The Hobbit : The Battle of the Five Armies - Are you not entertained? 3 stars

This is it. The final chapter. Will it be the strong conclusion to this epic series? 

Walking into the cinema...
Honestly, watching this trilogy has been an arduous task. The Hobbit should have been one or potentially two films, but the studio executives desired three. The Lord of the Rings series was hard to top and the comparisons are inevitable. Also, the source material was not as extensive for The Hobbit. Yet, we find ourselves at the theatre waiting for the latest Peter Jackson instalment. Will it surprise or disappoint?

Overall Rating: 3 stars
Cinematic Value: 3 Stars     Family Value: 2 stars

"Are you not entertained?" - Gladiator 

     The book was published in 1937 and it is hard to believe that it has taken this long to come to the conclusion of the The Hobbit films. It would have been hard for anyone to miss the 13 year cinematic journey of The The Lord of the Rings and The Hobbit, but here is the brief summary of The Hobbit: The Battle of the Five Armies. The film continues the adventures of Bilbo Baggins (), Thorin Oakenshield (), Gandalf () and the world of Middle Earth. In the process of reclaiming their homeland from the Dragon Smaug (), the band of dwarfs unwittingly unleash and enrage the dragon. In his fiery rage, he lays waste to the community of Lake-town. Through the battle for the town, Bard (becomes the champion and leader of the human colony and subsequently must defend it from the various armies that come to fight for the contents of the mountain. Due to Smaug's defeat, the mountain is left without its guardian and battle lines begin to form outside the Lonely Mountain.  The elves, humans and dwarfs assume that they all have claim to many of the treasures held inside. As the battle cries unfold outside the mountain, an internal battle grows in the multitude of rooms and within the treasury of the reclaimed dwarf homeland. Thorin's desire to hold onto his the kingdom and its wealth comes at the expense of the relationships with his countrymen and Bilbo. The hobbit attempts to reason with the dwarf king and his loyal men, but cannot defend against the internal battles of the king. This leads to a desperate act by the halfling that leads to the centrepiece of the upcoming battle. In the meantime, Sauron has sent forth legions of Orcs in a stealth attack upon the Lonely Mountain. As the tensions rise and the Orc invaders show their numbers, the dwarfs, elves and men must decide to battle one another or to band together for the sake of the mountain and their lives. Bilbo finds himself in the middle of the battle for Middle Earth, his life and the lives of his friends in this final instalment of 's Hobbit trilogy.
     You may ask, 'Why quote the classic Ridley Scott film at the beginning of the review?' For all of the loyal fans of the books, The Lord of the Rings and The Hobbit, you will need to ask the "Are you not entertained?" Those who have read the original book and eventual trilogy and know the changes made to the story will roll their eyes as many times as orcs heads roll in the film. Jackson's adaptation of the original book would even have been taxing for his most loyal of fans, but in the end it was entertaining. If there is a bright light in the series  it is the strength of Bilbo's character and the acting abilities of Martin Freeman. He will go down in cinematic history as the true Bilbo Baggins. Freeman managed to maintain a level of excellence that lifted many of the weaker characters. As in the book, Bilbo is the smallest character in stature, but is larger than life in the story and in the lives of the all who meet him. Realistically, the difficulties abound within this series from the unfortunate use of HFR 3D to the unexplained potholes and the addition of an unnecessary love story. Even with these challenges, Peter Jackson manages to take a less than stellar film and entertain the audience. The whole film is based on one chapter in the book, but in Jackson's hands it becomes a mountain out of a molehill experience. His attempt at epic proportions stays true to the heart of the story, but moves the potential classic nature of this series to forgettable entertainment. His heavy reliance on CGI effects and video game action cannot make up for the weakness of the story. This will appeal to the current generation, but most likely will miss its mark for the generations who have loved the literary material. Jackson was able to round out the trilogy of The Lord of the Rings effectively, but succumbed to a Revenge of the Sith-type ending for The Hobbit. In trying to tie off all of the loose ends and link them to the original series, the ending comes off as haphazard and laboured. In the end, the film was entertaining, but the book was better. 
   The final scene between Bilbo and Gandalf is the one of the few profound moments of the film. The wise wizard says, "You are only quite a little follow in a wide world, after all."  As with many of the words from Gandalf to Bilbo, they held a warning and a reminder. The warning was not allowing ourselves to be caught up in the moment and to keep a realistic perspective on our lives. The use of the hobbits allowed for the value of humility and the realisation that many answers to life's challenges come from unexpected things to be a central theme throughout this film and The Lord of the Rings trilogy. Bilbo presents a problem for many in the film. He is the smallest and most unassuming character, but manages to be the conscience and strength of the story. Even though he is far from perfect, he does become the voice of reason for the leadership and is not ruled by a need for power. at one point in the film, he simultaneously holds onto two of the most powerful symbols (the Arkenstone and the Ring) in the film and is the one left to make the choices that are best for all in the film. This lesson of his character makes room for consideration of the value of humility in our lives. (A suggested read on this topic is Humilitas by Dr. John Dickson)      

Leaving the cinema...
It was great getting to see this film with friends and family. The discussion afterwards was split. Some loved the film and others did not. The story suffered, but the action was exciting. Most would have said it lacked the appeal of the first trilogy and it caused most to want to read The Hobbit. The film was surprisingly entertaining and a fitting ending to the trilogy, but it fell short of the classic status of The Lord of the Rings. 

Reel Dialogue: What are some of the bigger questions to consider from this film? 
1. What is the value of a good leader? (Matthew 20:25-28, 1 Corinthians 12:12)
2. Humility plays a part in this story and throughout the Bible (Philippians 2:3, James 4:6)

Written by Russell Matthews based on a five star rating system @ Russelling Reviews #russellingreviews