Battle of the Five Armies, the final installation in Peter Jackson’s adaptation trilogy of J.R.R. Tolkien’s The Hobbit, is a fitting and satisfying conclusion to the events and story arcs set up in the first two movies, but is still too padded with long fight sequences and pointless sub-plots to make an impact.
The vicious dragon Smaug threatens Lake-Town after he is woken from his slumber by Bilbo Baggins and the dwarves. After the dragon destroys the town and is slain by Bard, the heroes deal with the consequences of their actions, including a growing conflict with numerous factions over Erebor, and Thorin Oakenshield’s escalating greed.
The film concludes several of the storylines, bringing a fitting end to most of them, from Thorin’s quest to bring his kingdom back to Bilbo’s journey as an adventurer. However, many other plotlines feel nearly disconnected to the main story and are not compelling enough. The subplots involving the romance between Tauriel and Kili, and the battle with Sauron feel like filler.
The titular battle also threatens to overstay its welcome at times. The multiple clashes and plot turns, though entertaining to watch, also inflate the total scope of the battle and the screentime in an unsubtle manner.
There are still some strong performances, particularly between Martin Freeman and Richard Armitage when Bilbo becomes horrified at Thorin’s monstrous, Smaug-like avarice. Benedict Cumberbatch and Cate Blanchett also have memorable moments as Smaug and Lady Galadriel, their brief scenes also possessing the most effective use of special effects in the entire trilogy.
Speaking of special effects, they are used more practically this time around, actually enhancing scenes when its needed. The visuals are also more variant and colorful, abandoning the dark, moist caves featured in the predecessors.
Battle of the Five Armies successfully delivers the two-year pay-off from the first two films. But the anti-climatic battle with Smaug in the first ten minutes raises the question of whether or not the main story would have been more efficiently told with less films and tighter pacing.
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