The Hobbit: The Battle of the Five Armies

Director: Peter jackson (2014)

Fighting on too many fronts is never a good idea and this epic fantasy trilogy comes to an underwhelming close.

Scale is epic and design is stunning and performances suitably large and loud but sadly the massive battles and computer effects are better than the storytelling of the human (elf, hobbit or dwarf) dramas.

This should be a straightforward tale of greed set against the backdrop of a brutal battle. But instead it becomes confused and stuck in a quagmire of subplots as too many minor characters fight for screen time.

Fili or possibly Kili aside, the company of dwarves are lost in the morass while cowardly Alfrid lickspittle (Ryan Gage) is crow-barred in to offer comic relief and clutter the over-stuffed cast list.

Hobbit Bilbo (Martin Freeman) is virtually a spectator and Gandalf (Ian McKellen) does little better. This is a shame as Freeman brings rare moments of contemplative quiet among what is otherwise a ferocious and overextended dust up.

Elf Legolas (Orlando Bloom) is levered in to silly effect and the dwarf/elf romance between Fili or possibly Kili and Tauriel (Evangeline Lilly) is developed and is even more unconvincing than it sounds.

Five Armies begins where the last film, The Desolation of Smaug, ended, with a brilliantly exciting attack by the dragon Smaug on Laketown.

He is stopped by heroic bowman Bard (Luke Evans) and with Smaug’s death, dwarf Thorin (Richard Armitage) becomes king of Erebor but his obsession with gold is turning him insane.

Elf lord Thranduil (Lee Pace), riding a giant moose and heading his golden army, joins up with Bard’s men to  challenge Thorin.

But they all unite when legions of orcs arrive and the skull-splitting slaughter begins. Arrows fly, swords crash and heads roll as armoured trolls, goats, pigs, eagles and a free-falling bear drop into the action.

The action and design are spectacular and the film dovetails nicely  into the first Lord of the Rings movie.

By trying to hit too many targets, the previously sure-sighted director Peter Jackson misses the mark.

☆☆

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