Dwarves, elves, goblins, orcs and men all come together to battle it out in the third and final film in director Peter Jackson’s Hobbit series, which is worth the year’s wait since the last cliff-hanger instalment.
After being awoken, the vengeful dragon Smaug (voiced by Benedict Cumberbatch) now has Lake-town in his sights and his fiery breath will wreak destruction until someone can take him down. Only the archer Bard (Luke Evans) might be able to penetrate his tough hide, but the nasty Master of Lake-town (Stephen Fry) and his sycophant Alfrid (Ryan Gage) have imprisoned him and are now fleeing along with the rest of the terrified citizenry.
On a quest with the 13 dwarves to save their kingdom of Erebor from the dragon, Bilbo Baggins (Martin Freeman) deliberates about returning the mystical Arkenstone to dwarf leader Thorin Oakenshield (Richard Armitage), which would grant him dominion and a return as King Under the Mountain. But Bilbo – chosen by wizard Gandalf the Grey (Ian McKellen) partly because of his tenacity – instinctively realises the power of the object and will not let the treasure-lusting dwarf turn away from his responsibilities.
Elves Tauriel (Evangeline Lilly) and Legolas (Orlando Bloom) become further enmeshed with the dwarf Kili (Aidan Turner) as the rescue of Bard’s children segues into a stand-off in Dale with Thranduil (Lee Pace, with those enigmatic eyes), who is hoping to regain the gem necklace precious to his Elves.
Meanwhile, the White Council of Saruman (Christopher Lee, not yet won over to evil as he is in Lord of the Rings), Lady Galadriel (Cate Blanchett, who is even more scary in her angry incarnation) and Lord Elrond (Hugo Weaving) meets, and realises Sauron is rising. Middle Earth must be warned, unless an all-out take-over by Azog and the rest of the nasty orcs is to be averted.
If the high-fantasy plot seems too complicated or you haven’t read the books, and if the names of all the actors aren’t enough to impress, don’t worry – the movie world makes it easy to watch.
But how can three movie instalments come from the slim Hobbit book, when the Lord of the Rings was born of a trilogy? Well, for book purists there will always be quibbles (especially regarding the invention of Tauriel and the love triangle), but creator Peter Jackson has pulled in additional material from Tolkein’s The Return of the King appendices.
And despite being a battle-laden film with lingering death scenes, Five Armies doesn’t drag; at two hours and 24 minutes, it is the shortest of any in the Middle Earth oeuvre. Like a plane journey to Melbourne, the end is in sight almost as soon as you have taken off.
Howard Shore is once again responsible for the haunting score, and this film’s special song, “The Last Goodbye” (penned by Billy Boyd), helps fans let go of the marathon odyssey.
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