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The Hobbit: The Battle of the Five Armies Review

by Babak Borinson

I read today in the BBC’s ‘Magazine Monitor’ that it takes approximately 8.5 hours to watch Peter Jackson’s ‘The Hobbit’ trilogy in its entirety, whereas (on average) it would take someone only 5.2 hours to read Tolkien’s novel.

Saving time (and money) isn’t the only reason I’d choose the book over the film – but luckily for me, one has the opportunity to do both.

‘The Hobbit’ trilogy is best enjoyed when viewed as its own entity: strong and inspired films that are firmly based on the fundamental elements of the novel.

In this light ‘The Battle of the Five Armies’ was exceptional.

This is coming from someone who found both ‘An Unexpected Journey’ and ‘The Desolation of Smaug’ rather boring. The effortless adventure and incandescence of ‘The Lord of the Rings’ trilogy had long gone, and my thoughts were that Peter Jackson had tried too hard – and failed – to turn ‘The Hobbit’ into ‘The Lord of the Rings’.

‘The Battle of the Five Armies’ made me change my mind. It differs from its predecessors quite simply because it better achieves the dragging-out of events, and in the process, for me, it single-handedly saves the trilogy.

‘The Two Towers’ was my favourite of ‘The Lord of the Rings’ trilogy because it kept me on my toes from start to finish – we were in the midst of the action, at least on some level, throughout the whole film, and it was the same here.

There’s only so long one can sit and watch Thorin barking on about the Arkenstone, and there’s only so long one can sit and watch a light sequence, or a black-and-blue Gandalf dangling in a cage – so the story, and its battle, are drawn out and scattered to encompass the drama. Our time spent in each scene is incredibly well timed, and even at 144 minutes, not once did I feel that the flm was dragging on.

In many ways the fnal battle sequence was nothing we haven’t seen before. A large chunk of the film’s target demographic are presumed to know the storyline inside out anyway, so it’s not about surprises or shockers. What Jackson has done is captivate and command his audience with how he portrays the battle, as opposed to what the battle consists of. The intricacies of the battle are some of the best I’ve ever seen, there are some interesting new beasts, and a magnifcent Billy Connelly cameo lightens the tone at precisely the right moment.

This brings me to the performances, none of which I can complain too much about. Martin Freeman was always going to be a perfect Bilbo, and those whose character’s were already established in ‘The Lord of the Rings’ are as good as expected. ! My stand out performance came from Ryan Gage as the creepy and cowardice ‘Alfirid’, the Lake Master’s “deputy” turned spineless and feeble survivor. Some of his supposed laugh-out-loud moments seemed somewhat forced and juvenile, but this was at script level, the performance itself was brilliant and hilarious.

The film is laden with hints and explanations of key elements of ‘The Lord of the Rings’, such as the demise of Saruman’s morality, and the catalyst for the Legolas coming to fnd Aragon. It links the trilogies and offered fans an excuse for a smug nod of self-gratification.

With the inevitable return of Bilbo to the Shire comes our return to the start-point of not just ‘The Hobbit’ trilogy, but also ‘The Lord of the Rings’ . The completion of the cycle, back to where it all began. Or in the words of Tolkien, “There and back again”… and then somewhere else, and then back again.

To conclude, the ‘The Hobbit: The Battle of the Five Armies’ is over the top, it’s cheesy, it’s not that accurate to the novel, it’s clichéd – and I wouldn’t change it for the world.

8.5/10 – I wouldn’t change it for the world.

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