Review: The Hobbit: The Battle of the Five Armies
THE final instalment of the Hobbit trilogy has finally hit our screens and fans of the Middle Earth drama have been attending the movie in droves. The Hobbit: The Battle of the Five Armies is yet again a cinematography wonder with some of the most amazing shots I’ve ever seen.
Martin Freeman returns as the protagonist Bilbo Baggins, Ian McKellen as the wizard Gandalf and Richard Armitage as dwarf Thorin Oakenshield. It begins right where The Desolation of Smaug left off – with Smaug the dragon causing havoc and Thorin and his band of dwarves attempting to reclaiming the mountain of their people. Drawn by ancient grudges and the promise of more gold than possibly imaginable, five mighty armies descend on the dwarf city of Erebor to battle it out for wealth, power and the fate of Middle-Earth.
As always you will hear people rave about the setting, location and filming but to be honest, that is the only thing this film has going for it. There isn’t much of a script but what it lacks in dialogue, it makes up for in epic fight scenes. The fight scenes are so brilliant in fact, most other material falls by the wayside. Smaug is unleashed and dispatched in a fleeting 10 minutes, his brief but spectacular reign of fire cut short by a well-shot arrow. Likewise the rising menace of Sauron is skipped past with startling briskness to make way for the main event.
More a brawl than a well-choreographed fight, every cut, gouge and hack is felt by the captivated audience. From the moment elven warriors vault the wall of dwarves to attack vicious orcs, the audience revels in carnage – trolls act as mobile siege engines; ballistas raining death from their shoulders and walls collapsing before battering rams. A raging, elk-mounted Thranduil (Lee Pace) deals antler-assisted decapitation while dwarf firebrand Dain (Billy Connolly in a role that he was born to play) shouts expletives from the back of an armoured war pig. When Thorin finally emerges from his haze of madness and paranoia leads the charge from the gates of Erebor, the glorious rush of battle met is triumphant euphoria.
As both hero and villain at various points of this film, this is – in large part – Armitage’s story. Thorin’s descent into madness under the dragon’s taint is played with maniacal intensity. His grim rebuff of the Bard’s (Luke Evans) diplomatic overtures – the exchange framed beautifully by a hole in Erebor’s barricade – and final, hallucinatory epiphany upon a floor of gold are as masterfully shot as they are powerfully delivered.
Bilbo, by contrast, is a portrait of quiet understatement. Freeman has grown into the part beautifully and his warmth and honesty underpinning the hobbit’s self-effacing befuddlement. It’s not until the end, with the film’s most effective piece of foreshadowing, that we see cracks in his character as the Ring exerts its influence.
While this is the prequel to Lord of the Rings, it will never step out from its shadow but it also stands on its own two feet and delivers a clear ending to the masterpiece that is The Hobbit trilogy.
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