The Hobbit: The Battle of the Five Armies – A Review

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“Free at last, free at last, Thank God Almighty we are free at last.” Those, of course, are the words made famous by Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. in his “I Have a Dream” speech. These were also my words after the final Hobbit movie. After nearly nine hours invested and a lot of time watching people walking, I was very relieved that my time in Middle Earth is (hopefully?) over for the foreseeable future. Please make it so, Peter Jackson. I’m not the world’s biggest Tolkien fan to begin with – I never read any of his books – but I did enjoy the original Lord of the Rings movie trilogy. The Hobbit, however, was a true test of my patience. Had the final film failed to get nominated for any Oscars, I would have waited to watch in on HBO or DVD. But a nod for sound editing meant that The Battle of the Five Armies was in play for my Oscar death race, so reluctantly I trudged off to the cinema.

As the movie began to start, I realized that I remembered very little from The Desolation of Smaug, the second film in this trilogy. That’s not necessarily a good sign. As I racked my brain for information to orient myself, this is all that I could come up with:

  • Smaug (Benedict Cumberbatch), the dragon, was pissed off and about to attack a town.
  • The dwarves and Bilbo Baggins (Martin Freeman) had spent two movies trying to get to Lonely Mountain for…..some reason. I honestly no longer remember.
  • There was some sort of romance brewing between Tauriel (Evangeline Lilly) and one of the dwarves, Kili (Aidan Turner).
  • Gandalf (Ian McKellen) was off doing his own thing.
  • The Elf King Thranduil (Lee Pace) was kind of a jerk.
  • There were way too may dwarves to keep track of.

Thankfully, you can see The Battle of the Five Armies without knowing a lot of the backstory. There are enough cues within the film so you can basically figure out what’s going on even if this is your entry point into the trilogy. Turns out, a lot of the information that was garnered in the last two films was relatively extraneous. I know that life’s a journey, not a destination, but when it comes to The Hobbit movies, the destination is when the action really starts to kick in.

As the subtitle indicates, the focus of The Battle of the Five Armies is, well, a battle. That means that there is a lot less wandering around and a lot more killing, which was a very welcome change of pace for me. The third film is around twenty minutes shorter than the previous two installments and it moved a lot faster and held my attention. One of the reasons I was loathe to see The Battle of the Five Armies in the theater was because it was a 144 minute time commitment, but I have to say that the time flew by. It’s the amazing the difference that some bloody warfare can have on a movie.

The Battle of the Five Armies begins immediately after where The Desolation of Smaug left off – with Smaug on the verge of wreaking havoc on Laketown. Smaug is dealt with – unsurprisingly since his name is no longer part of the movie title – but not before the people of Laketown have lost everything. They seek refuge in the ruins surrounding Lonely Mountain, led by Bard the Bowman (Luke Evans). Now that Smaug has left the treasures of the mountain unprotected, the people of Laketown want a share of the gold to begin to rebuild. But they are not the only ones who want a piece of the treasure; Thranduil and his army have also descended on Lonely Mountain, in search of some jewelry that was part of Smaug’s stash. Unfortunately for them, Thorin (Richard Armitage) – the dwarf king currently in residence of Lonely Mountain – is not in the sharing mood and has barricaded himself and his companions inside. Thorin gets some reinforcements when his cousin shows up with a dwarf army and everyone is ready to square off…until the Orc army that’s been lurking in the last few movies shows up to complicate matters. Commence battle royal.

It’s nice to finally have some payoff from the previous two movies; the stakes are pretty clear in The Battle of the Five Armies and while there is some other stuff going on, the film benefits greatly from one focusing event. The cinematography is always top notch in these films and Jackson certainly knows how to do world building, so it’s nice to see these elements used for a greater purpose. The actors all do a nice job as well; this may not be the kind of work that gets you recognized for an Academy Award, but they create real characters that – other than the miscellaneous dwarves – are memorable despite the fragmented screen time required to accommodate so many stories and a cast this size. The action sequences are choreographed very well and even though there is a lot of chaos as battles break out on multiple fronts, it’s never hard to keep track of what’s going on or what everyone is up to. It helps that despite all their bluster and inherent scariness, Orcs seem pretty easy to kill. There’s also a fair amount of humor infused in the film, which was somewhat lacking from the previous installments. My only real complaint is it’s a little unclear on the accounting methods used to get to the five armies in question. There are four obvious armies in play – The dwarves, the elves, the Orcs and the humans – but I’m not sure if they are counting the animals that show up pretty late in the game as the fifth army or not.

