At the start of the first Lord of the Rings movie, Bilbo complains to his friend Gandalf, he says “I feel thin, sort of stretched, like butter scraped over too much bread.” Well, turns out that is exactly how one could describe this, the last movie in Bilbo’s story. The Hobbit: Battle of the Five Armies finishes off Peter Jackson’s trilogy exactly the way it started, so much time, but not enough substance. So at least they are consistent.
This chapter picks up EXACTLY where we left off. Smaug is out and Laketown is in very grave danger, the citizens, aided by dauntless father Bard (Luke Evans), flee to the Mountains. There our team of Dwarves have barricaded themselves in, watching over their newly retrieved treasure, but something isn’t right. Thorin is a changed man (or should I say Dwarf), changed by the power and a gold-obsessed ailment they call “Dragon Sickness”. He is not ready to be charitable, to the men of Laketown or any of armies which come, one by one to pry his treasure from his hands. But a common enemy bonds all; elves, men and dwarves must unite in order to fight off the orcs before the end.
It’s nearly impossible to talk about this film on its own merits, or lack there of. It’s the bloated end to the already bloated first and second, it was never meant to stand on its own and its carries on its predecessors pitfalls. No individualization of characters, a mission that is difficult to care about, constant unnecessary winks to the Lord of the Rings audience, and, worst of all, a tone that is incredibly unrelentlessly serious despite itself.
But not to worry, it has plenty of its own unique flaws. It is, after all simply, the 3rd act of the story, this entire movie is the end of a story, which means it’s about 80% fighting. It’s so much fighting that all of the big set pieces begin to cancel each other out. One by one we watch as each hero has his or her moment; they fight orcs on mountains, they fight orcs on ice and, of course, they fight orcs on very very crumbly bridges, narrow escape after narrow escape. The orcs go down easily, but not our heros. All of our guys get one last chance as the orc rises their limp, half-dead body into the air, smiling maliciously with an assured satisfaction, when suddenly, just as the orc raises his shoddy blade… You get it. Something awesome happens, just in the nick of time. And you’ll get it even sooner the third time, and the forth.
The truly heartbreaking element of this chapter is Bilbo’s diminished role. Martin Freeman is, as always, perfection. He is the heart. His quirky, unaware Bilbo is a welcome sight whenever we can have him. But that isn’t much. How badly do I wish I could have watched this grand battle through the eyes of the one guy least expected to be there. The one who fights for loyalty and through the clouds of dust and orc-blood spatter and sees what is right and what is wrong. He miraculously manages to stay seemingly the same throughout this horrific mission, in a good way. It is through his untainted eyes that the simplicity of good is found. That hobbit really would have made a great main character for this movie, I’m telling you.
Without Bilbo we are left with our other two protagonists Bard and Thorin, who could be described as Aragorn cut into two less interesting individuals. Bard is basically all of the grand heroics of Aragorn. In the last Hobbit movie (The Hobbit: the Desolation of Smaug) Bard is a welcomed change, he gave us something to care about in this world. Here he has somehow become too good, if that’s possible. He lacks depth. Thorin is the opposite, he is the guy that Aragorn worries he’ll turn in to. I only wish this “Dragon Sickness” felt different from the manic greed one gets from The Ring in the first trilogy. Thorin’s transformation is sudden and familiar. I mean, if you are going to do something a second time, you are required to do it better that second time. There are probably two people in the entire world who are seeing the Hobbit who didn’t already watch Lord of The Rings, so don’t patronize us.
The chaos concludes with a beautiful last sequence. A heartwarming moment that belongs to some heartfelt movie about bravery against the odds, instead of this movie about nothing in particular. It is the one welcomed link back to The Lord of The Rings, a moment where we can snuggle up in anticipation of the start of that grand trilogy, and forget this one ever happened.