Sunday, 4 January 2015

The Hobbit: The Battle of Five Armies

Azog, one of the many examples of how this series was padded out
to mixed results.

In many ways The Hobbit: The Battle of Five Armies is a hard film to review. Fans of middle earth are going to swarm to the film regardless of what any review contains, and for good reason. The original trilogy easily contains some of the best, if not the very best fantasy films made. The Hobbit trilogy in comparison has widely thus far been considered good albeit disappointing.

The Battle of Five armies starts of where The Desolation of Smaug ends, a film that sadly and amusingly didn't contain the actual desolation of Smaug. Instead it was used as bait to entice viewers to see this presumably final film of Peter Jackson middle earth saga. As a result The Battle of Five armies has an expectedly exciting opening. Although those who where less then impressed by the more cartoon like action of The Hobbit will continue to be unimpressed. Characters from the outset continue to do impossible things, At times this is fine as it is well established in the films that Elves are capable of what are seemingly impossible feats for a human. However this film as the prior two Hobbit films extends this to both the human characters and dwarves. This once again robs the film of their being any sense of risk for the characters present, which undermines the entire epic finale and battle between five armies.

The action remains over the top, but far less so then what was
present in the previous two films.

That isn't to say the film as a finale isn't satisfyingly epic. It just is a film that seem to undercut its intentions for little reason beyond Peter Jackson an co thinking a certain moment may look 'cool', much like Michael Bay seemingly has done with the Transformer films. However compared to the previous instalments such silliness is kept to a relative minimum and thus allows some room for emotional weight. However with a few exceptions such as Bilbo, Gandalf and Thranduil who all have exceptional acting behind them, their is little reasons to care about what happens. This is particularly problematic when it comes to the dwarves of which less then half contain anything resembling a character beyond a caricature. Giving that the entire trilogy is about the Dwarves reclaiming their home this is a particular problem that undermines the purpose of the entire trilogy.

With that being said the performances of those that you do care about that the finale does provide for just enough context to provide some emotional punch and to bring this middle earth saga to a satisfying if not disappointing conclusion. The film is also the shortest of the trilogy and whilst a few areas are left with little resolution this decreased run time is largely welcome and removes the bloat that plagued the first two Hobbit films where it was abundantly obvious that their simply wasn't enough content to sustain an entire trilogy.

Whilst it is far from a masterpiece The Hobbit: The Battle of Five Armies is a film that is certainly easy to recommend to fans of the Hobbit films. It also has reduced the issues present in the previous two films to a large enough degree to come recommended thanks largely to it slightly less absurd action and its tighter pacing without the bloat that plagued the first two entries of this trilogy.

Whilst it isn't the defining chapter as marketing would have you believe it
is certainly the most enjoyable of the Hobbit films.

What about he HFR? Well I may be somewhat cheating here as this is largely a direct copy of what I wrote last year regarding the HFR in The Desolation of Smaug. It however remains as relevant for this film as it was the last. The short story is I would highly recommend viewing it in HFR, for more detail please read the below.

Whilst more a comment on the technical side I fell compelled to mention the films use of HFR. This is especially the case as The Battle of Five Armies, The Desolation of Smaug and An Unexpected Journey are the only films with a wide release to be shoot and be viewable in such a way. HFR simply stands for high frame rate and as was the case with the prior two films The Battle of Five Armies has been filmed in HFR at 48fps as opposed to the usual 24fps (meaning the number of images a displayed every second is doubled when compared to more or less every other film that has ever been release [there are some exceptions of course, most notably with older silent films before 24fps became the used ‘standard’]). I simply cannot say enough good things about the use of HFR, it provides for a very surreal presentation with everything appearing extremely smooth and lifelike. Likewise the use of 3d especially when combined with the films use of HFR is equally impressive and well worth the extra cost of admission for those interested in seeing this film. The only down side to HFR is it can make the at times less then stellar production values extremely evident. This is of particular note as the entire Hobbit trillogy is extremely inconsistent with it use of cgi. Most scene do look spectacular but on occasion the use of cgi is overly evident and looks more like what one may expect from a film released well over a decade ago.

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