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The Hobbit: Battle of the Five Armies - Review

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by Bryony Harrison (subscribe)
Freelance writer and poet from London; if you would like to read my poetry, please check out my book, 'Poems on the Page', available from
Published December 19th 2014
The End of the Beginning
the hobbit, battle of the five armies

Two years ago, Bilbo Baggins left his peaceful home in The Shire to embark on an adventure with thirteen dwarves, whose quest it was to reclaim their home. After many struggles, they reached Erebor and were reunited with a vault of endless riches. And a dragon. Non too happy about being woken up, Smaug escaped the Lonely Mountain and way for the village of Dale to burn it to the ground.

And so begins The Battle of the Five Armies. Or should I say it is the end of the beginning? For The Hobbit is in fact a prequel to The Lord of the Rings Triogy. The Hobbit is also a trilogy, but did it really deserve to be? That is a question that has been contested ever since director, Peter Jackson, announced his intentions.

The original novel by J.R.R. Tolkien in 1937 was short, streamlined, and easily accessible to all readers, unlike his more epic and intense Lord of the Rings. Jackson's The Hobbit culminates to almost eight hours of viewing, with The Battle of the Five Armies having a running time of a hundred and forty-four minutes. Many Tolkien purists criticised Jackson for making a third film for the mere purpose of making more money, but now having seen the film, is this accusation warranted?

Had he brought in completely new plot elements from out of the blue, then I would have agreed, but Jackson expanded the story by using extensive material from appendices Tolkien wrote at the back of Return of the King. Although not in the finished text, it is still cannon as it is published mater by the original author, and brings a greater depth to the story.

Admittedly, I was expecting to get fidgety three-quarters of the way through the film, but that never happened. I was engrossed from beginning to end, not once asking myself, 'how much longer has it go to go?'

As the title suggests, The Battle of the Five Armies involves a whole lot of fighting and fast paced action scenes, starting with a blazing encounter with the dragon Smaug, who is made all the more terrifying through the incredibly creepy voice work by Benedict Cumberbatch.

Once word gets out about the battle, everyone descends upon the Lonely Mountain to lay claim to its riches, but the dwarf king, Thorin, refuses to share the wealth. Sick with the Dragon Curse, also known as gold fever his greed leads to an all out war between the dwarves, humans, elves, and orcs (anyone who can explain why it is called The Battle of the Five Armies when there are only four, please enlighten me).

Despite almost continuous combat, there is no lack of sentiment. The film demonstrates the consequences of greed and how absolute power corrupts absolutely. But it also shows how the power of love is even stronger. It explores romance, friendship, kinship, loyalty, and honour all within the tides of war.
If I were to have any criticism of the film, it would be Jackson's liberalism with poetic licence when it comes to the battle sequences. You really have to suspend your disbelief in some scenes, such as when Dain who is not wearing a helmet head-butts several enemies with helmets, and it is the latter who gets knocked out.

Although devout Tolkien fans may feel The Battle of Five Armies is little more than a director's self-indulgence, everyone else is sure to be swept away by the final instalment to Jackson's thrilling six-piece saga.
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