Warning, the following review may contain spoilers.
Thorin and company have arrived at the Lonely Mountain and reclaimed their homeland and Smaug the Dragon is killed. But now the eyes of many turn to the vast treasure contained within. The Elven King Thranduil seeks certain jewels, Bard of Laketown wants the share promised by Thorin that the people of Laketown may rebuild their lives,and Thorin himself is so overcome with a desire for gold, with dragon sickness, that he will not part with a single coin, no matter how many lives are lost during the process of trying to hold on to it. As such he chooses to have war, and thus begins the Battle of the Five Armies. Meanwhile, hosts of orcs led by Azog the Defiler march on the mountain.
As can be expected, considering the title, this film is primarily about a battle, and as such is quite violent. Perhaps the most violent of all the Middle-earth films, although surprisingly there isn’t actually much blood (however, decapitations abound). I was impressed at how this film managed to keep its focus on the characters amid the chaos of the battle, which was something I wasn’t particularly expecting after the first two movies, especially the second. Yet there were several scenes which really caused me to wonder what in the world the film-makers were thinking. One example is the red-headed Dain Ironfoot who takes it upon himself to become the only character to ever swear in Middle-earth, and somehow manages to knock down(and kill) helmeted orcs with his bare head. Others include strange looking trolls (one with prosthetic legs) and perhaps my least favourite scene; a fight at Dol Guldur between Elrond and Saraman and the ringwraiths (who look nothing like they do in the Lord of the Rings which is very odd considering how much effort was put into tying these films to the LOTR trilogy), which plays like part of a video game. During the same scene Galadriel turns blue, and looking like some sort of crazy witch, and single-handedly manages to drive away the Necromancer who had nearly killed Gandalf in film 2. That being said, beside these slip-ups, I enjoyed the movie overall and think that it managed to bring back some of the emotion and drama common to the Lord of the Rings trilogy which was rather scarce in the first two.
The themes about greed in the book are well portrayed in the film, with Thorin declaring that “life is cheap…but a treasure such as this one cannot be counted in lives lost. It is worth all the blood we can spend.” He is so attached to the gold that he will not give away even a single coin to relieve the others, he would rather that they are out of the way so that they stop nagging him for help, and tugging on his conscience. Such is his infatuation that he takes on Smaug’s musical theme and even utters some of the dragon’s lines himself.
Throughout the chaos of the battle, the main human character Bard fights to protect his people, and most importantly his family. We may take this as a reminder of what should be truly valued, over all the gold in the world. For as Thorin eventually comes to realise, “If more people valued home above gold this world would be a merrier place.”
This is the shortest of the Middle-earth films at 144 mins and while I would not particularly recommend it to those who are not already Lord of the Rings or Hobbit fans, The Battle of the Five Armies is in my opinion a solid, but by no means perfect conclusion to the Hobbit trilogy. I would however recommend Howard Shore’s soundtracks for these films, which are arguably my favorite thing about them.
* * * (3/5)