five Armies shortened run-time of under two-and-a-half hours, the extended version that is sure to be released some time later in 2015 will fill in all the gaps that this theatrical cut left out.
Some things were shortened or missing from the book to smooth the edges off of the film, and those I will seldom mention (other than the hope that Beorn would have been more prominent in the main battle as was the case in the book). Despite this, the conclusion of Smaug's impending wrath upon Lake Town is pretty awesome and definitive, with a conclusion to that bit of story that manages to feel fulfilling and emotional (between Bard the bowman and his son). In the final act of the film, the main battle itself is akin to the scale and scope of The Two Towers' Battle of Helm's Deep. Knowing that The Hobbit films are meant to be smaller scale in the realm of things involving the Third Age of Middle-earth, Jackson still took it upon himself to make this film's central battle HUGE, one that is more centralized and personal to Thorin's party of dwarves rather than to an entire world. And in the realm of all these things (a dragon's fire upon innocent people and a large-scale battle at the doorstep of the kingdom of Erebor in the heart of the Lonely Mountain), the film still manages to lift the stakes higher, despite having no real immediate effect on the world of men, elves, or dwarves.
Smartly, director Peter Jackson also ties this final film firmly into the scope of all things Lord of the Rings, giving a good flow and context into the prior trilogy of films. What The Battle of the Five Armies also does well is tie-up the story of the dwarves' quest very well, with a performance by Richard Armitage as Thorin Oakenshield that will no doubt go sadly unnoticed during award season. Some of his scenes, including one toward the end of the film (especially the one in which he speaks a version of the line from the beginning of this review, which is almost word-for-word what was written in the novel) had me a bit teary-eyed.
I couldn't help getting emotional near the end of this film because I AM a huge fan of everything Middle-earth (even having read The Silmarillion, which was great because this film accounts for some of Gandalf's so-called "comings and goings" as what was written in other source materials as he travels to the Dol Guldur, the resting place of who would later become known as the Witchking of Angmar). I was very critical of the earlier films mainly due to the overabundance of CGI when the original Rings films used more practical effects, but this film somehow managed to mix the real and computer generated fairly well. Of all three Hobbit films, this one felt the closest in look, scope, feel, and emotion to The Lord of the Rings trilogy.
In the end, the three Hobbit films are nowhere near as magnificent as the other trilogy, yet on their own exist on a smaller, more personal level to a sole group of people, with a few side adventures to fill in the connecting gaps between all six Jackson/Tolkien films. Desolation of Smaug and The Battle of the Five Armies does feel like one long movie cut into two, and for that I personally don't mind, but it does give a less complete feeling to each film where even The Two Towers (the middle film in the Rings trilogy) felt somehow complete despite only being a setup to something much larger.
Overall I am pleased and saddened that the films are over. Pleased because in about a year when the extended version comes out, we will have roughly twenty hours of Middle-earth related films to watch in an epic marathon. Yet I am saddened because, as with all stories, a generation has ended - one that began in my early twenties and has now ended in my middle thirties. A large portion of my life and imagination was given over to both the novels and the films, and it is bittersweet to have seen this final great and epic film on the big screen for the last time.
- For the theatrical version, I was glad they kept it short (in relation to the other films), but disappointed that certain events I was hoping to see didn't make the cut - which is where the extended version will surely remedy that.
- My somewhat disdain for the addition of both Legolas and the purely made-up for film Tauriel to the film adaptations actually played off decently by this third film. I feel that Legolas' character didn't really have to be in there, but on an emotional level, Tauriel's character had more of a pay off. Still upsetting that a bit of emotion and insight into how an elf reacts to the idea of "love" was relinquished to a new character.
- Billy Boyd (the actor who played Pippin in The Lord of the Rings sings the credits song, and it is actually good.
- Billy Connelly as Dain of the Iron Hill dwarves is awesome with his thick Scottish accent.
- Beorn is edited down to only about ten seconds of screen time, a thing I hope is fixed in the aforementioned extended Blu-ray version that will release next year.
- Seeing into the madness of Thorin (suffering from what the book and movie call "dragon sickness") is a healthy addition that was happily added into the film adaptation, something Tolkien himself only glosses over in his own writings.
- I was happy to see that the filmmakers kept with the choice of mounts that were noted in the book, most notably Dain's riding upon a giant hog and elf king Thranduil's long-antlered elk.
These films aren't as regarded as the Rings films, so a Picture nod is completely out of the question. Howard Shore's score isn't as rich as the previous trilogy, and hints at other themes more than creating new ones, so that is probably out. The film will most likely garner nominations in many of the technical categories, most probably:
- Best Visual Effects
- Best Sound / Best Sound Effects Editing
- Best Art Direction