‘The Hobbit: The Battle of the Five Armies’ Review

By Lydia Lucas
The Hobbit trilogy has finally come to an end this past week with the release of the final installment: The Hobbit: The Battle of the Five Armies. Some fans will mourn the end of this era, but many more still wonder why Peter Jackson and company decided to turn one book into three movies.
Each film is about one hundred pages of the book—if you only include the story of Bilbo Baggins and his company of dwarves. However, the filmmakers also included many new elements in the films that were not in the novel. Some of these elements were completely made up, such as a new character called Tauriel, a fierce female warrior-elf played by Evangeline Lilly. However, many of the “new” elements were adapted from original sources written by Tolkien himself, such as the appendices of The Return of the King.

Most of the problems with the final Hobbit movie stem from these extra plot elements. The bulk of the book’s story centers around defeating the dragon Smaug (voiced by Benedict Cumberbatch) and ousting him from The Lonely Mountain to reclaim the dwarves’ homeland, but that is where the second film ends. As the name suggests, most of this last film is a battle of five different armies that takes place around the mountain. While Smaug is still alive in this last film, he is (SPOILER) defeated within the first act. This would be the equivalent of destroying The Ring of Power in the second of The Lord of the Rings films. The final battle is an important one for the future of Middle Earth, but it is not built up enough to warrant its screen time.

This movie reminded me of The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King in some ways. Both movies take place during a massive battle, during which several smaller groups have split off from the larger company in order to pursue several different goals. However, because of its deviation from the straightforward plot of the novel, this film did not achieve the same success of the final Rings film. The rhythm of Return of the King was perfectly driving and engaging, but the final Hobbit film fell flat in terms of what is at stake. The filmmakers have tried to cram too much into these films, tried to make them more like The Lord of the Rings, and in doing so have taken away much of the original charm of The Hobbit.

Still, the aesthetic and spectacle that Peter Jackson brings to Tolkien’s world continues to be incredible. The camera work is supreme, and while I did not see it in 3D it was obvious that that experience would also be magnificent. The same composer from Lord of the Rings, Howard Shore, scores these films as well. The film’s score along with the sound design provide for an excellent auditory experience. The entertainment industry’s work in special effects has come leaps and bounds since Jackson’s original Tolkien trilogy in the early 2000s. From entirely computer generated characters to the epic landscape of New Zealand, this film is truly a marvel, and if nothing else, really fun to watch because of it.

The best parts of this movie are the characters. The characterizations in this final installment continue to be true to the original canon and help to drive the film during the duller parts of the story. The relationship between Thorin (Richard Armitage) and Bilbo (Martin Freeman) feels real and unforced. The work of these two actors continues to be unparalleled in this trilogy. As always, Ian McKellen’s Gandalf shines through as one of the most beloved and revered characters within Tolkien’s world. This legendary actor’s work in both Lord of the Rings and Hobbit trilogies continues to go down in history.

The only character-driven subplot that fell flat was the love story between Tauriel and Kili (Aidan Turner) the dwarf. Tauriel, the previously mentioned new character to the series, is involved in a very unnecessary romantic subplot with Kili. While Tauriel is a strong warrior, I would not call her a very strong female character. When she is introduced in the second film, the essence of Tauriel starts as a confident and independent elf, but she quickly gets reduced to nothing but the romantic subplot. Even her relationship with Legolas (Orlando Bloom) felt forced and strange. Strong female characters can exist within these kinds of subplots, but the addition of it to The Hobbit was wholly unnecessary because the original story contained no hint to it whatsoever.

The question of how to adapt books into movies will almost certainly never be settled. The audience wants a good story and well-developed characters. The studio and filmmakers want to make money. Finding the balance within these two camps is what makes an adapted film great. Unfortunately, The Hobbit trilogy has not quite held up some ends of that bargain.