Directed by: Peter Jackson
Starring: Ian McKellen, Martin Freeman, Richard Armitage, Ken Stott, Aidan Turner, Dean O’Gorman, Orlando Bloom, Evangeline Lilly, Lee Pace, Luke Evans
Rated: PG-13 for extended sequences of intense fantasy action violence, and frightening images
Peter Jackson appears to have finally run out of Hobbit. “The Battle of Five Armies” is the third and final film in his prequel trilogy, which uses J.R.R. Tolkiens’ book The Hobbit as a framework from which to hang a bunch of material from the appendices to The Lord of the Rings, along with a bunch of his own material. If you saw the previous films in the Hobbit trilogy, this one is essentially more of the same, just dialed up in intensity. There’s more fighting, more outside material, more fancy effects. If you like that sort of thing, it will deliver in spades. If Jackson’s style of adaptation makes you tear your hair, stay away.
All the major plot points are here, but some have changed significantly. Spoilers follow, so if you want to see the film without knowing anything, move along.
The love story between the elf Tauriel (Evangeline Lilly) and dwarf Kili (Aidan Turner) Jackson wedged in gets a good bit of screentime – which Jackson has admitted was entirely to entice young women to come see the movies – and the noble deaths of Thorin (Richard Armitage), Fili (Dean O’Gorman), and Kili are reimagined as deaths at the hands of orcs setting up an ambush. This grants Thorin a big battle with lead orc Azog (Manu Bennett), but steals the honorable deaths Fili and Kili had in the book, where they fell in battle defending Thorin.
Cataloging the other changes from the source material and summarizing the plot would be exhausting, so let’s move on to the parts of the film that are actually good.
Alan Lee’s artistic design continues to be perfection. Jackson’s movies may not be accurate to the books in terms of events, but they are wonderfully true to the source material when it comes to the sets, costuming, and props. Depending on your tastes, the film is almost worth watching for that alone. The special effects continue to be stunning as well, from Smaug (voiced by Benedict Cumberbatch), who is graceful and deadly in the air but ungainly and terrifying when he falls from the sky dead, to the overhead shots of the titular battle. Practical and computer effects blend almost seamlessly, and enable wide shots of the fighting between actors essentially clothed head to toe in special effects.
Ultimately, you probably don’t need a reviewer to tell you whether to see this film or not. Completists will want to see it to complete the trilogy. Fans of the source material can make their decision based on how they felt about the first two films. Those who liked the first two films will probably like this one. The one group that may want advice are fans of the source material who were kind of okay with the first films – those folks should know going in that this film is even worse than the first two in terms of messing with the books. So, choose accordingly.