After 17 years and nearly 20 onscreen hours, Peter Jackson brings his voyage to J.R.R. Tolkein’s Middle-Earth to a close with “The Hobbit: The Battle of the Five Armies,” and though critics are near-unanimous in their view that “The Hobbit” should never have been stretched across three movies to begin with, most find it a satisfying conclusion to what now ranks as one of the most monumental works ever completed by a single filmmaker. “The Battle of Five Armies” plunges right in where “The Desolation of Smuag” left off — either brush up on the first two movies or prepare to spend some time trying to figure out which dwarf is which — and plows right through, coming in at a comparatively trim 148 minutes. Despite the inclusion of Evangeline Lily’s Tauriel, the movie is still awfully boy-heavy, and a few reviewers find the attempt to top “The Two Towers” and “The Return of the King’s” climactic battles produces more exhaustion than excitement. But if it’s for fans only, it turns out Jackson still has a lot of fans.
Reviews of “The Hobbit: The Battle of Five Armies”
Drew Taylor, Playlist
“The Hobbit: The Battle of the Five Armies” is the conclusion to a trilogy that should have really only ever been one film, and as such sometimes plays like a collection of insanely expensive deleted scenes, strung together and exhibited for fans. But for a movie that shouldn’t exist, it’s still largely satisfying and undoubtedly entertaining.
Todd McCarthy, Hollywood Reporter
If “An Unexpected Journey” was basically a leisurely paced walking-and-talking film and “The Desolation of Smaug” was a waist-deep immersion in a world of peril, “Battle” serves up a Middle-earth version of the bombing of Dresden as an appetizer and just goes from there as grievances are aired, allegiances are weighed, potential foes are sized up and preparations are made for the ultimate battle to be fought at the Lonely Mountain.
Andrew Pulver, Guardian
This film is a fitting cap to an extended series that, if nothing else, has transformed Tolkien’s place in the wider culture. His books were once strictly for spotty teen nerds (I think we’ve all been there), and while “The Battle of the Five Armies” is unlikely to repeat the Oscar sweep that greeted the conclusion of Jackson’s first Tolkien trilogy, in truth it is just as enjoyable as each of the five films that came before it.
Scott Foundas, Variety
The result is at once the trilogy’s most engrossing episode, its most expeditious (at a comparatively lean 144 minutes) and also its darkest — both visually and in terms of the forces that stir in the hearts of men, dwarves and orcs alike. Only fans need apply, but judging from past precedent, there are more than enough of them to ensure that “Battle” walks off with the dragon’s share of the upcoming holiday-season box office.
Drew McWeeny, HitFix
“The Hobbit” as a whole is a messier proposition, but in the home stretch, Jackson has pulled it together in a way that makes me glad that I took this particular journey, and I still say this is a world that feels fully realized, a place you can go, a tactile triumph in world-building. If it is the lesser sibling of the towering accomplishment of the “Lord of the Rings” trilogy, so be it. It still goes leaps and bounds beyond what most filmmakers would attempt, and if this is the end of Middle-Earth, then I am pleased to have been here to see it.
Geoffrey Macnab, Independent
A movie comprised almost entirely of battles could have become very tedious indeed. Jackson, though, is always able to give an intimacy to even the biggest, noisiest scenes. There are some moments of mawkishness, especially at the finale. Nonetheless, for all its loose ends, “The Battle of the Five Armies” is the strongest, boldest film in the Hobbit trilogy and provides just the send off that the series deserves.
Chris Tilly, IGN
The escalation of war is certainly impressive, while Jackson ensures that there are small, personal altercations so that each character gets their moment to shine. But the fighting is relentless and lasts for what feels like an age, with battle fatigue eventually setting in as much for the audience as it does the troops.
Richard Larson, Slant
While the conclusion to “The Battle of the Five Armies” ultimately feels like a bit too much table-setting for Jackson’s earlier “The Lord of the Rings” trilogy, the ending hits a lovely, bittersweet note when Bilbo realizes, as perhaps “The Lord of the Rings” fans did when they came to the first two meandering Hobbit films expecting more of what Jackson had offered in his earlier trilogy, that you really can’t go home again.
Tim Robey, Telegraph
William Bibbiani, Crave Online
War isn’t sad in this story any longer, instead it is “badass.” Although several characters die, the overall depiction of The Battle of the Five Armies makes all of the action so absurdly “cool” that it feels like little more than “fan service,” supposedly giving the audience what they want – more characters, more foreshadowing, more thrilling violence – regardless of their context in the story.
Tim Grierson, Screen Daily
The conclusion of “The Hobbit” doesn’t stir the soul as much as it rocks the senses and quickens the pulse. “The Battle of the Five Armies” delivers marvelously on the promise of its title — but not much more than that.