Review by Louise Keller
Peter Jackson’s magnificently directed Hobbit finale is a delicately choreographed, operatic ballet of war with dwarves, elves, a fire-breathing dragon, orcs and men. Detailed costumes, fabulous production design and the splendour of the New Zealand setting create an extraordinary fantasy reality and Jackson has pulled out all the stops to complete the trilogy (and the entire Middle Earth saga) in great style and with a grand flourish with an action-packed spectacle. It helps if you’re a fan – the plot and the complexity of the characters is not simple.
The film begins with a splash as the magnificent, terrifying, fire-spewing dragon Smaug (effectively voiced by Benedict Cumberbatch) makes his last hoorah, the sky ablaze in scorching red. It’s an exciting sequence that comes to its dramatic climax as Orlando Bloom’s Legolas aims his arrow from a Lake-town belltower. The focus then moves to the politics of the dwarves, with Erebor heir Thorin (Richard Armitage) obsessed by the untold wealth before him, while Bilbo (Martin Freeman) hides the all-powerful Arkenstone, which he has discovered.
The central battle scene when the armies converge in impressive style is where the film rises to its zenith, with film fantasy at its peak. The action is non-stop and thrilling. I especially liked the sequence in which a massive Orc swings a rock and chain on the frozen water; look out for the shot in which we see the creature open his eyes from under the ice.
All the characters we expect to see appear at various times, including Gandalf (Ian McKellen) with the pointy hat, Galadriel (Cate Blanchett, looking especially ethereal), wizard Saruman (Christopher Lee), the lovely elf Tauriel (Evangeline Lilly) and her lovelorn dwarf Kili (Aidan Turner).
Jackson emerges as the big star – his vision and dedication in creating the epics depicting Middle Earth have defined him. The authenticity is staggering as is the film’s weight and scale.
Review by Andrew L. Urban:
A major series of science fiction films comes to an end with Battle of the Five Armies, born of an Englishman’s (J.R.R. Tolkien) imagination and represented on screen by a New Zealand filmmaker (Peter Jackson), creating an entire world that is familiar in the psychology of its characters, unique in the landscape of its fantastic geography. Indeed, the creation of that world is the most remarkable achievement, bringing together astonishing work in production design (all departments), cinematography, visual effects, special effects, make up and prosthetics, music and editing. The extensive team involved brought to the screen an immersive and tangible world of haunting mountains, enormous plains and the strikingly imagined armies battling to the violent death.
‘No dwarfs were harmed in the making of this motion picture’ and it is technology that delivers the mayhem in this final episode of the story about a hobbit and the magic ring that causes so much trouble, with its promise of power and riches. These are the recognisable human elements of the story, and the setting is just a way of telling it – like a parable.
Bringing it to life are some very fine actors, spread across the acting style spectrum – yet mostly successfully so. There are moments when the differences highlight the stylised nature of much of the dialogue and even the performances, but the film’s fantasy embrace gets it through.
Huge in scale and in ambition, The Battle of the Five Armies is given extra dimension by the 3D process (pardon the pun) by emphasising distance and size. In this respect, the film matches the most active imaginations that are inspired by the written word from which it springs.