Review: The Battle of the Five Armies

Warning: this is not an impartial review of the last installment of Peter Jackson’s take on The Hobbit, on the contrary, this is an unashamed fan’s take on the film.

Ed and I went to the first screening of The Hobbit: The Battle of the Five Armies last night. You can read all the reviews, watch all the trailers, see the pictures all over the Internet, but still nothing will really match the thrill and the emotions that  watching the film will bring to you, especially if you are a Tolkien’s fan. Reviewers have been calling it ‘fantastic’, ‘spectacular’, ‘brilliant’ ‘genial’ and all the possible most approving accolades. For me, however, if I had to choose one adjective to describe it, it would  be heart-breaking.

The Hobbit: The Battle of the Five Armies starts exactly where it left us one year ago with Smaug leaving its den in Erebor to bring fire and death into the world once again. Form there one we embark on a frantic sequence that culminates with the demise of the last of the great dragons.

Not everyone is pleased though. Reviewing the film for the Guardian, Andrew Pulver commented that Martin Freeman hadn’t had much to do in the film apart from playing the middle-man between the Thorin and the Elven King. Indeed, to a great extent Bilbo leaves the central stage to Gandalf, Bard and Thranduil, superbly played by Lee Pace. However, this should not be seen as a sign of diminish importance given to Bilbo, but a shift in the narrative view that fits well into Jackson’s retelling of the story. Some critics tend to forget that films based on books are not the ‘books on screen’ but screen retelling of stories first told in books. Apart from that, whoever doubts the significance of Bilbo in the film should watch again the scene after the battle when he sits with Gandalf to take a puff of, possibly, Old Toby. The scene is dominated by silence and the exchange of looks between Martin Freeman and Sir Ian McKellen and it is worth a Oscar on its own.

From the beginning, there has been a lot of outcry around the creation of Tauriel and her relationship with Kili  but, although I myself do not feel entirely comfortable with that, they provide one of the most poignant scenes in the film and serve as a foil for a better understanding of Thranduil’s character and his relationship with Legolas. Whose, inclusion, by the way, has been another bone of contention since the The Hobbit was announced. I have no problems with that whatsoever, in fact, it would be a strange thing to go to Mirkwood and find Legolas entirely absent. What purists tend to forget is that when Tolkien created the The Hobbit, he still didn’t know that the two stories were in fact just one.

As far as I can, I refuse to allow cinema pundits to spoil my enjoyment of a film. The Battle is a great film and if there is one thing to regret is that this is the bittersweet farewell to Tolkien’s work on the screen. For over a decade Peter Jackson’s retelling has profoundly influenced my life and that of many others and for that I am forever grateful.

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