Finally the dwarfs and Bilbo Baggins have reached the lonely mountain and met Smaug, who promptly flies away to wreck short-lived revenge upon Laketown. With the dragon dispatched, Thorin Oakensheild should be a happy dwarf but now his thoughts turn to how to protect his golden hoard. And where did that Arkinstone get to?
This was always my favourite part of the book, the quest is over but the characters have to deal with the consequences of their decisions. The actual battle itself is secondary (and not even described in the novel), it is Bilbo’s actions that drive the plot, and only now does he really become the main character in the story.
Of course, being a Hollywood fantasy epic, The Battle of the Five Armies has a go to great length to show five armies battling. Peter Jackson is an old hand at this and the battle is actually reasonably compelling, although I don’t want to ever again see a character raises his eyes to a distant ridge just in time for a host of warriors to appear. It happens at least twice in this film alone – don’t these mighty leaders ever send scouts out? It’s all about basic situational awareness, people!
Everything is very pretty and well directed but The Battle of the Five Armies just doesn’t know when to stop, especially with the individual fights. The titular battle is eventually ignored as half the characters go dwarfo e orco in another location. The film establishes that the average orc dies immediately from the merest scratch (even a small stone thrown from a child-sized hobbit can completely flatten them), but orcs with names take forever to take down. It is always entertaining watching Ninja-Legolas dance around but Thorin’s final struggle comes to a perfect conclusion and then … keeps going. It just will…not…end.
On the other hand, the film itself doesn’t draw out its ending after the climax. Once the battle is over it quickly moves to the amusing denouement of the novel with a couple of minutes left over to finish off the tedious wrap-around story started over 8 hours of screen-time ago.
Of all the three films, I enjoyed this one the most. It has the possibly the least plot but by this stage the characters are well developed and you can’t say it is boring. Even Gandalfs pointless and padded side quest is despatched with quickly.
As a Hobbit film, TBotFA is still impossibly violent and lacks the charm of the book, but the it succeeds on its own terms and you can’t really argue with that title.
Recommended for completists or if you like this sort of thing