The Hobbit The Battle of the Five Armies, Bilbo Baggins, Martin Freeman

Movie Review: The Hobbit The Battle of the Five Armies (2014) *MAJOR SPOILER WARNING*

Peter Jackson
Peter Jackson has completed his full six-film Middle-Earth epic over the course of nearly 20 years of work on and off again on the two trilogies that make up the project.  That The Lord of the Rings is pretty much flawless (and, oh yes, we can throw down over that), universal consensus on The Hobbit trilogy is much more mixed; the overall feeling seeming to be that the trilogy’s glacially-paced start can be forgiven (if we all agree the Goblin King song never happened) by the action that took the dwarves to The Lonely Mountain and the tragic battle spawned by the greed for the riches that is the equal of any battle in any film ever made.

THE HOBBIT: THE BATTLE OF THE FIVE ARMIES We’ll bring this full circle and talk about legacy and how the Hobbit Trilogy affects The Lord of the Rings Trilogy in different columns this week, but if you want my simple answer on what I thought of The Hobbit: The Battle of the Five Armies, I thought it was the best movie in the trilogy and raised the overall quality of the trilogy and its connections to The Lord of the Rings succeeded in making this prequel trilogy, a bonus to those coming to the Jackson films for the first time, but not a MUST SEE place to start, which is what I think the creative team was going shooting for.

One of the biggest problems in the trilogy is that films two and tree don’t stand on their own.  Two doesn’t have a real ending and Three doesn’t have a real beginning because of the badly handled transition from Desolation to Five Armies.  The climax of DOS should have been Bard taking down Smaug and that spectacular sequence over Lake-Town that begin Five Armies.  The argument that would have then made that film over three hours could be negated through cutting many unnecessary plot lines including one that drifted into Five Armies and polluted the whole film.

The Master of Lake-Town and his henchperson Alfrid is just odious. Are they supposed to be funny?  Is it supposed to give a real villain to Lake-Town?  Take them altogether out of the film and what’s lost?  Quite a lot of time you could used on finishing the finishing Smaug storyline and developing Bard’s character.  Instead, after we get a very satisfying death for the Master, Alfrid hangs around the rest of the movie; attaching himself to Bard like a foppish leech for the all of 5 Armies.  Popping up, ruining the gravitas of scenes, dressing in drag to smuggle gold out of the city by the end of the film in such a jaw-droppingly awful way I was aghast.  The LOTR didn’t have much overt humor, but the mined it from the relationships built over time by the characters and good acting.  What was much funnier was the scene later in the film when all had gone to hell and Gandalf just plops himself down next to Bilbo and begins cleaning his pipe and Bilbo turns to him and looks at him like he might be an anthropomorphic boiled egg.  People thought Radagast was the Jar Jar Binks of the series; Alfrid is the Jar Jar Binks of the The Hobbit trilogy and has more screen time to boot.


Once Lake Town is charred ash and Smaug slain, you really begin to understand this film has no more of a happy ending in store for you than Lord of the Rings did its viewers.  The hints of madness in Thorin’s bloodline (much improved by the Expanded Editions) explode into the full madness of his Grandfather.  He walks the vaults with covetous glee that turns gradually into panic as he and his troop fail to find The Arkenstone (the heart of the mountain that give the King the right to command the seven dwarf kingdoms of Middle-Earth).


The meat of this film is here in  Richard Armitage and Martin Freeman and this friendship they’ve built tested to brink of death over greed and covetousness.  The dwarves find themselves under siege from Bard and the Lake Towners and Thranduil and the Wood Elves.  Also on their way are two armies of Orcs: one from Dol Guldur and one from Gundabad.  Freeman and Armitage thundering away at one another shows just how far Bilbo has come from the timid home keeper he was at film’s beginning and how far Thorin has fallen from the noble, brave warrior we’ve see just why these dwarves would follow.


