It is my pleasure to post a second time to my blog today, a first itself, so that I can do a full review of this amazing conclusion to the Hobbit Trilogy….and the Middle-Earth Saga. I watched the movie for the second time this evening, in the company of my daughter Elissa, grandson Dayan, sister Linda and my mom. We were a merry little troop that settled in to watch this epic film together. I handed out tissues before the previews rolled and the lights dimmed.
No spoilers in the review below.
The Hobbit: The Battle of the Five Armies (TBOTFA) has a huge cast which includes Richard Armitage, Ian McKellen, Martin Freeman, Orlando Bloom, Cate Blanchett, Lee Pace, Luke Evans, Hugo Weaving, Evangeline Lilly, Aidan Turner, Dean O’Gorman, Christopher Lee, Ryan Gage, Benedict Cumberbatch and a host of others. The fantasy adventure is directed by Peter Jackson. It is rated PG-13, for intense battle scenes, and has a run time of 2 hours and 24 minutes.
Beginning exactly where The Desolation of Smaug ends, The Battle of the Five Armies opens with the angry dragon, Smaug (voiced by Cumberbatch), closing in on Laketown, intent on bringing fire and death to the inhabitants there. As the townspeople flee, Smaug breathes out his wrath and flames, laying waste to the town. Bard the Bowman (Evans) has an opportunity to redeem his ancestor, who 60 years before loosened a scale on the thick-skinned dragon but failed to kill him. The survivors of Laketown, led by Bard, seek shelter in the ruined city of Dale, which lies before the gates of Erebor, where Thorin (Armitage) and Company have holed up.
Bard seeks a share of the gold horded within the dwarven fortress, as promised by Thorin Oakenshield, now King Under the Mountain. But dragon fever has taken Thorin and he refuses to honor his promises. King Thranduil (Pace), high elf of the Woodland Realm, also seeks to regain a portion of the treasure that he considers rightfully his. He is not as patient as Bard and he is quite willing to use force to take what is his.
Gandalf (McKellen), last seen hanging from a cage in Dol Guldur, is near death. He hears in his mind, “You are not alone.” The White Council…Elrond (Weaving), Saruman (Lee) and the Lady Galadriel (Blanchett)…arrives to drive back the darkness and free Gandalf. He appears in Dale to warn all that there is an evil and ferocious army of orcs on the march, intent on destroying men, elves and dwarves. Bilbo (Freeman) makes a desperate attempt to stave off war over the treasure of Erebor, but Thorin is not in a cooperative mood. Deep in gold lust, he would rather have war, than peace. Just as it appears that the elves and men will battle the dwarves, including Thorin’s kin from the Iron Mountains, the dark army, led by the pale orc, Azog, launches its attack.
The titular battle unfolds. The woodland elves, Legolas (Bloom) and Tauriel (Lilly) are present as well, performing courageous and spectacular feats of battle as they defend their allies. Thorin’s company of dwarves remains walled in their fortress, in spite of protests by his kin and followers. Thorin’s nephews, Kili (Turner) and Fili (O’Gorman) long to join the raging war outside their halls, feeling dishonorable in allowing others to fight their battles. All rests on the new king, whose greatest battle is within himself.
Tonight’s viewing was my second in four days. First viewings for me are about getting an overview of the movie. Sequential viewings allow me to see the details and note the things I missed the first time around. This is a BIG movie, with a great deal of action and several storylines that converge before the great walls of Erebor. And there were quite a few details that I missed! I find that each time I watch a movie, no matter how many times I’ve seen it before, I learned something new or see something I missed before.
Peter Jackson concluded his long and wonderful journey through Middle-Earth with a film that delivers powerful scenes and an emotional punch. I sat with a full audience tonight. As a group, we laughed….and we cried. The teary eyes started even earlier for me this time around, if that was possible. There is something very vulnerable and noble about Bard the Bowman. I love the way he is a quiet protector, of his children, and of his neighbors. Bard’s determined stance against the dragon , atop the highest tower in Laketown, brings redemption for him and cleanses away the blot against his family. Alfrid (Gage), the sniveling sidekick of the dishonest Master of the Town, provides sharp contrast to Bard, while also providing most the film’s comedic moments.
There is just so much to love about TBOTFA. The brief, but extremely powerful scene involving the freeing of Gandalf by the White Council is cheer worthy. I loved seeing the strength these keepers of the peace have when it comes to defending the light against the darkness. Thranduil also reveals more of his strength in this movie. We finally get a glimpse into his heart, and who he really is. I liked him so much better in this final film. Tauriel proves herself and caused the tears to flow as she goes to the defense of the dwarf that she loves. One of the most memorable lines in the movie is between her and Thranduil when she asks why love hurts so much, and he replies, with deep sadness and understanding….”because it’s real”.
Martin Freeman is brilliant as the Hobbit Bilbo Baggins. He has transformed during the three movies until by the final scenes, he is truly courageous. His friendship with Thorin is critical to all that unfolds. The mannerisms and signature sniffle that Freeman incorporated into the character have made Bilbo the lovable Hobbit that he is. I was very moved by a scene in which he shows Thorin an acorn that he picked up in Beorn’s garden. Bilbo intends to plant it when he gets home, so that every time he sees the tree, he will remember all that happened on his journey…the good and the bad.
This film’s major story centers around Thorin, son of Thrain, King Under the Mountain, and his descent into madness….and ascent again into who he truly is. Richard Armitage does a magnificent job of portraying the mercurial Thorin. I can feel his performance in my chest, it so impacts me. Gandalf admonishes Thorin by telling him he is not making a very good showing at being king. And he’s right! His kinsman, Dwalin, with tears in his eyes, tells Thorin “You sit here with a crown on your head and you are less than you have ever been.” When Thorin rages, “I AM YOUR KING” Dwalin tells him quietly, “You have always been my king. You used to know that.” What a contrast to the man who, a short time later, leads the charge against the enemy, free from his madness and his heavy crown. His kinsfolk cry out, “To the King. To the King.” And he is, finally, king, perhaps for the first time fully embracing all that he is, and his men rally to him.
I also loved the references to the Lord of the Rings that are contained in this film. There is much foreshadowing about what is to come, and in a sense, the story comes full circle, this final movie ending precisely where the Fellowship of the Ring begins. It is so fitting. Fitting too is the final song, The Last Goodbye, sung by Billy Boyd, Pippen from LOTR. The credits are worth sitting through, as the song plays, for there are beautifully done drawings of the characters and locations to appreciate. Tonight, even the song brought a fresh round of tears.
Thorin’s words to Bilbo, during a very touching scene, are tucked away in my heart. He says, “If more of us valued home above gold, it would be a merrier world.” Home is where we create it. We are sheltered, nurtured, loved, and cared for there. We are in an environment that allows us to learn and grow. The love of gold can separate us from each other, and from the truest part of ourselves. Home, and hospitality such as Bilbo offers to the dwarves as he departs, invites and refreshes, comforts and restores. No matter where that home is. For me, I’d love my home to be in Middle-Earth. Or perhaps, a very Middle-Earth type setting that I create.
I am very grateful for the cast and crew, writers and producers, and most of all, for Peter Jackson for this amazing journey these past 13 years. I am changed because of these stories. I have grown as surely as the characters did. Thank you, PJ, for inviting me to journey with you.