Before the main event, however, there is some respite, in which we see Thorin’s (Richard Armitage) descent into “dragon sickness” effectively developed, which makes Thorin’s callous dismissal of the survivors of Laketown credible, although approached by Bard (Luke Evans) for help in a very reasonable manner.
Fortunately, once the main battle starts, it isn’t just an hour of crashing and bashing. Taking a leaf from classic war films such as “The Longest Day,” the film moves around from character to character as the day of warfare develops. Dain Ironfoot (Billy Connolly) in the field with the Iron Hills dwarves; Azog (Manu Bennett), masterminding the battle; not-quite-as-big-a-bastard-as-before Thranduil (Lee Pace), having some hard choices forced upon him; Legolas (Orlando Bloom) and Tauriel (Evangeline Lilly), being part of those choices; the Company of Thorin reacting to their leader’s paranoia; and Bilbo (Martin Freeman) and Gandalf (Ian McKellen) each in their own way trying to save something from the wrack. In these days, when we have ready reminders of the plight of civilians in war zones, I was particularly gratified by the portrayal of the desperate situation of the Laketowners, who, compared with everyone else, are outnumbered, poorly armed, and encumbered with non-combatants. It’s hard to care about legions of largely faceless (and computer generated) dwarves, elves, and orcs, but the humans are all individuals and it’s easier to be worried about what happens to them when the ruins of Dale change from a sanctuary to a hunting ground.
The deaths of the major characters are handled sensitively and in good harmony with Tolkien’s story. I liked it that the aftermath of the battle was shown as far more melancholy than glorious. (“Nothing except a battle lost can be half as melancholy as a battle won.” –Arthur Wellesley, 1st Duke of Wellington).
All in all, a satisfying conclusion to Jackson’s retelling of “The Hobbit,” which somewhat compensates for the over-blownness of the first two parts. Taking the events and the characters of “An Unexpected Journey,” and “The Desolation of Smaug” as givens, I had essentially nothing to quibble with.
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