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Sunday, December 21, 2014

Sean Kelly

My Thoughts on The Hobbit: The Battle of the Five Armies

TheHobbitTheBattleoftheFiveArmiesIt is time for the concluding chapter of Peter Jackson’s three part adaptation of The Hobbit.  After the defeat of Smaug the Dragon, the company of thirteen dwarves, along with Bilbo (Martin Freeman), reclaim their mountain home of Erebor.  However, Thorin Oakenshield (Richard Armitage) is inflicted with "dragon sickness" and is driven mad inside the mountain.  Thorin refuses to assist Bard (Luke Evans) and the survivors of Laketown, which puts the dwarves on the brink of war with Thranduil (Lee Pace) and his army of elves.  However, the three sides are forced to put aside their differences when Azog the Defiler’s Orc army comes on the attack.

The decision to split J.R.R. Tolkien’s novel The Hobbit into a full trilogy of films has been controversial since the start.  This whole trilogy has been working backwards and creating a series of films that are meant to tie-in with The Lord of the Rings.  This includes the addition of characters and events that did not exist in the original novel, including the inclusion of Legolas (Orlando Bloom) and the new character of Tauriel (Evangeline Lilly) and her romantic subplot with the dwarf Kili (Aidan Turner).  While I thought this worked pretty well for the first two films, this third film is definitely much weaker.

The Hobbit: The Battle of Five Armies kicks off right where The Desolation of Smaug left off, with the dragon attacking Laketown.  It’s a bit of a weird editing decision to begin with a climatic battle, which probably would have been better suited for the previous film.  However, as there was likely not much story left to tell, this battle and its subsequent fallout makes up much of the first half of the film.  I have to admit that the first half seemed quite a bit like filler, before the big climatic battle that takes up the second half of the film.  Probably the biggest piece of filler in the film was the conclusion of the Necromancer side-story, which was The Hobbit trilogy’s biggest tie-in to The Lord of the Rings, which included appearances by Galadriel (Cate Blanchett), Elrond (Hugo Weaving), and Saruman (Christopher Lee).

For a film called The Hobbit, the character of Bilbo Baggins becomes a somewhat lesser focus with each successive film.  There is particular focus in this film on the corruption of Thorin Oakenshield, who becomes overcome with greed when he comes in contact with the vast treasure hoard of Erebor.  In fact, Thorin is almost an antagonist for the first half of the film, until Azog the Defiler and his army of Orcs arrive.  When the actual battle does start, I thought that the film was much more enjoyable to watch.  I particularly enjoyed the appearance of Billy Connolly as dwarf commander (and Thorin’s cousin) Dain.  I also liked how the film nicely wrapped things up and tied in with the start of The Lord of the Rings.

I would like to take a minute and talk about the film’s High Frame Rate (HFR) presentation.  When HFR was introduced two years ago, I tried it out and, despite having to get accustomed to the increased frame rate, I didn’t mind the final result.  After not seeing The Desolation of Smaug in HFR last year, I have to admit being quite taken back when it turned out that the IMAX presentation of The Battle of the Five Armies was in HFR and it was VERY distracting.  Seeing High Frame Rate on the large IMAX screen really revealed everything wrong with the format.  Much of the film has live actors performing with CGI creations and the difference between the two is very noticeable in HFR.  Ultimately, I don’t think this affected my enjoyment of the film too much, but I am definitely quite more reluctant to accept HFR as a regular feature of films.

Without a doubt The Hobbit: The Battle of the Five Armies is the weakest film of the trilogy and is pretty good evidence that presenting the novel as three films might not have been a good idea.  That said, the titular battle does end up delivering the goods and it makes the film worth checking out.

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Sean Kelly

About Sean Kelly -

Sean Patrick Kelly is a self-described ├╝ber-geek, who has been an avid film lover for all his life. He graduated from York University in 2010 with an honours B.A. in Cinema and Media Studies and he likes to believe he knows what he’s talking about when he writes about film (despite occasionally going on pointless rants).