The scenes cut in Desolation of Smaug are just unforgivable when it comes to Dol Guldur.  Without them, you don’t have any context for the what may be the single greatest throwdown of power in any of the films as the White Council fights Sauron/Necromancer and the 9 ghostly Nazghul.  Seeing that piece of Middle Earth history brought to light and watching just how powerful Galadriel can choose to be when she looses it (we only got a taste in her testing scene in Fellowship) and essentially punches Sauron from the North of Middle Earth to the South, where Saruman goes to deal with him and finish him.  One gets the feeling that he may have been corrupted before this moment, but there’s no way he didn’t come back from that quest to the South without having switched sides.

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Then comes a solid hour of battle from the moment when Billy Connollly (FINALLY WE GET TO SEE BILLY CONNOLLY AS A DWARF!!!!!) as Dain  and the Dwarves of the Iron Mountains equal up the army of dwarves to those of Men and Elves  and just as that was about to explode, the first of the orc army arrives bursting through cave tunneled through the Earth by cave wyrms (rock dragons basically) and we’re off to the races.

In The Hobbit book, Tolkien, puzzingly  chooses to leap frog all past this with by having  Bilbo conked on the head and he doesn’t wake until everything’s been settled and the tea’s been broken out.  As a side note, since Bilbo’s snoring,, I’ve always been fascinated by the Northern realm of  Middle-Earth.  I never thought we’d get to see Angmar, Gundabad and the like and possibly more in the EE?  LET IT BE SO!

The death toll  in the battle are actually not as bad as I thought they would be, staying true to those who fell in the book.  I now I’m suffering from “I Just Saw it It Fever”, but I think The Battle of the Five Armies is the best epic battle in all six Middle-Earth scenes.  I loved that they didn’t forget to give Legolas a few impossible things to do as is his tradition  Morghul Bats fighting The Eagles, Beorn doing a skin changing dive bomb.

As with Lord of the Rings, audiences don’t get a traditional triumphant end.  in grand adventure, there is great loss and as Gandalf warned, though he did return back again,  he never would be the same.   This wasn’t the second of coming of  The Lord of the Rings, nor should it have expected to be given the source material is lesser .  It could have been three much better films  and they missed the opportunity to do that by cutting a lot of dross.  The transition between two and three was very clumsy and 2 and 3; neither stands as whole films because one has no beginning and one has no end.

The ending was spot-on, connecting it back to Fellowship, reminding you of the ongoing threat of the ring and leaves you remembering all that was good about these films and the others.  I’m glad the trilogy was made, this film most of all.  Talent-less humor and editing decisions keep it from a LOTR score, but, especially this year, a 9.50 guarantees you a place in the year-end Top 10 list.

7 thoughts on “Movie Review: The Hobbit The Battle of the Five Armies (2014) *MAJOR SPOILER WARNING*”

  1. I think I know the reason Tolkien had Bilbo get conked on the head, only to be told about certain momentous events later on. It’s not that Bilbo’s perspective is a worm’s eye view… he’s far too integral to the events to ever call his POV that. But the Hobbit (the novel) is ultimately not about the famous deeds of kings, it’s about a hobbit.

    The epic sagas that inspired Tolkien all center on larger-than-life, godlike protagonists, but Tolkien made his heroes little creatures with waistcoats and ridiculous feet. They aren’t warriors, they aren’t magical, they have a peaceful, stable agrarian society in the Middle-Earth equivalent of a nice suburban neighborhood. Most of us would not be Aragorn or Bard if we lived in Middle-Earth. We would start out as Bilbo, Frodo, or Sam, and hope to rise to the occasion like they did.

    I still wish Jackson had made a movie (or possibly two) that did not go against the tone of Tolkein’s book. All the same, I just got back from seeing BOTFA, and it was magnificent. I can now safely attest that I like the Hobbit trilogy, in its entirety, better than the LOTR films. The Hobbit feels more textured, with a lot more eccentric, fanciful visual elements and a final battle that’s better than anything in LOTR (you’re right about that one). And Martin Freeman is incredible. Granted, Bilbo on the page is a lot more interesting than his good nephew, but even when you factor that in, Wood does not have Freeman’s acting chops.

    Until I started reading reviews, I honestly assumed that the burning of Lake-Town would be extremely protracted. It did not occur to me that Jackson would give the second film such an over-the-top cliffhanger ending, only to have it resolved in the next film before the title even appeared. But IMO that was Jackson’s only big miscalculation.

