The Battle of the Five Armies: A Hobbit Movie Review

The Battle of the Five Armies

Spoilers if you don’t want to know any details about the movie. 

After first seeing the movie, my initial reaction was that there was not much to say that has not already been covered.  I’d only read two reviews before seeing the film, but both were similar and seemed to be spot-on.

First, there should never have been three movies.  Most of us already knew that, but it gets highlighted in the films in different ways.  The first two were filled with too many scenes of Azog chasing the dwarves around.  The Battle of the Five Armies no longer had that option.  It compensated by making every scene longer than necessary, by adding scenes that have no purpose at all (ex. Legolas and Tauriel go on a trip, stare at a fortress, talk about Elven history for a while, then travel all the way back to where they just came from), and by making a ridiculous percentage of the movie into prolonged battle scenes.  I went with a friend who normally likes action more than I do; he said the battles were boring because there were too many shots of the heroes fighting nameless orc peons.  He wanted the fights to at least be more personal, if there had to be so many.  (As an aside, after all this battle, we never actually see how it ENDS!)

Something else that people generally seem to agree on: There were too many random animals being used for transportation.  I can get behind Thraduil’s ride.  And definitely the wargs.  I was somewhat more baffled by the giant pig that Dain rode up on and by the giant mountain goats that materialized just in time for some dwarves to get up an icy mountain.  (A mountain which, incidentally, seemed to vary in just how close or far away it was from Erebor.  But, hey, it isn’t as if Tolkien very carefully tried to construct the geography of Middle Earth or anything….)

Also, the scenes that Peter Jackson added to the film took away from the story more than they added.  The scene of Gandalf, Radagast, Elrond, and Sarumon fighting Sauron and the Nazgul was apparently meant to help bridge The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings.  Perhaps that would have worked better if Jackson had kept the same symbolism.  In the first place, I’m not sure if the Nazgul were sort of embodied here, or if they were supposedly invisible but given some sort of representation so the audience could see what the heroes were fighting.  (Side note: their armor was awesome. The visual details were some of the best parts of this movie.)  That does not explain the fact that apparently, if you know throw one off a cliff, they pop and teleport back to the top of the cliff to keep fighting you.   Secondly, Galadriel seems to be having an identity crisis.  I don’t even want to touch on why she seems to be having a romantic affair with Gandalf in these movies. Even more baffling is why her sudden glowing and speaking in a deeper tone represents her good spiritual powers here.  When she did that in The Lord of the Rings, it was to show she was being tempted to EVIL!  I still don’t know if glowing is good or bad.  Just whichever Jackson needs it to be?

I could go on with some complaints.  Some of the physics in the battle scenes is absurd even for a fantasy movie.  Kili’s death seemed to be about his love for Fili, but suddenly became all about his love for Tauriel.  Legolas spends a lot of time explaining Elven things to Tauriel as if she hasn’t been an Elf all her life.  Most importantly, the movie needs more Martin Freeman.  He is brilliant as Bilbo.  But, as my friend pointed out, the movie is 80% battle and Bilbo doesn’t do battles.  So we don’t see him.  However, I’d like to take a moment to point out some of the good things.

Unfortunately, a lot of the aspects of the movie that I liked best are somewhat transitional.  As I mentioned, the film is beautiful.  The detail paid to costuming, world-building, etc. is fantastic.  I love the visuals of Middle Earth.  I also love the soundtrack, and how well all the music fit the scenes and fit in with the other songs.  If you were to hear one of the songs without any context, you would know that it belonged to Middle Earth.

My favorite scenes were generally those where characters make a grand speech or have a touching moment with another character.  I’m kind of a sucker for someone making a dramatic monologue to convince others to fight to save their land and honor and whatnot.  The Battle of the Five Armies has enough to keep me happy, and they tend to be delivered sincerely and movingly.  We also get to hear a lot about Thorin’s honor and his greed.  The greed-moral, I admit, could have been toned down.    However, Richard Armitage generally does a good trying to add nuance to what is generally unsubtle dialogue. Finally, Bard’s relationship with his family is pretty cute.  I love that his son helps him defeat Smaug.  I do, however, feel bad for the older girl, whose only role in the movie seems to be to run away from things in fear.  The younger one does, as well, but at least she gets to look adorable while doing it.

So my opinion of The Battle of the Five Armies is mixed.  On some level, I recognize that, as a movie, it isn’t very good.  A lot things don’t make sense (usually things that were added to Tolkien’s work), and I a decent amount of time in the theatre laughing whenever something completely ridiculous and unrealistic happened (I don’t think the people around me appreciated it).  However, I have to have some fondness for it because it’s The Hobbit and it’s one more time we, as viewers, get to visit Middle Earth.  I also really do like Martin Freeman in this role.  Despite all my frustrations, confusion, and complains, I’ll probably watch it again sometime.  Maybe I can fast-forward through some of the battle.


12 thoughts on “The Battle of the Five Armies: A Hobbit Movie Review

  1. jubilare says:

    The great irony of the lack of title character on-screen-time always gets me. I mean, you cast Martin Freeman, an excellent Bilbo, and… then you hardly use him? And then you name the films after his character? Wha?

    Liked by 1 person

    • Briana says:

      I actually kept forgetting about him, since he kept going away, but every time he was on screen I thought, “He’s really good! Why isn’t he in more of this?!”

      Liked by 1 person

  2. revgeorge says:

    I saw the movie Sunday. In case I haven’t said it in other comments, I’m a pretty active despiser of Jackson’s butcheries of Tolkien’s work. Mainly because he doesn’t really seem to get the heart & soul of the books and because he reduces every noble character down to whiny, neurotic selfish gits who have to be guilted into doing the right thing. Plus, he relies too heavily on CGI & battles. And if you’ve seen one Orc get their head lopped off, you’ve seen them all.

