Starring: Martin Freeman, Ian McKellan, Richard Armitage, Benedict Cumberbatch, Luke Evans, Lee Pace
Directed By: Peter Jackson
The Film: When New Zealand filmmaker, Peter Jackson announced that he would adapt J.R.R Tolkien’s 1937 novel The Hobbit, which was originally going to be directed by Guillermo del Toro, into two parts many were concerned as this seemed to be a silly idea especially considering that Jackson had originally planned to adapt a 300 page book into two 3 hour films. Then at Comic-Con in 2012 Jackson announced that there would be a third film turning the series into a trilogy, leaving many to wonder again is why? Surely there wasn’t enough material to stretch out into three films with an almost 3 hour run time, but Jackson managed to pull something together by plundering the appendixes of Tolkien’s Middle-Earth to make a story that was never a prequel into a film series that follows the standards of typical prequels that are the trend in Hollywood.
The Battle of the Five Armies brings Jacksons bloated second Middle-Earth trilogy full circle picking up seconds after where the second instalment, The Desolation of Smaug finished off, which saw the mighty dragon Smaug (Benedict Cumberbatch) take flight to bring fire to Lake Town. The film opens with an explosive 10 minute sequence that is Smaug’s destruction of Lake Town, it is quick, shocking and one of the most memorable moments in the film let alone the entire trilogy. Meanwhile back at the Lonely Mountain, Bilbo Baggins (Martian Freeman) is left with Thorin (Richard Armitage) and his company of Dwarfs in control of the mountain and its treasures. Thorin who has now become consumed with keeping the treasures of his kin to himself as a massive army of men, elves and orcs march on the mountain.
By the time The Battle of the Five Armies came out, many fans had given up on Jackson and this new trilogy, mostly due to the fact that he had made something that could have been a standalone film into a series of films that really had nothing new to offer and try and copy what he did with The Lord of The Rings over 10 years ago. What separates Five Armies from the other two films is that it doesn’t feel like a bloated mess, mostly due to the fact that it was mostly filmed after principal photography of the first two films back when The Hobbit was only going to be two films. This doesn’t hurt the film, but the mistakes of the previous two films are still present and do still manage to bring the film down. These mistakes being taking the story away from its simple story of one hobbits amazing journey to reclaim a mountain from a fire breathing dragon and making it so that it ties into the first Middle-Earth trilogy by bringing in characters from The Lord of the Rings into The Hobbit who don’t even appear in the book.
However, the film is actually the better of all three films because there is heart in the story and characters, many of which we were made to never really care about. The majority of the films run time, which is the shortest of all of Jacksons Middle-Earth films, centres around the title battle. At 45mins in total, the battle itself is spectacular as there has been a lot more thought into the execution of the action and it puts the battles of Helms Deep and Pelenor Fields from The Two Towers and The Return of the King to shame. This is a battle that deserves to be placed alongside those from Ridley Scott’s Gladiator and Mel Gibson’s Braveheart.
Audiences will be pleased to see that this final chapter doesn’t have the seven endings that The Return of the King (a very week film) that was forced down audiences throats back in 2003. Five Armies is defiantly the finest of the Middle-Earth films but still falls short of topping what is still the best of all six, The Fellowship of the Ring. Whilst the film needed its own instalment just so as to bring to life the battle that Jackson envisioned, like the previous films this film should have never have existed as a trilogy but rather a standalone 3 hour film with someone else calling the shots.
The Australian Blu-ray
The copy reviewed was a screener, so I am unable to comment on the final verdict for the video and audio quality. However on the screener video and audio were great.
The features are reduced to the films second trailer and a video focusing on tourism to New Zealand. There is no doubt that the collected box sets of the entire trilogy will offer more.
Extra Features Rating
Review written by Christopher Innis
Purchase The Battle Of Five Armies on DVD – https://www.jbhifi.com.au/movies-tv-shows/movies-tv-shows-on-sale/adventure/hobbit-the-the-battle-of-the-five-armies/660978/
Thanks to Roadshow for their support.