The Hobbit: The Battle Of The Five Armies

This is the tightest and most satisfying film in Peter Jackson's 'The Hobbit' trilogy

The title of this final instalment is not misleading: Peter Jackson is closing the door on his trilogy of Hobbit films with 144 minutes of non-stop, bloodthirsty warfare, and his main objective is to leave you awestruck. About time too. The trilogy began unconvincingly with 2012’s An Unexpected Journey, but sparked into life with a little help from Benedict Cumberbatch’s fire-breathing dragon in The Desolation Of Smaug. In The Battle Of The Five Armies, the director has created a gripping final chapter that ensures the franchise reaches a genuinely exciting climax, the film’s large-scale battle involving tribes of men, elves, orcs and two separate groups of dwarves.

Based on JRR Tolkien’s 1937 novel, the story that leads to this five-army showdown is knotty and complicated, but its driving force is greed. Martin Freeman’s Bilbo Baggins and the dwarves have taken back Erebor, a mountain loaded with jewels and gold, but the riches go to their leader’s head. Consumed by his fruitless search for the most precious gem of all, the Arkenstone, Richard Armitage’s Thorin Oakenshield refuses to share Erebor’s riches with the other tribes. So, despite a warning from Ian McKellen’s Gandalf and the best efforts of pacifist Bilbo, full-scale warfare ensues.

The resulting battle takes up the majority of the extensive running time, but never becomes tiresome. Jackson flips between spectacular panoramas of Middle Earth consumed by conflict and more intimate and detailed one-on-one fight scenes. Evangeline Lilly’s plucky Tauriel trails an orc who has hurt her loved one, the gallant Legolas (Orlando Bloom) tries to take out the same seemingly unassailable baddie, and Thorin goes head to head with the orcs’ hulking leader. That last tussle is especially engrossing as Jackson throws in a succession of twists, turns and obstacles, including a perilous frozen lake, to ensure constant uncertainty as to who will prevail. Elsewhere, Billy Connolly gives an exuberant performance as bloodthirsty dwarf warrior Dáin Ironfoot by crashing around aggressively with his chest puffed out.

Jackson drags out the closing scenes, though. It’s almost as if the director can’t bring himself to say goodbye after so painstakingly bringing Tolkien’s universe to life with his Lord Of The Rings and Hobbit trilogies – but the blend of emotional drama and spectacular CGI is so effective that it’s easy to forgive him. This misstep doesn’t stop The Battle Of The Five Armies from being the tightest and most satisfying of the Hobbit films and, ultimately, a truly epic finale.