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Movie Review: The Hobbit: The Battle of the Five Armies (2014)

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Climatic finale to The Hobbit trilogy is packed with action and tearjerking moments


There has been no shortage of criticism on Peter Jackson for making the film adaptation of J.R.R. Tolkien's The Hobbit into three very long instalments. The first one was a stretch, the second is better but still draggy, and finally, The Battle of the Five Armies, the chapter of nothing but climax, delivers with a faster pace, no walking, less talking and has plenty of entertaining action. This is what the people have been yearning for, and they've got it.

The story, of course, picks up where it left off at the end of The Hobbit: Desolation of Smaug. The dragon, Smaug (Benedict Cumberbatch), destroys Laketown after Bilbo Baggins (Martin Freeman), Thorin Oakenshield (Richard Armitage) and his fellow Dwarves have failed their attempt to kill it. With Erebor unguarded by Smaug, Thorin reenters the dungeon and develops the "dragon sickness" which blinds him with greed. The armies of Elves and Laketown survivors march towards Erebor in hopes to reclaim their treasures but the maddened Thorin declines and opts for war without realising that Azog (Manu Bennett) and his Orc army are arriving Erebor soon for an attack of their own.

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The critics were heard, it seems, as this instalment is more or less 20 minutes shorter than each of the first two instalments. It's all action, action and action, then a bit of drama in between, camera focus zooms in to respective faces, and then fight and fight again, and repeat, like a video game. It kicks off with Bard the Bowman (Luke Evans) versus the Smaug the dragon and then the three supposedly allied armies attempting to resolve their treasure conflicts peacefully before finding out that the Orcs are coming to attack them. And there it begins the silly and yet gripping all-out war between the armies. The fifth army comes out very conveniently at the very end to finish things off for the good guys. Forgive me if you consider this a spoiler but I believe most people could've predicted it even if they're not fans.

As a non-fan and someone who didn't read any of the books, I was a bit confused with who some of the characters are and the relationships between them all but I was able to simply roughly assume and ignore the predictable storyline and fest of cliches, and just have myself a good time enjoying the action and the couple of cheesy but effective emotional moments. The computer-generated visuals are semi-real but beautiful, Howard Shore's music scores are awesome as always and it's very cool seeing the characters riding on huge adorable pigs and goats while they're battling out in war. Andrew Lesnie's cinematography feels slightly different this time with more panning but I've no complaints.

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The performances of the actors are committed as always and it emphasises why Martin Freeman (World's End, TV series The Office and Sherlock) fits the titular role so well, a funny small man that could connect with the audience with relatable fear, strong courage and deep emotions. Richard Armitage (Into the Storm, Captain America: The First Avenger) also did very well, making his presence and change of behaviour felt as King Thorin loses his mind to the missing Arkenstone and wealth at Erebor. The girls would be pleased with the amount of screen time that Legolas (Orlando Bloom) gets just being cool and skillful with his bow, arrow and swords. Fan servicing done way more than enough but Jackson failed to clearly imply why the character's personality is so much different in The Lord of the Rings.

There's almost nothing more the fans could ask for in this Hobbit finale. It doesn't justify why it needed a long-ass trilogy to build up to this and it doesn't quite reach the heights of the Best Picture Academy Award-winning Return of the King (the last instalment the Lord of the Rings trilogy), but at least it's more entertaining this time with minimal boring moments. Although I'm not a super hardcore fan of either trilogies, I find myself feeling a bit sad when the closing credits rolled, as though I never wanted it to end.

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What I would've named the film: "The Hobbit 1.3: Climax Time, No More Dragging"

Malaysia censorship: There are some minor awkward jumps noticeable but I believe those are editing work to maintain its PG13 rating.

To watch in 3D? I've seen the film in Digital IMAX 3D at TGV 1 Utama, one of the top 3-D halls in Malaysia. I can't tell if it was 3D HFR at 48fps but I think, for someone like me, it'd be just as immersive if I was watching it in 2D at 24fps. The depth is smooth rather than "popping out" like the distracting subtitles (thank goodness the font size is smaller this time). It is apparently available in its full glory at certain GSC cinemas.

Second opinion: My girlfriend liked the movie, saying that it's intense, the action sequences are "nice to watch" and some scenes made her cry.

Verdict: The most cliched but action-packed one among the three instalments, and might make some fans feel like rewatching The Lord of the Rings trilogy right after.

Rating: 4 / 5

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hobbit 3 battle of five armies posterBased on: J.R.R. Tolkien's novel "The Hobbit"

Genre: Epic fantasy action adventure
Running Time: 144 minutes
Director: Peter Jackson
Screenwriters: Fran Walsh, Philippa Boyens, Peter Jackson, Guillermo del Toro
Cast: Ian McKellen, Martin Freeman, Cate Blanchett, Orlando Bloom, Ian Holm, Richard Armitage

Malaysia Release Date: 18 December 2014
Rated: P13
Local Distributor: Warner Bros. Pictures Malaysia
Production: New Line Cinema, Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer, WingNut Films



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