The Hobbit: The Battle of the Five Armies
Released April 20th 2015
Released by Warner Home Video
Running time: 144 minutes
Running time: 144 minutes
The movie itselfThe Battle of the Five Armies picks up in the aftermath of The Desolation of Smaug (check out my review of the second installment).
Laketown has burned to the ground, and the people of the Lake seek refuge in the ruins of the city of Dale.
Meanwhile, Thorin Oakenshield has taken up residence in the Lonely Mountain as a host of Men, Elves and Orcs march on the gates of Erebor.
The Battle of the Five Armies is a film of two halves.
The first is a slow burner as we see the mounting tensions between Thorin's company and those that would take on the mountain. Here we see Thorin's growing madness as the wealth of Erebor casts a sickness upon him.
The second half is all one massive battle as conflict erupts left, right and centre.
So you spend half the film waiting for something to happen, and in the other half there's so much going on that you can't keep up.
Whereas the battle of Minis Tirith in Return of the King was an epic conflict, the battle for Erebor here just seemed drawn out and overly-long.
The "non-book" scenes are particularly well-done in this film. The banishment of Sauron (and the preceding fight between Elrond, Saruman and the Ringwraiths) is as bad-ass as they come.
There's a top performance from Luke Evans (Bard the Bowman), who finds himself as the de facto leader of the people of Laketown.
You can see the inner workings of a great hero but with the head of a man who's sole concern is making sure everyone has a roof over their head and food in their belly.
How it looks and soundsHoward Shore again does a spectacular job with the score, incorporating snippets from the Lord of the Rings score where appropriate.
Thorin's scenes in particular include elements of villainy in the music to show his growing madness and descent into corruption, which was very well done.
As always, the visuals are top notch, especially the battle sequences. There were one or two CG-scenes like the bats of Angmar that looked a little ropey, but on the whole it was a visual feast.
The extrasWith such epic battle scenes, it's easy to forget that there are hundreds of actors performing as the rank-and-file troops in the battle.
In "Recruiting the Five Armies" we get some front-line footage and commentary from the background extras who play the elves, orcs and people of Laketown. This is a great insight into the people who don't usually get much credit in these kinds of movies.
In "Completing Middle Earth" we're treated to the connections that make up The Hobbit and Lord of the Rings. As the culmination of a seventeen year journey, and the enormity of this is reflected here.
As much as some might groan whenever The Hobbit makes a throwback to Lord of the Rings, when you see it presented here you get a proper sense something grand indeed.
We're also given the fantastic song "The Last Goodbye" by Billy Boyd, who played Pippin in Lord of the Rings. You can't help but get a little bit of a chill when you realise what a journey you've been on - and that it's now over.
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As stunning as the final battle was, the excessive length of the trilogy is most evident here. Those who lamented the decision to adapt The Hobbit into three movies instead of two will feel justified after watching this.
tl;drThe Hobbit: The Battle of the Five Armies is a visually impressive and suitably epic conclusion to what is ultimately an overly-long trilogy. The Blu-Ray is stunning and, with around an hour of special features, finishes off the saga nicely.
Disclosure: I was given a copy of the blu-ray for the purposes of this review.