By Luis Monteagudo Jr.
Amazingly, it’s been over a decade since director Peter Jackson introduced moviegoers to the world of fantasy writer J.R.R. Tolkien with the first of his three movies based on “The Lord of the Rings” books.
That journey concludes this week with the final chapter in Jackson’s version of Tolkien’s “The Hobbit” book, “The Hobbit: The Battle of the Five Armies.”
It’s a grand and even sentimental conclusion that will leave many satisfied.
Jackson probably didn’t have to break up the book into three movies, as two films could have easily told the tale. But unlike the first two bloated movies in this trilogy, Jackson wastes little time with “The Five Armies,” launching straight into the fiery aftermath of the last movie, as the giant dragon Smaug is released from his gold-filled lair and rains fire and vengeance on a small, nearby village.
Where Smaug was the star of the last film, he gets only a brief role in this one. Still, it’s a terrific and terrifying opening scene, evoking images of Godzilla’s destruction of Tokyo as Smaug belches fire and destruction.
And from there, it’s the build-up to the big battle, where armies of dwarves, elves, orcs and war beasts fight for the mountain of gold and jewels.
After decades of witnessing epic fantasy battles in everything from the original “Lord of the Rings” trilogy to films like “300,” the battle of the five armies doesn’t come off as spectacularly as it could have. But there are still striking images and Jackson wisely pulls the camera forward to capture the intensity of the fights and then back again to capture the epic scope. Still, a smaller clash between some of our heroes and the main Orcs on a frozen, mountaintop lake is even better, shot beautifully and packed with tension.
At the end, there is a sense of brotherhood and duty that shines through the exploits of the plucky hobbit Bilbo Baggins and his Company of Dwarves. It’s been a journey been well worth taken, and unlike any other in movie history.
Luis Monteagudo Jr. is a freelance writer and pop culture enthusiast who has attended Comic-Con for more than 20 years. He was written for the San Diego Union-Tribune, USA Today and numerous other publications.