On the weekend I saw the last instalment of Peter Jackson‘s adaptation of J. R. R. Tolkien‘s The Hobbit film trilogy, The Hobbit: The Battle of the Five Armies (TBofFA). I went in with some trepidation as I had seen some bits and pieces of reviews declaring the film merely meh. I went in with as open a mind as I could and I’m glad I did.
The film opens directly from the events at the end of the previous film, The Desolation of Smaug (2014), as it should. From the first moments TBofFA is unabashedly action oriented. While the action quotient is high, the film also makes room for humorous and dramatic moments.
I saw the film in the High Frame Rate version again, and the images are stunning. The film is gorgeous to look at and I only wish I had a television capable of replicating the stunning views. New Zealand/Middle-Earth is truly stunning in this form of film.
I appreciate the fact that many people have taken a disliking to this trilogy since Peter Jackson has seen fit to insert many elements that were not present in the book and altering some that were in order for the films to mould to his vision. However, as Peter Jackson has interpreted the book into film, I feel he has gotten more right than wrong, and that he has managed to maintain at least a philosophical connection to the book. For this he must be congratulated.
Where this film truly shone for me, once more, was how Martin Freeman really took the mantle of Bilbo Baggins to heart. I have enjoyed Freeman’s portrayal of Bilbo from the very start of the trilogy. I found his manner to be in keeping of what I thought a hobbit should be, and with only a few wobbles. Freeman gave us a Bilbo that was courageous and vulnerable and honourable and determined. While Freeman’s performance throughout the trilogy has been solid and convincing the moment that truly captured the essence of Bilbo was in his parting from the company of dwarves. It was perhaps the most heartfelt moment of the entire trilogy.
While the action centres around the events in and around Dale and Erebor, we are also given a look, conjecturally, at events that will lead eventually to The Lord of the Rings. This is one of the points many fans take umbrage with, and while totally not within the purview of the book itself, it does lend a sort of continuity between these events and the one yet to come, chronologically speaking. These scenes can be looked at as merely filler in order to extend the running time, or they can be viewed as possibilities of what may have been going on during the events set forth in the book. I prefer to take the latter view.
While there is a lot of battle action in this last film, we also get a look at how gold and the lust for the King’s Stone, the Arkenstone, changes the character of Thorin Oakenshield. Richard Armitage gives Thorin’s increasing paranoia and distrust life, a life you can’t help but pity. Armitage’s strength, however, lies in his ability during the action sequences. He portrays a commander of dwarves well and his anger at Azog the Defiler is palpable.
Where the film falls down a little bit for me is at the very end. Peter Jackson expanded and expounded on characters and events that never took place, but with the return of Bilbo to The Shire we are given a perfunctory view of the surroundings and his animosity with Lobelia Sackville-Baggins. I would have liked a little more of Bag End to alleviate the dark tones of the rest of the film. It’s a tiny grievance, but it’s there all the same.
All in all, Peter Jackson has produced a film based on events that were little written about by Tolkien. Which, for me, was an entertaining experience that only enhances my appreciation for Tolkien’s original words. The films will never replace Tolkien’s works, but I’m glad they’re available.
Without a doubt I am an ardent fan of J. R. R. Tolkien’s The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings, and despite the faults of the films, both real and perceived, I think Peter Jackson, the casts, and the many, many people involved in bringing these works to life have given us a satisfying homage to Tolkien’s great literary achievements. I thank them for this and I will return to Middle-Earth, both in the pages of Tolkien’s books and the films they’ve inspired, time and again for years to come.