Review: The Hobbit: The Battle of the Five Armies (2014)


There is a moment in the Battle of the Fives Armies where one realises that the seams are starting to stretch. The fabric of the Hobbit trilogy could break, and result in a colossal collapse of the entire enterprise. As an ardent Tolkien fan and particularly director Peter Jackson’s vision of Middle Earth, even the wrongly mocked and lashed Hobbit trilogy, I could start to see that the trilogy had almost hit its cinematic limit. However, despite being dangerously close to falling down, Battle of the Five Armies still has enough moments that make it redeem itself as a self- contained cinematic experience.

For example, the most memorable scene in the picture is a single silent shot of Thorin overseeing the carnage and ensuing battle in the face of his imminent death. The shot in composition looks like an Alan Lee painting and its a great melding of form and content, as Richard Armitage shows us the breaking of Thorin’s pride and arrogance in his last moments. It is a great moment that may be Jackson’s best single shot of the six picture saga.

Additionally, one has to admire a film with a massive budget of 250 million that can still deliver, great emotional moments that in some way speak to the truth of the human condition. In the third act, there is a debate between the Elf King, Thranduil and a young elf named Tauriel on the nature of love. The former views the latter’s feelings for a Dwarf as not real.

The debate returns later in the film and culminates in a tragic moment where Tauriel, who is mourning the loss of Kili, says, “If this is love, I do not want it. Take it away, please. Why does it hurt so much?” Thranduil responds simply “Because it was real.” The scene aside from carrying great emotional resonance of truth also serves as a reminder of Jackson’s contribution to the Tolkien legacy.

He has respectfully and diligently adapted Professor Tolkien’s work. Furthermore, he has ultimately added something meaningful that feels of a piece with the mythology that Tolkien created, and that is a refreshing fact to be reminded of in this last instalment.

However, most if not all the film is filled with tonal inconsistencies, lazy creature designs and plain, strange gonzo moments. One scene felt like a reel from David Lynch’s Dune had been accidentally placed into the picture. The title battle impresses at times but does not compare to the Honda esque opening sequence that showcased Smaug’s destruction and death in Lake Town, at the hands of Bard the Bowman.

The middle of the film is dedicated to setting up the mechanics and politics of the inevitable battle, and it is an interesting stretch that nicely adapts Tolkien’s final part of the Hobbit. However, some key scenes within this portion of the film do reveal some problematic narrative issues, especially when thinking of how both the trilogies connect.

About Sartaj Govind Singh

Notes from a distant observer: “Sartaj is a very eccentric fellow with a penchant for hats. He likes watching films and writes about them in great analytical detail. He has an MA degree in Philosophy and has been known to wear Mickey Mouse ears on his birthday.”
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