With The Hobbit The Battle Of The Five Armies, Peter Jackson and friends bring to a close the epic saga of J.R.R. Tolkien’s book, as well as our movie time in Middle-earth (probably). But while it concludes the trilogy and the whole film series with a bang, it also ends it with a bit of a whimper as well.
With Smaug off to trash a nearby town, the dwarves can finally return to their mountain home, and all the treasure within. But just when they (and you) think it’s all come to a close, it seems that things haven’t been wrapped up as neatly as anyone thought.
Which is kind of the problem with The Hobbit The Battle Of The Five Armies. At the risk of spoiling it for anyone who’s not read the original book, or ever seen a movie, or has no common sense, once Smaug is killed and the dwarves retake the mountain, the main quest of The Hobbit movies is over. But since this happens so early in the film, about a half-hour in, what you’re left with feels, well, somewhat anticlimactic because it’s entirely about the aftermath of Smaug’s demise and what it means for the residents of Middle-earth.
Granted, this is what happens in the book of The Hobbit, but the death of Smaug feels more conclusive here. So much so that — as someone hasn’t read The Hobbit since about a year before the first Lord Of The Rings movie came out — I actually thought the book did end with Smaug’s demise, and that the other stuff in The Hobbit The Battle Of The Five Armies was from the appendices and other Tolkien writings that Jackson and company used to flesh out the Hobbit movies.
Though it also doesn’t help that all the stuff with Sauron that they were building upon in the first two Hobbit films is also concluded rather quickly in The Hobbit The Battle Of The Five Armies. Or that what happens to Thorin after they get the mountain back seems somewhat out of the blue, and dissipates just as quickly.
The thing is, while The Hobbit The Battle Of The Five Armies feels anticlimactic — and, as a result, is the weakest of the three Hobbit movies and the six Tolkien films — it’s not dull. Not by a long shot. If anything, it’s rather exciting, since most of the aftermath involves a massive battle between a bunch of different factions, I’m not sure how many.
The Hobbit The Battle Of The Five Armies even has a couple nice bits of fan service (which I won’t spoil), though it also does do something that will add fuel to a question people had about The Lord Of The Rings movies (again, no spoilers). Maybe the inevitable extended edition will fill that in. Especially since, at just a shade over two hours (if you don’t count the credits), The Hobbit The Battle Of The Five Armies is the shortest of all six films.
Which is why — despite The Hobbit The Battle Of The Five Armies being less engaging than the other Hobbit movies, and not as satisfying an ending as The Lord Of The Rings: The Return Of The King — it’s still worth seeing on the big screen. The opening part with Smaug is rather spectacular, as are the battle scenes.
Just do yourself a favor and don’t see The Hobbit The Battle Of The Five Armies in 3D. Trust me. Aside from a moment with some snow flurries flying around that made me think the air conditioner in the screening room was on the fritz, the 3D is usually wasted, and is sometimes actually a detriment. In a couple scenes where people are talking to each other, while other people do things in the background, the 3D effect often makes them look like they’re on a set, and not the same one, like someone screwed up the green screen compositing (if you saw the 48 frames-per-second version of An Unexpected Journey, you’ll know what I mean). It doesn’t ruin the movie, since it doesn’t happen much, but you will enjoy it more if you skip the third dimension.
On its own, The Hobbit The Battle Of The Five Armies is a grand fantasy film, and a worthy chapter in the Middle-earth saga. It’s just not the best chapter, or the best ending. But after six movies and so many miles traveled, it’s not surprising that it’s a little tired.