    I want to watch this movie over and over again on a big screen. I’ve never quite had this feeling before. Maybe it has to do with the fact that it’s the last one, and I am elated that Jackson did not drop the ball. I have no idea how I’ll fit five viewings into my budget while scheduling in all the other movies I want to see, but I have no choice. This is the geekiest movie ever made, and also one of the coolest.


    1. I think DOS and B5A were cut badly and that’s probably as a result of the switch from two to three films, but in the end with all the EE’s are done we’ll have a 20 hour Middle-Earth saga more faithful to tome and tone than I ever could have hoped for.


  2. Nice review, I saw the film twice and I definitely got to appreciate the pacing more the second time around. It’s a really strong film for the first three-fourths of the run time and the conclusion, if a little uneven, is acceptable enough. Overall it’s a nice end to the trilogy.


  3. After reading many of the comments here and the review I feel confused as to what some of you were watching while I sadly watched quite possibly the worst film in the history of cinema. If you want a mindless, CGI bloated movie with no regard to story then this is for you. I enjoyed TLotRs trilogy very much and even as a fan of J.R.R. Tolkien I regarded some of the sniping aimed at the makers as way of the mark. But, with this third installment of The Hobbit I cant begin to express how horrified I was to sit at the cinema watching what I can only describe as pure horror and the sense of being offended as a fan of the books.

    I think we can all agree that literal adaptations will not generally work but in the case of this movie and the trilogy as a whole, money was the biggest motivating factor from the makers. When The Lord of the Rings trilogy was made (by fans for fans) it was not known 100% what the reaction from fans of the books or the general public would be, I am certain they knew it would make money but to what extent was uncertain. With the latest trilogy I think the message from all involved was very clear… MONEY MONEY MONEY!!! No respect has been shown to Professor Tolkien’s work with this monstrosity of a movie. I was excited to see The Hobbit on the big screen but I now feel very relieved that Peter Jackson is finished in the world of middle-earth.

    For those of you who enjoyed this final film I am happy for you but as someone who considers themselves a lifelong fan of J,R.R. Tolkien’ work I for one consider this to be Peter Jackson’s darkest moment in cinema.

    This movie should have been about “a Baggins who had an adventure” but I wonder if “he gained anything in the end”. Peter Jackson and Warner sure did.


    1. Thank you for such a well-thought out counterpoint. Clearly you love the material and so I’m sorry that the films didn’t work for you, but I’m obviously respectfully going to disagree with you. If you were looking for a straight-up, linear adaptation of The Hobbit proper, these films were always going to disappoint. From the beginning, Jackson made it clear that he was incorporating other storylines of Prof. Tolkien’s from the appendices and making a counterpart to his Lord of the Rings trilogy. I don’t disagree with the decision to make three films. I think the number of storylines used demanded the time given them and more. Only when the extended editions come out, do I see the fully connected vision Jackson has (and that was true with LOTR as well). Jackson didn’t want to direct these movies and I completely disagree that he did three films for money. He only came on the project to save it when Del Toro quit and it was only once he’d taken it on that he says he truly fell in love with this period of Middle-earth and that’s how it grew into a trilogy of its own. Of course it’s ALL about money to some extent. It’s a huge franchise with several studios involved and, of course, they want money. I just don’t think that drove Jackson or that this was his darkest moment. I believe that would have been around the time King Kong went figure skating in Central Park. I’ve studied Tolkien and his works my whole life and I think he would have hated all six of the films, but there’s no film version that would have ever satisfied him. He lived for the written word. The whole mythology grew from him developing the Elven language. Different mediums require different approaches and Tolkien was not someone who was ever going to be happy with a screenplay or the omission or alteration of anything. That’s fine. I think more people will discover Tolkien’s other works like The Silmarillion because of these movies and because they’ll want more and if you want more than the material covered here, you have to work for it. But I respect your having a different vision for what the trilogy should have been and thank you for dropping in and contributing. I hope we’ll hear from you again.


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