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In terms of epic finishes, Peter Jackson’s last entry in his quest to bring all of J.R.R. Tolkien’s world to the big screen, The Hobbit: The Battle of the Five Armies brings the story full circle. It has to be pointed out, however, that Luke Evans as Bard, has the best moments of the entire film. The bowman’s epic battle against Smaug at the start of the feature is one of the high points of the movie. Had the rest of the film’s action matched this impressive fight, the movie itself would have been beyond memorable.
At the beginning of this last sequel in the Hobbit trilogy, the story picks up where the last film, The Desolation of Smaug left off. This final installment spends most if its screen time building up for the huge battle at the end of the film. The underlying stories have to do with the elf Tauriel being in love with the dwarf Kili and all the problems associated with that and Thorin being tainted, or driven mad, by the gold in the mountain and, of course, the Hobbit Bilbo Baggins.
In terms of performances the film has a lot of standout moments and apart from these set pieces, the actors all bring a believability to their roles that goes beyond impressive. Lee Pace, as the non-blinking Elven King Thranduil manages to grab all attention every time he is on screen. Christopher Lee, who only appears in a cameo with Cate Blanchett and Hugo Weaving at the rescue of Gandalf, was a joy to see. The presence of Scottish comic and actor Billy “The Big Yin” Connolly as King Ironfoot Dain was an inspired bit of casting matched only by the short reappearance of Stephen Fry.
The Hobbit: The Battle of the Five Armies leaves one with a certain bittersweet feeling while watching the last installment with its epic battle and deaths that will shock and surprise. Martin Freeman has made Bilbo Baggins his own and despite his work earlier this year on the small screen version of Fargo, his performance never once made one think of that other production. Audiences will enjoy the struggle between the Orcs, and their mercenary allies the Goblins, with everyone else. It is a sweeping array of men, dwarves and elves fighting for control of Middle-Earth and the CG for this film, as well as the 3D aspect of the movie, really sells the battles.
The same can be said for the fight between Smaug and Bowman Bard. Sadly, this opening scenario was so impressive that it really overshadowed the rest of the film’s events. A lot of that has to do with the magnificent job that Luke Evans does with his part and the dragon’s attitude. Benedict Cumberbatch impresses in whatever part he is cast in, but as the fire breathing menace he completely rocks.
At the end of The Hobbit: The Battle of the Five Armies the tale finishes back where everything began, an old Bilbo Baggins, played by the brilliant Ian Holm, meeting with Ian McKellen’s Gandalf in his little cottage. This final scene leaves the viewer with the compulsion to watch all of Peter Jackson’s J.R.R. Tolkien films from start to finish and be completely immersed in this marvelous verse of giant eagles and fighting bears. The film opens December 17. Prepare to be swept away and sad at the same time.
By Michael Smith
Brenden Palms Theatre