<h6> Ian Frazier ’15 </h6>

When we last left The Hobbit trilogy, Smaug the Tyrannical, the greatest of calamities, was flying towards the innocent Laketown proclaiming he was both fire and death. All Bilbo Baggins (Martin Freeman) and Thorin Oakenshield’s (Richard Armitage) company of dwarves could do was watch as the dragon glided away, promising to enact vengeance. In director Peter Jackson’s The Battle of the Five Armies, the trilogy’s supposed final journey to Middle-Earth, seemingly every available race in Middle-Earth besieges Erebor, hoping to claim the recently vacated shrine.

Unfortunately for this franchise’s final installment, the attempt to recapture the magic of the spectacular final battle of The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King is frivolous. The emotional pull is far inferior, and there are less breathtaking, awe-inspiring scenes. The wonder of the series has run its course. For the first time in Middle-Earth’s thirteen year film history, there is a problem with the conclusion. Although the common criticism of The Return of the King is that there are too many endings, each of those scenes has purpose, giving the viewer the necessary closure for every character. For a film titled The Battle of the Five Armies, the battle has a notable absence of a conclusion. Although The Hobbit is not the ultimate story of the Middle-Earth saga, when the credits roll, we wish we could have seen a little more resolution for Bard, Smaug, and the dwarves, characters who now seem negligible. One character that has too much screen time is Alfrid, the Master’s servant from The Desolation of Smaug. He is supposed to be the comic relief in the film, yet his scenes are embarrassing to watch and remarkably unfunny. There is also no closure for this cringe-worthy and over-exposed character.

The Battle of the Five Armies is also cluttered with irrational moments, even for a fantasy film. Certain characters perform impossible feats–at one point, Legolas grabs the feet of an overgrown bat and flies away, and others ride into battle mounted on bewildering creatures that are more strange than inventive. Giant earthworms, rams that can climb mountains in seconds, and yet another appearance from the eagles round out the narrative’s visual absurdity.

Even with these significant setbacks, the film does excel in a number of areas. There are moments where the direction is surprisingly bold and the character development is brought to a new level. Unlike The Return of the King, not everyone here makes it out alive, making individual battle scenes hold more weight. Next, Thorin Oakenshield’s story arc is, once again, a highlight of the franchise. His unrelenting need to procure the Arkenstone and reclaim his homeland garners viewer pathos. Jackson stylishly correlates Thorin with Smaug, using creative audio and visual techniques to further the character’s depth. However, Thorin’s profound character alone is not enough to salvage such mediocrity.

It is truly an immense disappointment that the Middle-Earth saga ends in anticlimax. The previous installments perfectly captured the wonder and spectacle of a fantastical world that was never before seen. Now, the filmmakers have turned their brilliant creation into a cartoon. As a historic and influential series of films that set a huge standard for the industry, the Middle-Earth films should always be hailed as milestones, but one must disregard The Battle of the Five Armies in the discussion. The film is dwarfed by the ingenuity and emotional intelligence of its predecessors.

Rating (out of 4 stars): ⭐⭐