Opening with a hiss and a roar, The Battle of the Five Armies wastes no time getting stuck into some serious dragon destruction. This spectacular and chilling sequence could serve as a climax to plenty of other films, but in commencing proceedings here there’s something immediate and confronting about it. This drops the audience in at the deep end with no build up, let alone meandering prologue (unless you count the preceding pics).
As Smaug lays waste to Lake-town and the central dwarven posse find their leader under the increasing thrall of cursed gold, it’s remarkable how inessential much of what’s come before seems – unless my lack of confusion about who’s who, what or where is unlikely testament to the storytelling seen in prior instalments.
It’s a welcome experience to see Peter Jackson to break free from the knots he’s entangled himself in by unnecessarily expanding The Hobbit, and as he gets stuck in to entertaining, rather than indulging, the audience shares in the rewards. There’s a dragon to defeat, a battle to stage, and threads to LOTR to tie together, plus beyond that a surprising amount of thrills, laughs and tension as opposed to the bloat of parts one and two.
As with prequels in general, you know that certain characters will make through intact, yet Jackson adeptly provides the life or death stakes missing so far, and wrings emotional heft out of characters’ passing. Tonally this leans towards the more ominous fare of the original LOTR films although the way they’re bolted together proves mixed, with Sauron as terrifying as ever, but Legolas’ send off a bit too knowing for my liking. Most importantly, though, the action sequences provide plenty of excitement and variety, and the overall experience provides a fitting send off – with the right number of endings to boot.
‘The Hobbit: The Battle of the Five Armies’ Movie Times (also in 3D and 3D HFR)