Before: THE HOBBIT!!11!! Happy that the final installment of this trilogy is finally hitting theaters, but sad that that means the trilogy is at an end. Been purposefully ignoring the trailers in the hope that I’ll be a wide-eyed Five Armies innocent once it unspools. Though gotta say that Orlando Bloom still looks airbrushed within an inch of his life in the teasers I’ve eyeballed. It’s gotta be tough playing a character that’s supposed to be younger than when you played him 10+ years earlier. L.O.L.A. Lola…
During: I feared that the rambling that PJ did during The Desolation of Smaug would play out further here. No worries there. In fact, this film takes place seconds after The Great Wyrm decides to destroy Lake-Town after he gets sick and tired of Thorin and his dwarven compatriots (to say nothing of Bilbo’s trickery…hello inviso-ring!) Smaug destroying Lake-Town — and Bard trying to destroy Smaug — is, to quote Galadriel’s speech to Frodo in Lord of the Rings, “beautiful and terrible as the dawn!” Seems a shame to end that bit so (relatively) quickly, but we’ve got things and stuff.
Jackson keeps things going, going and going; the pace is at a roaring clip from the start, so much so that I expected the Energizer Bunny to make an appearance. Instead, there’s Lee Pace (no weird neck movements this time; he’s bulked up for Guardians of the Galaxy & more stable) riding the biggest freakin’ elk in the universe, a Dwarven leader riding a huge Arkansas Razorback kitted for war, and of course my beloved wargs. I still want one, even though they’re little more than Orc vehicles here (and no close-ups! Boo!) Kili is still hot, but get your tissues out for the Killi/Tauriel lovefest. It’s adorably awesome.
What’s also awesome? The amazing FX — yes, there are plenty of sweeping looks at battles, burning towns and Thorin’s (nee Smaug’s) treasure hold. But there are plenty of closer looks at the carnage, including a few hero/Big Bad battles that are amazing to behold. Thank you, WETA Workshop! As for the storyline, are there bits and pieces that you won’t find in The Hobbit novel? A’yup. But they fold in nicely, and almost make up for the serious lack of Beorn-age in this film. Almost. (There’s word that there will be more Beorn in the extra scenes come Blu-Ray time. I look forward to it.)
But ’til the Blu-Ray, I’ma enjoy Legolas, the DEX21 elf of my high school D&D club dreams. Man, can that elf open a can of whup-ass. Ditto for Tauriel; Evangeline Lily has breathed life into a character I worried about (newcharacterwreckallthethingsnooooo) but now absolutely adore, and who has fit into movie canon nicely.
After: Billy Boyd’s “The Last Goodbye”, played over the end credits, is absolutely lovely. It’s got my vote for Best Song at the Academy Awards. There’s still something in my eye…damn cold weather. Peter Jackson said Five Armies is his “favorite” of this trilogy, and I’ve got to agree. Tons of gorgeous FX, heart-tugging character arcs, and believable situations (not to mention some cool bits I won’t spoil here) makes this the film the penultimate of this trilogy, and right up there with The Two Towers from the first series. I’m feeling a strange wash of battle amp and bittersweet sadness as it’s now over.
Nutshell: I give The Hobbit: The Battle of the Five Armies an A-. A whole lot of fun with a minimum of padding, or at least the action is so relentless-without-being-annoying that I didn’t notice any egregious pacing errors. Though I’ll have to wait for an extended version to see all the bits and pieces — as PJ typically does with his Tolkien riffs — Five Armies is a pleasant way to spend a cold winters day, 3D or no. (#ProTip: hit the largest screen you can for this one. You’re welcome.)