After being awoken by Bilbo (Martin Freeman), while he was trying to find the Arkenstone for Thorin (Richard Armitage), Smaug (Benedict Cumberbatch) unleashes his wrath on the nearby city of Lake Town. As the people of Lake Town flee, and the city burns to the ground, Bard (Luke Evans) confronts and defeats the vengeful dragon.
Bard leads the survivors to Smaug’s lair, seeking enough gold to be able to rebuild their city. Thorin, suffering from “dragon sickness,” which leaves him greedy and delusional, and his band of dwarves refuse to give up even a single coin.
While Bard and his townsfolk settle into the city around Smaug’s castle, Elven King Thranduil (Lee Pace) arrives with his elven army, demanding the return of his people’s jewels, which are housed within the massive treasure that was protected by Smaug. Thorin again refuses to relinquish any of the treasure, prompting Thranduil’s decision to storm the castle at dawn.
As news of Smaug’s demise spreads, everyone descends upon the castle, seeking the treasure. Including the ferocious Orc army, ready to destroy anyone who stands between them and the treasure.
The Hobbit: The Battle of the Five Armies is the last in The Lord of the Rings saga. (Thankfully, Peter Jackson decided not to follow Hollywood’s latest trend of splitting the finale into 2 separate movies.) Five Armies makes a deliberate attempt to fill in the gap where The Desolation of Smaug ends and where Lord of the Rings begins. These subtle nods will not have much meaning if you have not seen LOTR, but, if you like what you see, you may feel inspired to watch the first series.
Martin Freeman, Orlando Bloom, Ian McKellan and the rest of the cast do as well as you would expect from the series. However, if you are not familiar at all with Tolkien’s work, it all may seem like gibberish. It doesn’t get to the point where you are not able to follow along with the story, but it helps if you have at least a cursory knowledge of what is going on. (From a young age, I was exposed to the stories through the animated versions of the movies, from which I have gathered all of my knowledge of the story.)
The cinematography is great when you see the sweeping landscapes behind the characters. Everything pops on screen. My only complaint is the excessive use of CGI. It becomes a bit cartoony at points. There is a scene where Orlando Bloom is running up some falling stones that looks, well, bad. If they had used a green screen with Orlando running up some objects, it wouldn’t have looked as ridiculous. It almost seems as if they are just trying to show what they can do these days, which is impressive, but sometimes, there is no replacing the physical actions.
During the massive battle scene at the end, things get a bit busy. There are so many creatures on screen fighting so many other creatures, it becomes difficult to keep track of which armies are fighting each other. (I tried counting the armies to make sure all five showed up. I’m assuming they did, but I lost count.) Don’t get me wrong, creating and rendering everyone and everything on screen is a monumental task. And it is well done. But so much action at the same time gets almost mind-boggling.
If you are a fan of The Lord of the Rings and The Hobbit, you will no doubt love this movie. It isn’t necessarily for everyone else, but if you have invested any time watching any of the movies in either series, you will want to follow along “one last time.”