The Hobbit: The Battle of the Five Armies sees Bilbo and his cohorts return to finish off the epic saga of Middle Earth; taking on a giant charismatic dragon, an all seeing and malevolently powerful fiery eye and an extremely ugly and multitudinous Ork horde, not to mention themselves, in the process. Phew, quite a task.
Luckily we have some very familiar faces to help us on our quest. Sir Ian McKellen reprises the role of Gandalf one more time, Martin Freeman lends his impishly quirky and considerable charms to dear old Bilbo Baggins again – somewhere between a beautifully crafted homage to Ian Holm’s performances in the earlier Lord of the Rings films and an indelible stamp on the character all of his own – and Luke Evans’ human hero Bard teams up with the Elvenking Thranduil (Lee Pace) to take on Richard Armitage’s gold drunk Thorin.
The climax of the previous film, The Desolation of Smaug, ended on an ultimate cliffhanger, which the final installment is glad to pick up immediately. After the opening ten minutes we settle down into what turns out to be a very human/elf/ork/dwarf/wizard story. Although the usual spectacle of gargantuan beasts fighting one another – man going up against ork, elf against dwarf – is still present, this chapter hits just as an impressive, if expectantly sentimental, balance between emotional story line and epic action as any of its preceding relations.
At the core are themes of greed, friendship, impossible love (here Romeo and Juliet are dwarf and elf) and ultimately Thorin’s internal struggle. A struggle to overcome his desire for power and shirk the shadow of his ancestors to fulfill his destiny as the hero and savior of his people (dwarves). The action spectacle is, as ever, just that: spectacular. Possibly more so than the previous films, with some excellent fight choreography, but all still in keeping with the universe that Peter Jackson created some 14 years ago.
That being said, you can’t help but feel like something is missing, in terms of spark or originality. Maybe, after so long in the saddle, it’s just time that this story came to a close. And it does so with a fitting conclusion to the first two films, wrapping everything up nicely for the LOTR films to begin.
Where’s that box set then…