    But I didn’t really mind this movie so much. Says something for lowered expectations, I guess. Anyway, my main criticisms of the movie are: Needed more Smaug. Needed more Martin Freeman. Needed better pacing. After awhile I was like, yes, yes, we all know Thranduil is a big fat jerk and we know Thorin has dragon sickness. Stop beating us over the head with it and get this story moving. But stuff like this happens when you need to fill out time because you made a trilogy when you should’ve just made a two part movie.

    Otherwise, it was what it was. A reasonably entertaining action movie. Nothing more.

    Another plus, though, was that Richard Armitage’s performance was actually decent in this film. In the others I just wanted to slap him. 🙂

    I did very much enjoy your review. I think I agreed with most of your conclusions and thoughts on the film.


    • Krysta says:

      I can’t stand the Hobbit movies. I think they’re horrible, not only as Tolkien adaptations, but also as films. The pacing is off, they’re filled with irrelevant moments, the character development is lacking. But most people I talk to love them, I think just because they have the word “Tolkien” attached, and conversations about the films get awkward fast when I say I don’t enjoy them. It’s kind of refreshing to hear someone else who feels the same way.

      I haven’t seen the third film yet, but will no doubt be dragged to it by enthusiastic friends. I expect to be bored out of my mind since there’s nothing left of the book except a battle and I do not want to watch a three-hour fight scene. I like Martin Freeman as Bilbo, but all the reviews I’ve read say he’s barely in the movie, so that’s a disappointment.


    • Briana says:

      I remember being decently happy with the first film, even though it deviatesdwildly from the book and it already spent far too much time showing Azog hunting the dwarves. So I think I’ve gotten more disappointed as the trilogy progressed.

      I had read a couple of reviews for this movie and had somewhat braced myself, but I think what really threw me over the edge is that I don’t even think it’s good as a movie. If I knew nothing about The Hobbit, if I didn’t expect the movie to adhere to Tolkien’s work in any sense at all, I think I still would have been frustrated by the too-long battle scenes and absolute lack of realism. By the time Legolas started running up falling rocks, I’d given up expecting anything to make sense. 😉


  3. eloisej says:

    I loved Martin Freeman as Bilbo and I agree that he scarcely gets to be in it!
    I liked the first alright, the second went downhill for me and this third one I haven’t been yet but from what I’ve heard I don’t think I’ll like it either. As you said, it never should have been three movies.


    • Krysta says:

      I was really disappointed by the choices made in the second film, such as the use of Tauriel as the love interest in a weird love triangle, the politics in Laketown, the depiction of Bard not as a noble leader but as a guy with issues because of his father, etc. The final scene was just ridiculous. Trying to burn a dragon with hot gold? You can’t fight a dragon with heat, right? And surely they didn’t expect the gold to solidify fast enough to trap Smaug? The whole thing just encapsulated the philosophy of the makers–it just has to be big and showy, not actually make sense or even fit into the narrative in a meaningful way.

      I haven’t seen the third film yet but I expect to be just as disappointed. The parts that worked the best in the first two movies were the scenes taken straight from Tolkien (such as the encounter with Gollum), but there’s not much left of the actual Hobbit to put in BotFA, so I imagine it’s a lot of fighting and random Peter Jackson insertions.


      • revgeorge says:

        Krysta wrote: “…so I imagine it’s a lot of fighting and random Peter Jackson insertions.”

        Well, not to spoil the movie for you… 😉


    • Briana says:

      I’ve become more disappointed with each film, as well. I had decently positive feelings towards the first movie. It’s very different from the book and already clearly has a bunch of filler scenes, to help stretch everything to three movies, but I thought it does a good job blending some of the silliness of The Hobbit book and the seriousness of The Lord of the Rings movies.

      This one…is just crazy. Even if I try not to think of it as related to Tolkien’s work, it disappoints me because practically nothing in it makes sense. I certainly spent a lot of time laughing at it!


  4. Lianne @ says:

    Entering this third movie I think I made my peace with many of the changed elements, but my major issue with this movie was how heavy the Tauriel/Kili stuff was, and how Kili’s death was drawn away from his uncle and his brother Fili (omg, I think I’m even more sore over the treatment of Fili in this movie #JusticeforFili). I was fine with it in the second movie as I felt it was drawn vague enough that I could’ve written Tauriel’s reaction off as intrigued-but-not-romantic-love-interested. In this movie, I don’t know…*shakes head*

    Funny that you mentioned that your favourite part was the speeches and the touching moments between characters as I was re-watching ROTK on Christmas Eve/Christmas Day (because that’s how I roll after the family festivities, lol) and I still get hit with all the feels with that movie: Theoden’s speech before the charge, all of the character moments, every time someone teared up…My brother was teasing me because I was still all “Nooooo” every time a character died because I’ve watched the movies/read the books how many times, but I guess it goes to show how well the first trilogy held up 🙂 (or maybe I’m becoming too emotional/extra sensitive as I get older 😛 Oops, my comment is now more about LOTR than the Hobbit :3 ).

    I’m hoping the EE will sort out the pacing issue with BotFA because the ending felt too abrupt for my liking, especially after spending three movies in the company of these dwarves we’ve been following throughout (plus I’m especially sore that they didn’t include the funeral sequence in…kinda important O_o)


    • Briana says:

      I was also quite upset that Kili’s death moved quickly from being about his attempt to avenge Fili to being about his attempt to save Tauriel. I don’t think splitting Kili’s affections that way was particularly effective for either end.

      I am always a fan of stirring speeches! The friend I saw the movie with was making fun of me for it, but I love them. 😀

      Yes! For how long the three movies are, I was surprised by how much seemed to be missing in this one.


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