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Sunday, December 28, 2014

The Hobbit: The Battle of the Five Armies



There And There And There And Back Again

Previously on The Hobbit... was 98% of J.R.R. Tolkien's book "The Hobbit" plus some scenes from some of the other compendium Middle Earth saga books. This leaves director Peter Jackson with, oh, two hours and change to tell the scintillating engagement of human on orc on elves on troll on etc. violence dubbed the Battle of the Five Armies. But first, some prior business to take care of: the namesake and star of the middle portion of The Hobbit trilogy, the greedy and fire-breathing talking dragon Smaug (voiced by Benedict Cumberbatch) is loose from the Dwarf Mountain filled with gold he slumbered in and is hellbent on roasting the nearby hamlet of Laketown. As panic fills the streets and the rabble of Laketown attempt to evacuate via boats and dingys (the most opulent of which is the Mayor of Laketown's, played by Stephen Fry), it falls to the one they call Bard (Luke Evans) to slay the dragon. Bard slays said dragon without too much difficulty; Smaug is shot through the heart and Bard's to blame. This puts an ignoble end to the mighty and erudite Smaug once and for all.

With Smaug out of the picture after a quick ten minutes, the Company of Dwarves, with their loveable burglar Bilbo Baggins (Martin Freeman) in tow, are free to take back their mountain home, fulfilling their quest. Thorin Oakenshield (Richard Armitage) is installed as King of the Dwarves and upon gaining control of the veritable ocean of gold coins and treasure in the bowels of his mountain, Thorin goes green with crazy in record time. Daffy Duck crazy. When all the fighting, which comprises 90% of The Battle of the Five Armies, commences, Jackson unfortunately didn't squeeze in a fight between Thorin and Daffy Duck for all the gold. Crazy Thorin quickly becomes completely unreasonable, welching on his promise to the people of Laketown to give them some of the gold if they helped him fight Smaug. This also brings an army of Elves into the fray, lead by the saucer-eyed and pouty-mouthed Thranduil (Lee Pace). Thranduil and Bard attempt to negotiate terms with crazy Thorin, bringing their legion of warrior Elves and a gaggle of ragtag humans to the Dwarves' door. But they're not the only army looking for a fight.

Soon, the Elves and the Dwarves and the humans are joined by a second legion of Dwarves, plus an army of killer orcs, some giant worms, giant trolls, giant eagles, and also our fan favorite heroes: the Elves Legolas (Orlando Bloom), Tauriel (Evangeline Lilly), and the venerable grey wizard Gandalf (Ian McKellen). That's more than five armies and more than enough for a CGI free-for-all where thousands of digital soldiers collide in a conflagration not seen since the last time there was a Lord of the Rings trilogy. Untold numbers of orcs, Elves, humans, Dwarves, and monsters die, while most of the core characters perform spectacular and unbelievable feats of heroic derring-do. The numerous sequences where Physics Mean Nothing to Legolas are particularly memorable. The Battle of the Five Armies eschews the movie having an actual plot in exchange for a series of action beats and mini subplots within the overarching war. What everyone is fighting for is also unclear: is everyone interested in the gold in the mountain? Did the orcs want the gold too or did they just want to kill everyone that isn't an orc, troll, or giant worm? Things are too dire and hectic to ponder such questions.

As thousands die outside his mountain walls, crazy Thorin wrestles with his conscience as each of his Dwarf buddies and his best Hobbit friend drop by to tell him he's paranoid and insane and not the King they all thought he was. The guilt tripping and cajoling eventually break through to crazy Thorin and he becomes noble Thorin once more. All's well, all's forgiven, and the Company of Dwarves charge into battle behind their King #OneLastTime. Sadly, this was the last heroic stand for many of our Dwarf friends. Thorin's brothers fall in battle, one of whom is mourned by Tauriel, his Dwarf girlfriend, who monologues awkwardly about the pain of love. Most importantly, Thorin goes dwarfo e orco #OneLastTime against his arch foe the Pale Orc. Their violent final battle on a frozen lake claims both their lives (although maybe Thorin would still be alive if he hadn't given Bilbo the only shirt made of indestructible silver steel). But Thorin goes out a hero, pledging his friendship to Bilbo and dying in a manner that seals his legend. Poor Thorin Oakenshield. He was the best Dwarf of them all, even when he went cuckoo bananas over all that gold.

As there was plenty of time in The Battle of the Five Armies to squeeze in some extra cameos, a few more familiar faces pop in #OneLastTime. When Gandalf is held captive by some evil ghost orcs and the spirit of Sauron, the Elves Galadiel (Cate Blanchett) and Elrond (Hugo Weaving) and the white wizard Saruman (Christopher Lee) join the send off to the Middle Earth saga and save Gandalf. They opted not to join in the Battle of the Five Armies for whatever inscrutable reasons. But then Elrond and Galadriel just aren't joiners. Saruman turns out to be, but to Sauron, and we already saw how that turned out. In the end, The Hobbit trilogy and greater the six film cycle of the Lord of the Rings come full circle like the One Ring: concluding where it all began when Bilbo returns home to Bag End from his Unexpected Journey, jumping in time to one hundred eleven year-old Bilbo (Ian Holm) receiving Gandalf and kicking off the adventures of Frodo. The Hobbit: The Battle of the Five Armies is the end of one story and the beginning of another. Say what you will about the unnecessary excess and enormity of The Hobbit trilogy, but the moments of warmth and friendship, like Gandalf praising Bilbo for his bravery, are what ultimately endure. In the end, time spent in Middle Earth is never truly wasted. We can always go there and back again, and that's a gift more precious than all the gold in the Lonely Mountain.