I’m going to be real honest with you.
I’m one of those Tolkein fans. Like, the kind that read the books multiple times. Had multiple all-in-one-day marathons of the films. Memorized the poems, backstory, character names. Studied the appendices. May or may not have memorized certain phrases in the Elven language.
I’ll stop there. Anyhow, now you can understand that seeing The Hobbit: The Battle of the Five Armies was the fan equivalent for me of seeing the final Harry Potter film. I grew up with these films. This was like saying goodbye to a piece of my childhood in a heartbreakingly grandiose way.
The Battle of the Five Armies picks up right where the last film left off. Immediately, we’re sucked into the battle of Laketown vs. Smaug — one that’s unsurprisingly one-sided.
Thorin and his company have barricaded themselves in the mountain as “dragon sickness” seeps into the dwarf king’s heart, conquering his character.
Armies of all races: elves, dwarves, men and orcs, all scramble to the foot of the mountain to fight for their share of the treasure — which could end up looking like a Smash Brothers battle.
All this before the title comes up. From there, the rest of the movie is one big battle, echoing the grand-scale grandeur of the battle for Pelennor Fields in The Return of the King. It could’ve felt like an overstuffed teddy bear, bursting at the seams — total overkill — but it didn’t. Jackson pulled off the rhythm of the story like a pro, with ebb and flow to the battle, character colorization, background story and set up for the Rings story.
The film has several great moments and several characters who emerge more fully. Kili emerges as one of the main dwarves. Legolas, who’s always been that cool guy with the best tricks, has the mother of all stunts, hands down, in all six films. Thorin, nobly played by Richard Armitage, redeems himself in a beautiful way. Galadriel, who has a cameo, shows off her scary powers (remember crazy green lady from The Fellowship of the Ring?). What’s held the whole film together, of course, is Martin Freeman as Bilbo, and his profoundly nuanced performance provides a beating heart beneath the non-stop action.
And for the die-hard fans like myself, there are definitely some surprises and great tie-ins to the other films. I’ll also say that I may or may not have been slightly emotional by the end of the movie (Billy Boyd’s return to sing the credits song: all the feels.) That’s all I’m going to say.
On a spiritual level, Tolkein’s story in The Hobbit reminds us that “dragon sickness,” the capacity for corruption and greed, is something that none of us are safe from. Our hearts are fickle, easily distracted by treasures of all types.
Still, as shown by several characters in the story, even in our mistakes and our brokenness, there is always hope of redemption. There is always an opportunity to do the right thing, even if it means sacrificing some lesser treasure. Every day begins anew with choice presented to us as a gift — as an ordinary person, we can choose the good, and that’s what makes a hero, even if in a small, unseen way.
All things considered, The Hobbit trilogy is like the not-as-cool sibling to the miracle of cinema that is the Rings trilogy. (How could you perfect perfection? Answer: you can’t.) Still, Peter Jackson still pulls off this finale in a beautiful, sweeping manner, still impressing us with his ability to bring Middle Earth to life in a reverential way few other directors ever could.
And few stories have inspired us to endure the battle of good and evil in our own world like Tolkein. The inspiration that takes the form of an ordinary hobbit, too attached to his comforts, but who, with time and a little courage, becomes a hero.
We can become a hero. Even if it takes us a while to get there.