Review: THE HOBBIT: THE BATTLE OF THE FIVE ARMIES (2014) | Casey's Movie Mania | Movie Reviews, Features & Others

Wednesday, 17 December 2014

Review: THE HOBBIT: THE BATTLE OF THE FIVE ARMIES (2014)

This big budget sword-and-sandal fantasy epic is both campy and cheesy, but still packed a decent entertainment value.



All good things must come to an end. After THE LORD OF THE RINGS trilogy (2001-2003) and the first two HOBBIT movies (2012-2013), director Peter Jackson has finally concluded his Middle-Earth saga with THE HOBBIT: THE BATTLE OF THE FIVE ARMIES. Fans and viewers who previously complained about the overstuffed and the long-winded approach of the first two HOBBIT movies, will be rejoiced that the final chapter redeems itself with a more entertaining and pacy outcome.

WHAT IS IT ALL ABOUT?

Following the event of THE HOBBIT: THE DESOLATION OF SMAUG (2013), the malevolent dragon Smaug (voiced by Benedict Cumberbatch) flew out of Erebor and make his way to set Lake-town ablaze. However, Bard of Bowman (Luke Evans) emerges as a hero when he manages to defeat Smaug once and for all with the Black Arrow. Unfortunately, the defeat of Smaug is just a fraction of a bigger problem when Thorin (Richard Armitage), who refuses to share his fortune with all of Erebor's golds and jewels, chooses to fight a war against other tribes on Middle-Earth, namely the elven clan led by Thranduil (Lee Pace). Complicating matter is the massive army of Orcs, led by Azog (Manu Bennett) and Bolg (Lawrence Makoare), who plan to take over on the Erebor at all cost.

THE GOOD STUFF
 
Clocking at 144 minutes, this is the shortest duration that Peter Jackson has ever made for the Middle-Earth saga. Gone are the excess fat and the pretentiousness that plagued the first two HOBBIT movies. I'm glad that Jackson wastes little time and cut to the chase instead, with more action than the previous two HOBBIT movies combined together. The action sequences, particularly the one involved Jackson's technical know-how on choreographing massive battlefield set-piece with the help of Andrew Lesnie's majestic cinematography, are visually stunning which are truly a sight to behold. Even the story -- credited to Fran Walsh, Philippa Boyens, Peter Jackson and Guillermo del Toro -- has a livelier sense of urgency this time around for a HOBBIT movie, especially the part where they touch upon the intriguing themes of greed and power.

The ensemble cast is top notch, with Richard Armitage stands out the most reprising his role as Thorin. Apart from giving his all during the battle sequences with his commanding presence, Armitage also delivers a psychologically intense performance who loses his sanity corrupted by the presence of golds and jewels in his possession. Martin Freeman, who may have been sidelined to a more secondary role in this final chapter, still manages to deliver an emotionally affecting performance as Bilbo Baggins. His interplay with Armitage's Thorin that questions over their loyalty, trust and true friendship against each other evokes a sense of poignancy and subtlety.

Likewise, Ian McKellen owns the role with his iconic performance as Gandalf the Grey. Other supporting cast including Luke Evans as Bard the Bowman, Lee Pace as Thranduil, Orlando Bloom as Legolas, and Evangeline Lilly as Tauriel have their own moments, while Ryan Gage delivers a worthwhile comic relief as Alfrid. Even the brief performances by Cate Blanchett as Galadriel, Christopher Lee as Saruman and Hugo Weaving as Elrond, are equally captivating as well.

MOST MEMORABLE MOMENT(S)
 
For all the action-packed moments in this movie, I couldn't singled out a memorable scene worthy for an inclusion here. 

THE BAD STUFF
  
While the movie benefits from fast-paced rhythm and plenty of extended battle sequences, there's a nagging feeling and a sense of déjà vu experience that I couldn't help comparing the epic battlefield with the one shown in THE LORD OF THE RINGS: THE RETURN OF THE KING (2003). As great as Jackson and cinematographer Andrew Lesnie favours over widescreen cinematography to capture the epic grandeur of the battlefield, the same cannot be said with the individual fight scenes. Problem is, most of the one-on-one fight scenes are shot too fast with quick pans and tight close-ups that at times, it's difficult to appreciate the beauty of the action choreography. Because of the fast-moving camerawork, the IMAX 3D presentation that I have watched during the press screening, tends to give me blurry eyes while trying to enjoy the scenes properly. Another weakness is the surprisingly lack of standout moments during the one-on-one fight scene. For instance, the supposedly epic fight between Thorin and Azog (Manu Bennett) on the icy ground at the end of the movie feels strangely lacklustre. Frankly, I expected Jackson to do better than this.

FINAL WORDS


Even though the movie doesn't exactly matches the same creative peak that Jackson has done better in THE LORD OF THE RINGS: THE RETURN OF THE KING, THE HOBBIT: THE BATTLE OF THE FIVE ARMIES remains satisfying enough as a closing chapter that finally bids farewell to the Middle-Earth saga after all these years.

* This review is written courtesy from Warner Bros Malaysia IMAX 3D press screening *

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