Caution: Spoiler alert!
Yes, we’re in the midst of the holiday season. It’s also the time of the year when friends and families gather around for the holiday specials of their favorite programs. Another favorite pastime may be the epic marathon screenings of “The Lord of the Rings” and the first two “Hobbit” films; perhaps these even encompass the extended versions if you’re that excited. Prior to the release of this final chapter, you may have caught Stephen Colbert’s smashing (literally) interview with Smaug. It’s quite hilarious as Smaug discusses the difficulties of working with CGI, finding acting jobs as a conservative, and why he’d never appear on “Sherlock” with Benedict Cumberbatch.
In any case, you’ve taken the time to get ready for “The Hobbit: The Battle of the Five Armies,” a story that was alluded to a few times in “The Lord of the Rings” series. In that regard, it’s interesting to come full circle with the battle at the mountain. Smaug (voiced by Benedict Cumberbatch) burns Laketown but he is taken out by an arrow fired by the Bard (Luke Evans). Thorin (Richard Armitage) has reclaimed the mountain and his throne, but he becomes mad as Dragon Sickness sets in. It causes displeasure among the men of Laketown, led by the Bard, and the Elves, led by Thranduil (Lee Pace), who want their share of the treasures. Thorin walls himself in with his kinsmen and Bilbo Baggins (Martin Freeman). Unbeknownst to him, Bilbo is hiding the Oakenstone.
Meanwhile, Gandalf is still being held prisoner by the Necromancer (voiced by Benedict Cumberbatch). He’s soon rescued by Galadriel (Cate Blanchard), Sarumon (Christpher Lee), and Elrond (Hugo Weaving) in a spectacular battle with the Necromancer, who is revealed to be Sauron. Galadriel’s change in form is slightly comical or over the top in the CGI effects and the voice. (Why resort to the same deep voice whenever characters exercise more power or go mad?) Back at the mountain, the five armies are gathering: the men, the Elves, Dwarves, and two Orc armies. As expected, quite a melee breaks out at the end as the first three groups try to rally against the Orcs.
The pacing of the final “Hobbit” film seems to flow better than the first two, probably due to the build up to the battles. The set battles throw in a lot of variety which is both pleasing to the eye and impressive. The caliber of the acting also helps to carry the film as the mad king Thorin is pitted against his friend Bilbo. Richard Armitage is magnificent at switching between the grip of madness and regular Thorin with the expressiveness of his eyes in the great hall. That’s a scene that could have easily descended into comical disarray and worse yet, overacting. There’s such a great depth to the emotional rawness and friendship between Thorin and Bilbo in their conversations. It parallels and contrasts nicely with the friendship between childhood friends Sam and Frodo in LOTR.
Both series have done so admirably at exploring the theme of friendship, whether it’s across long stretches of time or the development of a bond between seemingly different races. Director Peter Jackson is also very effective in linking the two series together, filling in the details in “The Hobbit” to events we’d only received a mere glimpse of during LOTR. He foreshadows and throws in (future) characters with a comfortable ease, rather than taking random and overly conspicuous opportunities to namedrop. For instance, recall Gimli’s photo in “Desolation of Smaug” and Thranduil’s instructions to Legolas to find Strider in “Five Armies.” The subtle references allow the plot to keep moving, but also allows viewers to light up at the connections without overloading the frame.
It’s sad that “The Hobbit” has come to an end, but viewers can celebrate that the final movie concludes the “trilogy” on a strong note. There will always be the marathon viewing sessions with friends to fill in that void.