The Hobbit: The Battle Of The Five Armies

I saw this film in IMAX 3D HFR format.

Some people are never satisfied. Granted, there’s not a single one of Peter Jackson’s six Tolkein adaptations that isn’t in some way flawed. To listen to some talk about the Hobbit films you’d think, however, that he was guilty of mass murder or at least the Transformer films. I remain convinced that from the perspective of history this set of six will be widely-loved and cherished. Frankly I want him to keep making films like this for the rest of my life.

If the first Hobbit was a film that spoke to me of grace and the second was one that spoke to me of joy, then this third instalment induces in me somewhere between childlike wonder and awe. Like the rest of this trilogy, it’s too little narrative stretched over too much screen time. Like The Return Of The King the large-scale battle sections overwhelm character and nuance. Like all the other films, Orlando Bloom is still phoning it in. Unlike the 3rd LOTR film, this one decides that one ending will suffice; and it’s a beautiful, funny and entirely apt ending that moved me to a slightly moistened eye behind my annoying 3D glasses.

Like the other films, and true to Jackson’s film-making roots, there’s some tough stuff in here. Picking up right where the previous film left off, it opens with Smaug laying waste to the nearby city; the attendant action scenes are fantastic, and the footage of ordinary people turned to refugees in fearful panic is chilling and contemporary. There then, essentially, follows a series of sequences of various characters being foreboding about oncoming war, plus a little sneaking around and double-dealing. Richard Armitage as dwarf king Thorin takes centre stage wrestling with ‘gold sickness’ as much as Frodo will later wrestle with the Ring’s power and temptations. It doesn’t quite have the Ring’s chilling relevance but it’s powerful stuff nonetheless and still a fine performance.

It’s all marking time, to be honest, for the titular battle. A masterfully presented battle it is too. There’s a few moments where there’s too much CGI (Legolas running up some falling bricks sticks in the memory in a bad way); other than that, it’s stunning. There are five armies, and for us to be fully involved in personal skirmishes as well as large scale conflict and still be able to keep a handle on the story and who is fighting who and why is no small achievement. There are moments of liquid beauty too – elf armies aligning, especially; and some truly memorable weapons and creatures … a large troll-thing with a stone thing round his head being a funny but still powerful highlight.

As mentioned, occasionally the computer imagery takes over too much, which is an unusual fault in these films. Mostly the human wins through, but here the artifice is occasionally too obvious. For me this was exacerbated by the artificiality of HFR; all be it that IMAX remains the best format for large-scale films like this. By movie’s end, however, it was only my diary and the late hour keeping me from diving straight into the LOTR trilogy.

I rated this film 8/10 on imdb.com and 4/5 on rottentomatoes.com

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