THE HOBBIT: THE BATTLE OF THE FIVE ARMIES (New Zealand | USA/12A/144mins)
Directed by Peter Jackson. Starring Martin Freeman, Ian McKellen, Orlando Bloom, Aidan Turner, Evangeline Lilly.
THE PLOT: In the final instalment of THE HOBBIT trilogy, Bilbo (Martin Freeman) finds himself dealing with a Thorin (Richard Armitage) driven mad with greed, the people of Laketown flee from the fearsome Smaug, and the entire company faces threats from within, and without.
THE VERDICT: By now, if you have seen a HOBBIT film, you will know what to expect; loads of spectacle, lots of talking, and a ruddy great fight at the end, and to this end THE HOBBIT: THE BATTLE OF THE FIVE ARMIES does not disappoint.
Once again, Martin Freeman is the heart and soul of the film as Bilbo; not only is he the voice of reason, but he is the only one without a familial loyalty, and perhaps the only one who can see things as they truly are. Freeman proves, once again, that he has a talent for playing the relatable everyman, and this is exactly what he does here. Richard Armitage gets a small chance to show off his acting chops as he delves deep into the role of Thorin, a dwarf whose greed consumes him, Luke Evans plays the hero as Bard, Evangeline Lilly, Orlando Bloom and Aidan Turner make up the ass-kickin' love triangle, and manage both with ease, and Ian McKellen brings some weight to the entire affair with another stellar turn as Gandalf the Grey. Once again, this is a film that lives and dies with the ensemble and as a whole, the cast are on fine form.
As we know from the HOBBIT films that have gone before, Jackson, Walsh and Boyens and Guillermo Del Toro have stretched out the original book to fill three incredibly long films. For the first time, however the pacing in this HOBBIT film does not suffer as a result. Yes, there are some times when individual fight sequences go on a little long - Aidan Turner reliably informing me that there are 55 minutes of battle in this movie - but this is more a question of editing, than scripting, it seems. The dialogue heavy scenes work well too, with the interactions between Bilbo and Thorin coming out on top. That said, however, some of the more comedic moments feel a little out of place, tonally, with Stephen Fry as the Master of Laketown coming out worst of all. Billy Connolly head butting Orcs while carrying on chitchat, however, is a touch of comic genius. Speaking of comedy, the deus ex machina moment, which had to arrive, is rather unintentionally funny, and quite ludicrous, even by THE HOBBIT's standards.
As mentioned, director Peter Jackson keeps the pace zipping along - sometimes to the film's detriment, as Smaug and other storylines are wrapped up in what seems like the blink of an eye - although his attempt to focus on the more dramatic elements of the battle does slow things down from time to time. As with the rest of the films in THE HOBBIT franchise, THE BATTLE OF THE FIVE ARMIES is never quite sure where it should end, although when the film finally does wrap up, there is a nice nod to what's to come. The Battle is a battle in a Peter Jackson film, meaning that if you have seen one before, you know what's to come. The feeling of familiarity does damage the film at times, as does the knowledge of who will survive and who will not. The 3D, as usual, is rather useless, apart from a couple of moments with Smaug and the HFR, while making the film look like a bad sitcom, seems less intrusive than in the past. Perhaps we are getting used to it after all?
In all, THE HOBBIT: THE BATTLE OF THE FIVE ARMIES is a fitting end to THE HOBBIT trilogy. It's still action heavy with some moments of unintentional comedy, but fans of the series will be satisfied with the resolution, and the rest of us will have to find another franchise on which to hang our Christmas tradition. Until, that is, Jackson gets his hands on The Silmarillion...
Review by: Brogen Hayes