Now we finally arrive at “The Hobbit: The Battle of the Five Armies”, the final chapter of a bloated trilogy which just went on and on in the previous films and then gets sunken into one very, very, very long climax packed with countless CGI spectacles and numerous fight scenes we are not so excited about. While there are indeed good moments reminding us of the wonder of the Middle-earth vividly imagined by J.R.R. Tolkien, it feels so jumbled and unbalanced as riddled with unnecessary story elements, and my mind kept being distracted by how to describe to you on 1) who are the major players and 2) what their motives are and 3) where their positions are in their fateful battle where some of them may not survive.
The movie starts straight after the cliffhanger scene of “The Hobbit: the Desolation of Smaug” (2013). Enraged by the unwelcomed visit of our lovable hobbit Bilbo Baggins (Martin Freeman) and 13 dwarves led by Thorin Oakenshield (Richard Armitage), Smaug (voiced by Benedict Cumberbatch), a greedy giant dragon who has occupied the grand hall inside the Mountain Erebor since his invasion, wrecks a havoc on a nearby lake town using his fiery power, so we get a long CGI action sequence in which lots of town people desperately try to flee from Smaug’s wrathful air raid as their town is being burned down.
Fortunately, Bard (Luke Evans), a decent boatman with natural nobility inherited from his ancestor, finds Smaug’ one fatal weakness during the last minute of his lone stand against this seemingly unstoppable monster. While being regarded as the hero of his town after Smaug’s death, Bard reluctantly takes the role of the leader, and he soon leads his people to a ruined city near the Mountain Erebor for securing their temporary shelter and having a negotiation with Thorin, who previously promised them a portion of the treasures stored inside the mountain.
But Thorin has no intention to keep his promise, and Bilbo and the other dwarves are disturbed by his changed attitude. Due to ‘dragon sickness’, Thorin becomes increasingly greedy and obsessive as holding himself more to the enormous wealth inside their former home, and, as watching Thorin’s hostile attitude toward Bard, Bilbo sees that he really should do something about this troubling circumstance.
And the situation becomes more complicated as the elves led by Thranduil (Lee Pace) arrive at the scene. While still coldly pissed about the escape of Bilbo and the dwarves from his place, Thranduil also wants some treasures inside the Mountain Erebor, so Bard makes an alliance with Thranduil to pressure Thorin, though a battle is the last thing he wants at this point. Maintaining his adamant position, Thorin still does not change his mind despite being cornered by Thranduil and Bard, and it does not take much time for us to see that Thorin also has a plan he and others can depend on for a good reason.
M eanwhile, we also see a big danger approaching to the Mountain Erebor. There is a massive army of Orcs led by vengeful Azog (Manu Bennett) who has been chasing after Thorin and his comrades, and Legolas (Orlando Bloom) and Tauriel (Evangeline Lilly) belatedly discover that there is another army of darkness being ready to make an attack along with Azog’s Orcs.
In case of Gandalf (Ian McKellen), he is still held as a helpless prisoner of the dark force which has been believed to be destroyed a long time ago. Fortunately, he is rescued by Galadriel (Cate Blanchett) and others at the last minute, but it becomes quite clear to everyone that their old enemy will rise again someday, so Gandalf hurriedly leaves for the Mountain Erebor for persuading men, elves, and dwarves to stick together against their common enemy.
The battle begins not long after his arrival, and we get the usual wide shots showing lots of various CGI soldiers to clash with each other, and the movie also provides a plenty of nasty creatures including big giant worms which may be the cousins of those sandworms in “Dune”(1984) and a flock of freakish bats which might have been imported from Transylvania. We continue to see the characters fighting and fighting and fighting on the screen while getting a little sense of direction or scale, and the movie sometimes feels far more dragged as it clumsily tries several serious moments of character development.
The actors in the movie mostly go through motions as demanded while doing whatever they can do with their respective roles. Martin Freeman, who has grown on us through his engaging performance, is especially good when Bilbo has no choice but to rise to the occasions even though he rather prefers to enjoy a nice cup of afternoon tea at his dear home in Hobbiton, but his performance is unfortunately overshadowed by the endless stream of fights scenes, and the same thing can be said about Ian McKellen, who is more busier with wielding his wooden staff in front of enemies. While Richard Armitage gives a more intense and brooding performance as a guy finding himself literally engulfed by his greed and obsession, his co-actors playing the other dwarves are not so distinguishable from each other (I admire Gandalf’s ability to tell them apart from each other even when he happens to spot them from the distance), and a passable romantic subplot between Kili (Aidan Turner) and Tuariel does not help much either.
“The Hobbit: the Battle of the Five Armies” is not a total disaster, but it is instead a total misfire with many miscalculations made by the director Peter Jackson, who should have stuck to an original two-movie plan at least. Although it goes without saying that he and his crew tried to stuff their bloated production with lots of efforts, the movie still feels like something which easily could have been compressed into the last act of a single feature film, and the result becomes quickly tiresome for us as it drones on and on during its running time more than 2 hours. I was bored and depressed as watching it with decreasing enthusiasm during last evening, and I begin to think about how much I was excited with The Lord of the Rings Trilogy during the early 2000s. As its obligatory final scene suggests, you can simply go back to that trilogy, and you will probably have a better quality time as appreciating more of Tolkien’s beloved fantasy world which will be cherished as much as before.