Peter Jackson’s Lord of the Rings movie series draws to a close with this final installment to the Hobbit trilogy. I had the opportunity to watch this in HFR (High frame rate) IMAX format. The HFR format itself has its pros and cons but for myself, mostly pros. It’s a “Your mileage may vary” kind of thing, but more of that later. The movie picks up immediately where the last movie left off, just as Smaug smashes his way out of the mountain. You’re immersed in battle almost instantly with Laketown completely up in flames. This part serves as the movie’s introduction. The titular five armies then gather near the mountain and a massive battle, the likes that only a few people like Peter Jackson can orchestrate, ensues.
The movie runs under two and a half hours long, pretty short by Jackson’s standards. This is definitely the shortest film out of the six, but most of that running time is spent on battle scene after battle scene. Some people complained that this was too much, but considering the length of the first two movies, we already have all the setup we needed. Having that many battle sequences is logical as far as the trilogy’s pacing goes.
The story went as expected. “The Battle of the five armies” subtitle was self explanatory. No big surprises save for some character deaths which were probably even expected to begin with, especially for those who’ve read the book. As for comparison to the book, it’s a futile exercise at this point as the story has been overstretched and changed so much that it has taken a life of its own. The important thing is that the major plot points still hold true to the book, which they do. This predictability also bleeds into the characters. Bilbo remains a reluctant hero, though we do see him do a bit of serious drama near the end, Gandalf remains the Gandalf we all know and love, Legolas does even more outlandish stunts, and Thranduil is still a self-serving monarch. Beorn makes a very short appearance as well, so don’t blink as you might miss him. I would’ve loved to see more of Smaug but that would be asking too much of a deviation from the original story. The fault of Smaug’s short appearance lies in the way the movies were divided. The Hobbit would’ve been really better if it was only two movies long, but we already knew that for years.
So all in all, the movie isn’t bad at all. It is very enjoyable and it had good pacing, considering it’s mostly a war movie. So why then did I feel that it lacks the impact and magic of the original trilogy? This is the problem of the whole Hobbit trilogy more than the individual movie I believe. The Hobbit trilogy doesn’t have the same mystery and wonder and even horror of the Lord of the rings trilogy. The situation was more grim, the enemies more dominant and frightening, the mood was darker and more frail, and the characters were deeper. I guess what I’m trying to say is, despite the flying orc heads and impaled bodies, the Hobbit reflected its being a children’s book on the movies, in the same way that the Lord of the rings books were for more mature readers and it reflected the same in the original movies. Sure, the Nazgul armor and fight choreography in the awesome banishing of the Necromancer at Dol Guldur was a sight to behold, but the nine in horseback, from tracking down the hobbits in the dead of night to chasing Arwen into Rivendell, was just downright creepy and hair-raising. Yes, the dwarven army shield wall and fighting tactics were fun to watch, but the Battle of Helm’s deep was just so memorable because of how desperate everyone was. Don’t even get me started on the charge of the Rohirrim in the Battle of the Pelennor fields. The Hobbit trilogy taken as a whole, lacks magic.
So what of the HFR format? It’s more realistic as opposed to the more “cinematic” effect of 24 fps, and gives any SFX team a more difficult challenge as the high frame rates more obviously exposes the mismatched quality of CGI to live-action shots. The effect is apparent on the Necromancer light show as Galadriel attempts to banish him. On the live-action shots though, it’s very fluid and dynamic. This movie isn’t the first one to use this format by the way.
I give this movie 3 ½ stars out of 5.
About the Author:
Karl Nualla – Is an architect, modeler, photographer, and a hobbyist in too many things. He views any technology as a tool, and wants them as user friendly as possible.