The Hobbit: The Battle of the Five Armies (2014)

Thanks to a last-minute save by my good friend Annie, I was able to attend an early screening of the final film in The Hobbit trilogy!

Oh man, what a ride this has been. The Tolkien fandom awoke after the end of the LotR trilogy ended. We get some more New Zealand tourism goodness. We got to see Orlando Bloom is his utterly glorious Legolas wig, even though Legolas isn’t in the novel. We get a beautiful Evangeline Lilly in her gorgeous wig, even though Tauriel isn’t a character in the book either.

Let me talk about the Tolkien fandom hype for this, eh? The hashtag for this film is #OneLastTime, as in what Thorin asks of his fellow dwarves: “Will you follow me, one last time?” But of course, for the fandom, it is One Last Time to see a fresh view of Middle Earth, One Last Time to have adventures with hobbits and wizards and elves and dwarves and orcs. The feels are powerful and iminent. This is our last time, folks. Let’s take some time to appreciate that all good things come to an end. (Unless/until they make The Silmarillion.)

If you didn’t feel the feels watching Billy Boyd sing “The Last Goodbye”, you’re probably not the target audience for these films 😛

Oh, hasn’t it been a great ride, friends? No matter your criticisms for these films, it’s been so much fun experiencing the epic proportion of Middle Earth and its inhabitants.

This final installment for the trilogy jumps RIGHT into things. If you had forgotten (as I had), The Desolation of Smaug ended with Smaug leaving the Lonely Mountain and making his way to Laketown to wreak havoc. So BotFA starts right there, with a deadly dragon ready to rain hellfire upon innocent people and the action gets going from the get-go.

(If you haven’t seen the previous 2 films, or even if you just don’t remember where the last film left off, you will definitely be a bit confused at the beginning of the movie. Why is this guy locked up again? Why is Kili dying on a table? Which dwarves went up the mountain and which ones stayed in Laketown? Who are any of these people? Where did Legolas and his golden locks go?)

LET’S JUST BE REAL: If you liked The Lord of the Rings, you liked the last 2 films in The Hobbit series, you’re going to like this final film.  You’ve got everything you could ask for:

  • Beautiful, breath-taking New Zealand scenery
  • Martin Freeman as the endearing titular character
    • He’s also so great with physical comedy and his facial expressions. We get great little doses of comic relief from him
  • Great comic relief moments overall
  • Interesting romance arc with Tauriel (who, again, is not a character from the canon, so all her storylines are made up)
  • Benedict Cumberbatch’s great voicework for Smaug and the Necromancer
  • Plenty of battle scenes (and I mean PLENTY, I mean it’s in the name of this film so)
  • Amazing cast members all around, truly
  • Terrific scoring by Howard Shore
  • Awesome effects

Can we also have Richard Armitage do a lot more voice work?

Non-spoiler-y comments:

  • There are POCs in this movie! Not very many, I think I saw maybe 2, but Laketown is a diverse enough town that there was at least one black person and one Asian person. Erm, okay, you can do better but you know, better than zero, I guess.
  • Even though many people didn’t like that there wound up being a bit of a love triangle in The Hobbit with the introduction of Tauriel (again, a non-canon character) and having Legolas in there (again, not in The Hobbit novel), I thought they handled it pretty well. I was satisfied with how they ended things. I’ll have some more comments on this below the trailer, but they could’ve done a lot worse. That being said, it did feel pretty unnecessary, but I guess they wanted us to feel more attached to these 3 characters? I certainly did.
  • There are really excellent moments of dramatic irony that point to events that will take place in The Lord of the Rings.
  • OKAY I did have an issue with a scene here and maybe some of the world building lemme break it down for you:
    • First of all, not sure how orcs are so easily beaten by men who seem to have zero battle experience?
    • At one point towards the end of the movie, Bilbo literally takes out orcs by throwing large rocks at them. Am I supposed to believe that he is killing them with these large rocks?
    • If Bilbo throwing large rocks kills orcs, how is it that he survives being thunked on the head with the hilt of an orc’s sword? (This is not a spoiler, obviously our titular character doesn’t die, we know he survives to the events of The Lord of the Rings.)
    • Basically, these orc extras seem way too easy to kill, even when compared to elf, men, and dwarf extras.
  • I do feel like, by this last film, I could start to differentiate the 12 dwarves that aren’t Thorin. That being said, I still can’t name half of them or tell them apart, really.
  • INTENSELY cool scene involving Galadriel (not in the book), Elrond, and Saurumon. We don’t see this much action from them in The Lord of the Rings so this scene was really fun to watch.
  • It’s also cool to see Lee Pace as Thranduil go to battle because, again, we don’t see much action from him in the earlier films, where he looks fabulous as always but in a very stationary way: standing fabulously, sitting fabulously, occasionally walking or pacing (!!) fabulously.
  • Would have liked to see a bit more fleshing out of Thorin’s dragon sickness. I feel like the trailer really set us up to watch this key character’s obsession and the corruption of his goals, but that was done a bit too weakly in the movie. It seems way more unreasonable than I thin it needed to seem, and then there’s just a very strange kind of hallucinatory sequence that just doesn’t carry much weight because the whole thing doesn’t make a whole lot of sense.
  • It’s nice that we end at the scene from the first LotR film where Gandalf shows up at Bilbo’s door after his 111th birthday. It really helps to bring us full circle.

