Film review: The Hobbit – The Battle Of The Five Armies
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- Published on Wednesday, 10 December 2014 11:20
- Last Updated on 09 December 2014
- Freda Cooper
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Director Peter Jackson’s 13 year trek through Middle Earth has come to an end. After the Lord Of The Rings trilogy, the third and final Hobbit film arrives this week. And that’s it. Bilbo’s banished, Elrond’s escaped and Legolas is long gone – so to speak. It’s been an epic journey, to say the least. Six long films, a massive cast and an eye watering budget for The Hobbit – The Battle Of The Five Armies of £462 million, making it reputedly the most expensive production ever. Is it a fitting finale? Prepare yourself for one last visit to the world of hobbits, elves and dwarves …….
The action picks up a second after the end of The Desolation of Smaug. Enraged at the people of Laketown for helping the dwarves re-claim their kingdom and their treasure, the vicious dragon Smaug soars into the sky to take his destructive revenge. And, while Thorin Oakenshield (Richard Armitage) has claimed his title of King Under The Mountain, he and his band of dwarves have to face the consequences of waking up the dragon. He’s also obsessed with finding another part of his people’s heritage, the Arkenstone, a search that takes him perilously close to madness. And now armies of Orcs, summonsed by the dark lord Sauron, are converging around his kingdom …….
The Hobbit – The Battle Of The Five Armies gets off to a blistering start, almost literally, with the brilliant Smaug turning Laketown into charcoal in spectacular fashion. He was the best thing about part two of the series and gives the film an opening sequence to remember – and to live up to. Unfortunately, he isn’t around for long enough, because of a nasty case of spear in the stomach, delivered by the heroic Bard (Luke Evans). And that, sadly, is his lot.
The subsequent action set-pieces do manage to live up to him, even if their feet are firmly on the ground, and they’re brought to life by the 3-D. But they’re strangely bloodless, presumably to guarantee a 12A rating, so that none of the numerous decapitations produces the slightest spurt. It’s also a relief that this final part of the saga is significantly shorter than its three hour long predecessor: at two hours 40 minutes, it’s a tighter, more disciplined production and the storyline has more to it than dwarves being rescued by elves, time and time again.
The downside? 3-D aside, some of the special effects leave a lot to be desired, especially when you consider the budget. The body doubles for Christopher Lee’s Sarumon and Ian McKellan’s Gandalf are so obviously younger and more athletic than the actors themselves, it’s cringe-making. And quite what effect Peter Jackson was looking to achieve in the scene where Galadriel takes on the evil Sauron goodness only knows, but special it isn’t. Billy Connolly’s arrival as Thorin’s brother, Dain, is nothing more than a distraction. Not that you can tell it’s Connolly to look at him, as he’s buried under a helmet and extravagant beard. But as soon as he opens his mouth, there’s no mistaking those distinctive tones – and any credence goes right out of the window.
The Hobbit – The Battle Of The Five Armies is certainly a more complete, enjoyable watch than its predecessor, but there are times when it’s difficult to see where that massive budget has gone – apart from down a very large hole in Middle Earth. For fans of the series, there’s more than enough action, any loose ends are tied up neatly and the saga reaches a satisfying conclusion. But be warned: if you’re a newbie or latecomer to The Shires, don’t expect any gap fillers to help you. You’ll be very much on your own.
The Hobbit – The Battle Of The Five Armies, certificate 12A, is released nationwide on Friday, 12 December 2014.
Film critic and radio presenter Freda Cooper has been a movie fan all her life – the best qualification for the job! A contributor to a number of film websites, she also presents her weekly podcast, Talking Pictures, a finalist in the UK Podcasters Awards. Her movie blog, formerly The Coops Review, is now also called Talking Pictures, and was shortlisted at this year’s UK Blog Awards. And you can hear her film reviews every Friday morning on BBC Surrey and BBC Sussex!