All in all, The Battle of the Five Armies was a much needed change of pace from the rest of The Hobbit trilogy. I’m not sure that the previous 5+ hours of buildup were necessary, but the franchise ended on a relative high note. The Hobbit trilogy will always pale in comparison to The Lord of the Rings for me, but The Battle of the Five Armies was my favorite film from the trilogy. If you liked An Unexpected Journey and The Desolation of Smaug, you will definitely dig the final installment of the trilogy. If you found the first two movies as boring as I did, you may be surprised by The Battle of the Five Armies.

 

The Hobbit: The Battle of the Five Armies is currently in wide release.

Pop Culture Odds and Ends – Happy Thanksgiving Edition

Hooray – it’s almost Thanksgiving, though honestly I am more excited about the 4 day weekend than the actual holiday. I’ve been running around way too much in the last week and I really just need a few days to relax and get myself back on track. I’m looking forward to just sleeping in and taking it easy and watching a shameful number of movies. I’ll enjoy the turkey dinner and the moment to reflect on all that I’m thankful for (which is a lot), but I’m really ready for some R&R. The last two weeks have kicked my butt.

Before you head off to spend some time with your loved ones and eat some stuffing, get yourself up to speed on the world of pop culture with your biweekly pop culture roundup. It’s on the long side this week, so there’s plenty to keep you occupied over the long weekend. Plus you never know when you’ll have to make small talk with a relative and there is a little bit of something for everyone in this roundup. So pour over this collection of links before the tryptophan kicks in.

  • Someone indexed every death in the Game of Thrones books (so far):

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  • NOOOOOO!!!!!!!! They are remaking Road House. It has better include the line “I used to f*ck guys like you in prison” or it will be complete sacrilege.

This week in Ron Burgundy news:

  • The Channel 4 gang sang “Afternoon Delight” at the Australian premiere:

 

 

  • Baxter got his own movie poster:

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  • This article looks at how Friends decided to pair off Monica and Chandler.
  • The Mindy Project is going on hiatus due to low ratings. Other shakeups at FOX – Dads has been removed from the schedule despite receiving a full season order and Brooklyn Nine-Nine is moving to 9:30 (in The Mindy Project’s old slot).
  • James Franco and Seth Rogan did a parody of Kanye’s video for “Bound 2”:

Surprisingly, Kim and Kanye (neither known for their killer sense of humor) apparently found it funny.

  • Zach Braff may have pulled off the greatest photobomb of all time:

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  • Watch Bryan Cranston and Aaron Paul read the Breaking Bad finale for the first time (spoilers if you aren’t current):

 

  • You can watch the pilots of HBO’s new comedies Ja’mie: Private School Girl and Getting On online.
  • Adam Brody (The O.C.) and Leighton Meester (Gossip Girl) are engaged.
  • The surviving members of the Beastie Boys penned an open letter explain their dispute with toymaker GoldieBlox. Their song “Girls” has since been pulled from the commercial.
  • According to this graphic, many Sesame Street character have mental disorders.
  • Watch Robert DeNiro’s audition for the role of Sonny in The Godfather:

 

  • Pitbull and Ke$ha co-star in a new music video:

 

Trailers:

  • Every new trailer for HBO’s True Detective makes me more and more excited for this show:

 

  • A teaser for the new Chicago Fire spin-off, Chicago PD:

 

  • Sherlock Season 3:

 

  • The obviously NSFW trailer has arrived from Lars von Trier’s upcoming film Nymphomaniac

 

  • Season 3 trailer for HBO’s Girls:

 

  • A trailer for Devil’s Knot – yet another film about the West Memphis Three:

 

  • Another trailer for one of the movies I am most looking forward to this winter, American Hustle:

 

  • Kellen Lutz stars in Hercules: The Legend Begins:

 

  • A new trailer for Muppets Most Wanted:

 

  • Some deleted scenes from one of my all-time favorite movies, The Shawshank Redemption:

 

  • I always knew It’s Sunny in Philadelphia was ahead of its time. Does this mean kitten mittens are next?
  • Whoa – Snoop Dogg’s Doggystyle album was released 20 years ago. I am feeling old.

As always, we end with the mashups and supercuts:

  • Mad Men without the smoking:

 

  • Reaping Ball – a Hunger Games/Miley Cryrus mashup:

 

  • The Wolf of Bedford Falls (It’s a Wonderful Life re-cut to look like The Wolf of Wall Street):

 

  • A Rob Ford/New Jack City remix:

 

  • A Rob Ford/Chris Farley mashup (Farley would have been amazing playing Ford on SNL):

 

  • Team Coco put together a supercut of season 3 of Conan:

 

  • The Sesame Street gang did a Hunger Games parody:

 

  • And finally……a Dawson’s Creek/The Walking Dead mashup, Governor’s Creek:

 

The blog is probably going to take a few days off for the holidays, unless I just can’t help myself. Best wishes for a very happy Thanksgiving and Hanukkah!!!!