I would highly recommend refreshing your memory on the last 2 films before you watch this one, and it does help to have seen The Lord of the Rings trilogy because they make so many little nods to it in this film. But even if you do neither, you can still really enjoy this last Tolkien dream-come-true. One last time.

The Hobbit: The Battle of the Five Armies will be in theaters in the US on Wednesday, December 17. (Check your individual country’s release date.) (Very sorry Argentina, as I believe you will not be getting this movie until January 1.)

Spoilers below the trailer:

OKAY FOLKS. I did not read the book. (I started and got really tripped up on all the names when the dwarves showed up at Bilbo’s house…) So I can’t comment too much on book vs. movie differences. I’d have to do some searching for that, and if I can do that, you can do that, very sorry to make you go on an internet adventure.

That being said, I really enjoyed how they made use of these characters who were not in the book. For example, Galadriel is the one who casts away the Necromancer (who is actually Sauron) and the Nazgul (“Nine for Mortal Men, doomed to die.”). Also, she looked crazy freaky in that scene, where, up until that moment, she was just on the ground as Gandalf lay half-dead and Elrond and Saurumon fought a pretty epic-looking fight on their own.

Tauriel is a great character and I’m so glad that they created this role, because these Middle Earth stories often do lack strong female characters. She is basically the only female character in any of the movies that is a fighter from the get-go. Galadriel is powerful but she mostly glides through these movies with her ethereal elven-ness. A similar deal with Arwen, and Éowyn doesn’t start out as a warrior. Tauriel is a strong woman who don’t need no man, and yet she has the attention of:

  1. Legolas, beautiful Legolas who was so beautiful that Peter Jackson couldn’t bear to make a film in Middle Earth without him
  2. Kili, the only dwarf without a massive beard because he has a beautiful face that would be a shame to hide behind a beard

We know that she won’t end up with Legolas, because Legolas is alone by the time The Lord of the Rings happens. And we know she won’t end up with Kili because he dies. (Also, she’s not a canonical character so…) I think I liked what developed with her and Kili in this movie, and I guess it makes sense that her attraction with Legolas kind of faded away as he was never very kind to Kili. But he was extremely devoted to her, and this is shown often throughout this film as he repeatedly defies his haterade-drinking father (fabulous and flawless but a mega-hater) to protect her and be near her. I like that Legolas respects what Tauriel and Kili had and, heartbroken, tells Thranduil that he cannot return home.

What I did NOT like about this ordeal is Thranduil’s role at the very end. You see, at the beginning of the movie, there is a heated conversation where Thranduil spits these pretty hurtful words: “You think what you feel for that dwarf is real?!” So I understand WHY the writers would write this Cheesy McCheeserton line for him to say at the end: “Because it was real.” But we don’t see much of a character arc for Thranduil at that point so it doesn’t make too much sense, other than to balance out that scene from the beginning and kind of really validate to Tauriel that her love is real. Eh I didn’t love that scene.

That being said, I love lovesick Kili. I love devoted Legolas. I love tender and conflicted Tauriel. This absurd love triangle did add a lot of depth to these characters that we wouldn’t have otherwise seen and that made us care about these characters. And they didn’t have too much confrontation between Kili and Legolas, which would’ve been dumb and trite, so that was good. Just 2 guys being real nice to a great lady.

Speaking of unsatisfying scenes with Thranduil, after heartbroken Legolas tells him that he will not be returning home, what’s the deal with the random “Your mother loved you very much”? What is the significance of this exactly? Is this just because Legolas briefly mentioned that his mother died at Gundebad? I don’t know, I feel like there was supposed to be some kind of character development for Thranduil that got cut, and it just makes these more tender moments he has at the end of the film seem very out-of-the-blue. What was supposed to have softened him exactly? Seeing all of his slain wariors? Seeing how sad his son was? Seeing the bravery of Men? If it was any or all of these things, it wasn’t very clear.

This is a fan-art depiction of Thranduil on his battle elk, but I was really sad when that elk got killed. Little things that get to you, in these movies filled with war and death.

I have a lot of thoughts about this last movie, but this review is getting waaaaaaaaaay long. I enjoyed it, I really did. I’m no diehard Tolkien fan, or even a super devoted fan of the film franchises, but I’m glad I got to see these films in theaters since I watched the LotR trilogy on DVD.

GO SEE IT if you are even a wee bit invested in the films. The cast is great, the scoring is great, the effects are great, it’s all great. Truly.

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