The Hobbit: The Battle Of The Five Armies is a scintillating affair. While the first two films of the series emphasized more on the journey of the Dwarves and Bilbo (Martin Freeman) taking us through different adventures and situations that the company faces, the third installment finally puts an end to the journey and brings forth the much revered large scale battle sequences which made the Lord Of The Rings (LOTR) saga epic. This film is much darker as compared to the first two installments and also does away with the amusing humor which was so much a part of the first two films. This installment emphasizes on three individuals one of whom gets a meatier role than what was written by Tolkien. While the first half is about Thorin Oakenshield (Richard Armitage) who is now the king under the mountains and is consumed by the same sickness which destroyed Thror. He values nothing more than the gold which he has finally reclaimed.
The second half is more about Bard (Luke Evans) and Legolas (Orlando Bloom). While Bard now know as Bard the dragon-slayer tries his best to save his people and bring some hope back to them, Legolas for once does his heart and follows in the footsteps of Tauriel(Evangeline Lilly) who is looking to help the Dwarves and also find out the source of the evil at Gundabad. As the film progresses, the rivalry between Azog the Defiler (Manu Bennett) and Thorin gathers importance as he is not only the leader of the opposition but also the head of the snake as Thorin puts it. There is the subplot involving Gandalf (Ian McKellen) who was left imprisoned in the second installment. Here he is finally freed by Elrond, Galadriel and Saruman in a joint effort and comes back to join the company of men and Thorin for one last charge.
The Hobbit: The Battle Of The Five Armies starts off from exactly where the second installment left off. Smaug, enraged by the Dwarves and their unannounced arrival at his domain, sets forth to incinerate the Laketown. He successfully annihilates the whole city but then Bard hits him with the one last black arrow that his ancestors had left him. Smaug is destroyed and this opens up the lonely mountains for the arrival of Elves, Orcs, Goblins and men all who stand to gain from either its riches or its strategic position. Bard wants to force a deal between Thorin and the Elves and ensure that Thorin honors his words that he had given to the people of Laketown to share in the riches of the Lonely Mountains. Thorin is driven mad by the Dragon Sickness and is not ready to part with a single coin. The Elves and men soon arrive at his doorstep with war.
Bilbo on the other hand wants to save Thorin and company from certain death and decides to hand over the Arkenstone, the kings jewel, which he had stolen from the Lonely Mountains to the company of Men and Elves so that they may barter a deal on its behest and save the lot from fighting. Thorin summons his brother Dain (Billy Connolly) and an army of Dwarves to defend the Lonely Mountains. The forces are ready to fight it out when the Orcs led by Azog arrive. The Elves, Men and Dwarves suddenly find themselves pitted against a marauding foe that is capable of annihilating the whole lot without batting an eyelid. Alliances are quickly forged and so begins an almost hour long battle which results in the restoration of power and plants the seeds for the things to come in the future.
Smaug is killed within the first fifteen minutes of the film. It comes as a major jolt to the viewers who might not have read the book but it has to be accepted that it was his death that sets about the proceedings of the film. Without him out of the way none of the five armies would have laid waste to the mountains. But before he meets his end, Smaug accounts for some of the most refreshingly terrifying CG work of recent times. The sequence where he literally incinerates the Laketown is probably one of the best done CG sequences of the year and it will leave you at the edge of your seat. Bard has his retribution and does so for his family too. The second half brings forth an almost hour long battle sequences which so much as takes up the whole second half. Elaborate battle formations, insurmountable odds and heroic exploits mark the second half. There are some sequences which will bring back memories of the Return Of The King but that déjà vu feeling is always for the best reasons possible.
Unlike the LOTR series which is heavy in human drama at many junctures, The Battle Of The Five Armies concentrates more on the thumping action set pieces and mounting tension. The only drama that one gets to see here is the dialogs between Bilbo and Thorin which one has to agree are effective. The final one to one combat between Azog and Thorin with Bog fighting Legolas and Tauriel in the background is scintillating. This action set piece is alone worth the price of admission. After Smaug is killed, you feel for a long period why the 3D was necessary for this film? Once the second half commences and the battles along with it, the 3D becomes just as relevant as the visual effects themselves. The 3D is effectively used as a means to make the viewer feel the effects and sheer fear of the height and depths particularly.
Jackson uses every trick in the book available to meat up a book which is not more than 300 pages long. Also he uses some clever camera placements and movements which the viewer will feel at many junctures. The background score is legendary. Howard Shore who had previously worked on the first two films and also conducted the LOTR saga outshines himself in many ways. The music feels like a dreamy ballade communicating the feeling of the characters through the effective background score all the way through. This is one film which will emote through its music even if you switch off the dialogs and the situational sounds. The editing is top notch and the art and make up department looks set to have a real smash at the Oscars next year.
The only flaws that I found with this film would be the manner in which Thorin recovers from his sickness, the blink and miss portrayal of the Goblins, the somewhat abrupt ending and the unnecessary love triangle between Kili, Legolas and Tauriel. But I have to be honest that going by the visuals and the amount of things happening onscreen many wouldn’t notice these minor hiccups. The Hobbit: The Battle Of The Five Armies is an epic conclusion to one of the most endearing trilogies of recent times. I feel almost sad that there wouldn’t be a middle earth movie round the corner next year. The last three Decembers have been rewarding waiting for a new Hobbit film every year but 2015 will have to do without it. If only Tolkien had written more. Watch Hobbit and drown yourself in its unabashed glory.