“The most leanest, coherent and dramatically weighted of the three”
Establishing a vast and varied fantastical world from a well-known and loved literary source is no easy task, but as Peter Jackson presents his third and final installment of his Hobbit trilogy, his sixth film in the world of Tolkien’s Middle-Earth goes all out for spectacle in abundance. Bridging the gap between the cliff hanging finale of The Desolation Of Smaug and setting his characters in place for his Lord Of The Rings trilogy, this film is a chance to say one last goodbye to a cinematic tale brought to our screens over the last fifteen years. Even if this new trilogy hasn’t quite reached the levels of its predecessor, something hard-wired into the books themselves, its climax has all the hallmarks to go out with an all mighty finale.
After awakening the dragon Smaug, Bilbo Baggins (played by Martin Freeman), Thorin Oakenshield (Richard Armitage) and the company of dwarves must bear witness to the destruction of nearby Lake Town, resulting in the treasures of Erebor being unclaimed. But as Bard The Bowman (Luke Evans), Thranduil (Lee Pace) and Thorin squabble over their right to a share of the riches, their trio of Men, Elven and Dwarven armies have to put aside their differences as Orcs and Goblins look to bring destruction to the lands of Middle-Earth, with battle ensuing.
There is no doubting that no one can produce a large-scale battle on-screen like Peter Jackson, and here he doesn’t disappoint. It’s main set piece is a whirlwind of action, drama, amazement and awe, almost throwing the film’s budget at the screen. But without the battles and fighting resulting in fatigue, Jackson takes great care to address whose fighting who, where, when and how it takes place and logistically it is spectacular to watch. Design wise, we get this amalgamation of cultures and styles all clambering into one big melting pot and it’s all executed timely and with a genuine peril at the centre. Armored pigs and fortress smashing trolls are all on show and bring a new meaning to the word chaos, but with the sense that the action is well orchestrated and planned.
But while its titular set piece is astounding, it wouldn’t be nothing without the characters at the heart of it. As our main heroes all come to the end of their three-part journey, they all finish with a resounding wrapping up of their story. Martin Freeman brings a more worldly-wise Bilbo into this film and isn’t swayed by the enormity of the situation he’s in, his fidgety lovable persona fits perfectly to his character and his performance as the quintessential hobbit may just trounce those before him. Luke Evans gets more sword and arrow action and evokes his leadership qualities of one of the ordinary people, down on their luck and looking to someone to lead them, becoming the trilogies nearest to Viggo Mortensen‘s Aragorn from the Lord Of The Rings. But the true change of personality is Richard Armitage‘s Thorin whose cursed mind bends and creaks as his lust for jewels and gold threatens to overshadow his judgement and taken over by power, something which runs through all of Tolkien’s work. But he manages to convey madness with subtly and danger, just enough to tip him over to the verge of going full psychopath.
Even at 144 minutes, it’s the most leanest, coherent and dramatically weighted of the three. There’s no room for plate throwing, spider killing or Elven flirting, tonally this is the trilogy setting the playful child like quality of the book to one side and introducing themes of greed, culture clashing and the treatment of other races. As the length of all three films has come into question for such a slim book, the faithfulness to the literary source among the new plots and characters introduced is kept well intact. Returning characters from the wider Tolkien world and some of the smaller set pieces are carried out brilliantly and the denouement for the entire trilogy is played beautifully.
While this trilogy may not reach the levels of its darker and perilous successor in the Lord of the Rings, this film is a perfect and well played ending to a set of films that can sit proudly with its more worthy Middle-Earth tale. After completing six films, in an age when prequels and sequels undermine a much loved piece of original cinema, Peter Jackson has handled another Tolkien work with love, thought, commitment and care to fit it entertainingly into his well established cinematic world. Battle of the Five Armies delivers in more ways that you can imagine and is a worthwhile send off to our cinematic journey through Middle-Earth.