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‘The Hobbit: The Battle of the Five Armies’ Review: Spectacular Visuals, But Messy Plot

hobbit battle of the five armies

Warning: Light spoilers

Peter Jackson’s final foray into the land of Middle Earth is full of action and adventure, romance and nostalgia. It is, in essence, one last resounding farewell to the magical land of Tolkein’s creations.

The Hobbit: The Battle of the Five Armies is exactly what it sounds like — a giant, nonstop battle between the five armies of Middle Earth. Filled with amazing fight sequences and beautiful scenery, the large battle that takes place on in front of Erebor is reminiscent of the epic battles that took place in Lord of the Rings: Return of the King. Yet despite this, there are vast differences between the final films of the Lord of the Rings trilogy versus the final film of The Hobbit trilogy.

To put it bluntly, Battle of the Five Armies should not have existed as a movie. The death of Smaug signaled the end of the trilogy, but perhaps in a burst of wistfulness for this journey to continue, this movie was created. Cobbling together some concepts and unfinished plot lines in the original books, Jackson created a film that, while visually stunning and exciting, lacks cohesive narrative and plot.

The story begins with Smaug being killed within the first 20 minutes of the film; the rest of it becomes a story about trying to protect the riches inside Erebor. The plot is wandering at best, and inconclusive at worst. The problem is that the previous films in the trilogy have focused on events largely through Bilbo’s point of view; this movie jumps around from character to character, regardless of what our “main” character Bilbo (Martin Freeman) is doing, often even disregarding Bilbo as a whole. He does very little in the latter half of the movie, and conveniently shows up to fill in some gaps in the plot. Frankly, his character journey is over; Bilbo experiences no change of character throughout the movie.

Attention is largely focused on Thorin (Richard Armitage), who goes through a character change similar to Frodo’s, going from well-intentioned, to possessed by ‘evil’, to overcoming the darkness. Even more unfortunate is that nobody else in the story is developed very well, each person serving to hold up an archetype of who they are supposed to represent, instead of actual, nuanced characters.

While the whopping 2 hour and 30 minute film didn’t feel very long in the moment thanks to all the adrenaline fueled fights, audiences will leave the film feeling like nothing was accomplished; the ending of The Battle of the Five Armies feels too contrived, like the storytellers weren’t quite sure how to wrap up their own loose ends.

Despite my criticisms, I would be remiss to say that I didn’t enjoy the movie immensely, not only for its visual effects but also for its mind-blowing action scenes and spectacular world building. Whether this film was made because studios commissioned another, or because Jackson just couldn’t let go of the fantastical world he brought to fruition in the early 2000s, this final Hobbit feels like one last, epic farewell to Middle Earth. The story comes full circle, ending once again in the place where it all began — The Shire. It’s worth watching, if only to experience the thrill of J. R. R. Tolkien’s world one last time.

three and a half stars

Director: Peter Jackson
Writers: Fran Walsh, Philippa Boyens, Peter Jackson, Guillermo del Toro
Genre: Action, Adventure, Fantasy
Runtime: 2hr 24min