********* 8 out of 10 *********
Director: Peter Jackson
Actors: Martin Freeman, Richard Armitage, Ian McKellan, Luke Evans
J.R.R. Tolkien was the creator of Middle Earth in the 20th century. But Peter Jackson is the creator of Middle Earth in the 21st century. The way Tolkien mesmerized us with his writing, Jackson has enthralled us with his movies. It all began in 2001 with The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring, and it ends now, in 2014, with The Hobbit: The Battle of the Five Armies. Six movies spanning across two trilogies, and Peter Jackson has captivated us with a saga of behemoth proportions, changing the scale of showcasing adventures in cinema. As Peter Jackson now brings down the curtain, it is not the end of a film or a trilogy alone, it is the end of something much bigger in Hollywood that we have been lucky enough to witness. The Hobbit: The Battle of the Five Armies is a grand finale, a worthy end to an amazing adventure. And while it cannot be spoken in the same breath as The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King, take nothing away from the delightful cinematic experience that Peter Jackson has once again brought to us.
The Hobbit: The Battle of the Five Armies continues from the cliff hanger ending of the previous instalment. The dragon Smaug is on his way to destroy Lake Town while the dwarves watch on from their recaptured palace in Erebor. On the other hand, Gandalf is a prisoner in the hands of the Dark Lord, in need of help to gain his freedom. The Orc army under Azog the Defiler are marching towards the Lonely Mountain to battle Thorin Oakenshield and the dwarves under his command. Things are not well within the walls of the dwarf palace too as the hobbit Bilbo Baggins and the other dwarves sorrowfully look on as Thorin’s mind starts getting consumed by the wealth underneath his feet. As the Orcs approach closer, a war is imminent; alliances will be formed, blood will be shed, and courage will have to be found once again.
Peter Jackson’s decision to split the Tolkien’s novel into three movies has stretched things a bit over the course of the trilogy, but for those like me, it gives us a chance to keep revisiting Middle Earth more often which isn’t a bad thing. While the previous movie The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug was more about a journey to reach Erebor, the final movie The Hobbit: The Battle of the Five Armies is packed with action. Fighting sequences are largely what make up the second half of the movie as the battle keeps on getting bigger and bigger. The action is exciting, the fight sequences are fluid and well-choreographed, and the whole battle is befitting of a movie series with such a massive fan following. The CGI is stunning, and having been to the Middle Earth so often now, nothing seems out of place.
Peter Jackson, in his trademark style, expands the visual grandeur of the film through the near-perfect filming locations, ones which are rich in their landscape and strikingly beautiful. The camera work is again terrific, which is so important when shooting a battle scene of such proportions as seen in the movie. The music by Howard Shore and the cinematography by Andrew Lesnie, both of whom have worked with Peter Jackson for the entire trilogy, once again add immense quality to the movie.
While the last two movies have been much about Bilbo Baggins, this final movie holds Thorin Oakenshield as the central character. Richard Armitage has done a terrific job in playing the courageous and determined leader of the dwarf group over the course of the trilogy, but in The Hobbit: The Battle of the Five Armies, he has to showcase another side of his character, the one blinded by the gold now in his possession, the one mistrusting his dearest friends, the one who has lost his sense of honor. It is a negative shade which Armitage embodies well in the mannerisms of his character, and makes this entire The Hobbit trilogy as much about Thorin as it has been about Bilbo. The twelve actors who play the dwarves that followed Thorin Oakenshield in this quest once again do a fine job in showing the hard exterior that encloses a a softness inside them. Martin Freeman is endearing as ever as the good-hearted and loyal Bilbo Baggins; he has been an excellent casting choice, who gave Bilbo Baggins a very lovable appeal, and made the audience feel comfortable in taking this adventurous journey with him.
The movie has Ian McKellan playing the role of Gandalf for the sixth time, a character who shall forever be remembered in the history of Hollywood! Once again, powerful, reasonable, wise, and someone not to be messed with, McKellan as Gandalf is a delight to the eyes whenever he appears on the screen. Luke Evans as Brad the Bowman has a much more prominent role in this film, and he does make a solid impression with his imposing personality. The elves, played by Orlando Bloom, Evangeline Lilly and Lee Pace, are graceful, beautiful, eye-catching, in whatever they do, and especially stand out in the battle scenes. Benedict Cumberbatch is the voice of Smaug and the reason why we don’t mind to hear this dragon speak. Cate Blanchett, Christopher Lee and Hugo Weaving make brief appearances in the movie, though a powerful scene it is, and play for the final time those characters that rose to prominence in The Lord of the Rings. I would have liked to see more of the shape-shifter Beorn, the man who can transform into a bear, and less of Alfrid, the wicked coward of Lake Town, who appears in a bit too many scenes. But with such a wide set of characters, each one of us is going to feel this way about some character or the other.
The Hobbit: The Battle of the Five Armies brings to a conclusion the second Middle Earth saga that Peter Jackson has narrated. Quite a few complain on how it pales in front of The Lord of the Rings, which is true somewhat, though should not be a reason to dismiss The Hobbit trilogy as worthless. For it is far from that. The Hobbit trilogy has been as exciting and riveting as any other adventure that has been seen on the big screen in recent years. Its lavishness, both in terms of visual display as well as its story, and its grand set of actors have made it stand out in a crowd. It is not every year that we can find a movie of such imagination take such a beautiful shape on the big screen. Peter Jackson has however made it happen. With The Lord of the Rings and The Hobbit. To him, I salute!