I missed a lot of movies last year. But the one film I was bound & determined to see on the big screen was, The Hobbit: The Battle of the Five Armies.
I tried to go to a Saturday matinee--10 days after the movie was released in the US--and it was sold out. My luck changed when I attended an earlier Monday matinee. Only about 16% of the theater's seats were occupied.
The Battle of the Five Armies is the grand-slam finale to An Unexpected Journey and The Desolation of Smaug. I can easily give this movie a 5-star rating.
This portion of the original book is my favorite and I consider it to be the most moving moment in literature: Three groups of essentially good people set aside their differences at the very last moment to fight--and defeat--a common enemy.
Stirring stuff indeed!
Anticipation among Lord of the Rings fans have been high and Peter Jackson did an admirable job of fulfilling their expectations.
The movie starts off at a gallop with Smaug's attack on Lake-town and doesn't let up until the battle is over. In between, are preliminary skirmishes, an attempt to rescue Gandalf from Dol Guldur, and tense drama between characters.
And speaking of characters: While I didn't care for Bard being downsized from bowman to smuggler in The Desolation of Smaug, Jackson & Crew more than made up for the demotion in this movie.
Which is why Bard is my favorite minor character in literature. He's just an average guy who ended up facing a powerful foe--and killing him. But Bard is no mere dragonslayer, he also goes toe-to-toe in negotiating with Thranduil and Thorin, not to mention leading the rag-tag survivors of Lake-town against the Orcs once the battle is joined.
Basically, Bard is the John McClane of Middle Earth.
Now just because I loved the movie, doesn't mean the film is flawless.
Many film critics and viewers thought turning J.R.R. Tolkien's story into a movie trilogy, was two movies too many. I can see their point, especially since Rankin/Bass did a credible cartoon back in 1977.
Over-done or not, I still enjoyed the show despite some of the head-scratching moments that caught my attention (plot spoilers await):
In Peter Jackson's re-imagining of the Battle of Five Armies, the Orcs sneak-up on the good guys with the help of giant burrowing worms, like they were Sandworms imported from Arrakis. If Azog really had such creatures at his disposal, you'd think he'd win any battle quite handily.
I didn't mind the inclusion of non-canon character Tauriel and the love sub-plot between her and Kili.
Their romance was tragically short-lived, as I predicted, but I was surprised Tauriel survived the battle. Since she's an immortal elf, I found myself wondering what became of her during the War of the Ring?
There's studio scuttlebutt that Jackson might make more Middle-Earth movies--if, that is--he could get the thumbs-up from the Tolkien Estate.
And that's a big "if."
I can deal with more movies, even non-canon ones, better than having Jackson trying to "improve" the Lord of the Rings, like Lucas did with the original Star Wars Trilogy.
Anyway, while I'm still on the subject of elves: My "aw c'mon!" moment occurred when Legolas was stepping on falling boulders while fighting Bolg.
In the book, the big Orc was crushed by Beorn. Now this would have been an awesome heavy-weight bout worthy of the big screen. But instead Bolg got bested by a fleet-footed elf.
Other deviations and/or additions abounded in the movie, but I either didn't mind them, or actually liked them better than the original work.
Despite these cinematic sidesteps, The Hobbit: The Battle of the Five Armies is an epic film worth venturing to the multiplex multiple times.