Movie Review: ‘The Battle of the Five Armies’

Peter Jackson’s genius shines through clearly in “The Battle of the Five Armies,” as with the others, in the writing and directing. He captures both the beauty and intensity of the story through the sweeping landscape shots, battle scenes and personal moments between characters.

The movie tracks with the book for most of the storyline, but it does also finish out the “extraneous” additions from the previous films. The majority of these scenes (though without some of Jackson’s creative license) actually occurred in Tolkien’s other writings.

Jackson wove multiple storylines together skillfully in this film:

  • The dwarves vs. themselves (and everyone else)
  • Bard (Luke Evans) vs. the Master of Lake-town (Stephen Fry)
  • The Tauriel (Evangeline Lilly)/Kili (Aidan Turner)/Legolas (Orlando Bloom) love-triangle-thing
  • The meetings of Gandalf (Ian McKellen), Galadriel (Cate Blanchett), Elrond (Hugo Weaving) and Saruman (Christopher Lee) to discuss the “bigger picture” of Middle-Earth

And that bigger picture is the hidden storyline revealed in the “Silmarillion” and in parts through “The Lord of the Rings” – the Dark Lord Sauron regaining his power and returning to his stronghold in Mordor.

The dwarves are a dramatic bunch, particularly Thorin Oakenshield (Richard Armitage). Thorin’s been moody and sullen for two out of three movies, and his personality doesn’t improve in the last. He becomes King under the Mountain and is completely consumed by his desires and greed, forgetting all who are his friends and losing all reason. He would rather go to war with all the other races of Middle-Earth than share some of the wealth of the Mountain.

And he knows that he’s changing. Bilbo (Martin Freeman) and the rest of the Company will tell him, but does Thorin listen?

Even when Bilbo goes to great lengths to show Thorin his greed, Thorin doesn’t realize his mistakes. He just continues down his path of greed and obsession.

His thoughts are so consumed by the treasures of the Mountain that he refuses to let the Company assist in the great battle that takes place right outside their door. They remain shut up inside the Mountain, guarding the treasure until the last possible moment.

Through all of this, Bilbo remains the steadfast, trustworthy hobbit that he is. He lets the world affect him and shape his understanding but not change his principles.

Martin Freeman’s performance was excellent, as usual. The depth he brings to Bilbo is astounding – he conveys Bilbo’s emotions perfectly through the slightest change of expression. It’s amazing to watch the emotions flicker across his face and recognize from those Bilbo’s thoughts at that moment.

The “Battle of the Five Armies” brought the story full circle to tie into the beginning of the “Fellowship of the Ring.” While it is exciting to see the last installment of this trilogy, it’s always sad to see the end of an era.

“The Battle of the Five Armies” was released on DVD March 24.

Lauren Eissler is a senior journalism major and managing editor for Cedars. She essentially lives in the J-Lab, with her caffeine intake roughly corresponding to how many articles she’s writing, and tweets as @L_Eissler.

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