This will actually be two reviews: one for the movie itself, and the other for watching the 3D HFR version of the film.
[Note: some spoilers contained below in the movie review so read that section at your own risk. No spoilers contained in the 3D HFR review section.]
The movie itself (on a five-star scale): ★ ★ ★ ★
Unlike many, I've read the book. The Battle Of The Five Armies is generally faithful to the source material while trying to tie up the loose ends that were not in the book. For example, the whole necromancer concept was described in just one sentence of the book but director Peter Jackson used that concept to tie The Hobbit trilogy to The Lord Of The Rings trilogy and set up the LOTR movies. Unlike some, I recognized what Jackson was trying to do there so I didn't mind it and felt it made sense. As another example, using Legolas as the ultimate bada-- (or as my kids would say, "OP") character to help bridge audiences from the mega-successful LOTR films was ultimately a plus move on Jackson's part.
The film follows the book quite well. J.R.R. Tolkien wrote some appendices to the LOTR (which I did not read), which Jackson used in The Hobbit, such as the chief orc Azog and necromancer/Sauron. I agree with some that certain scenes are drawn out, such as Thorin's repeated scenes showing his greed for gold corrupting the nobility of his character and Kili's death/Tauriel's grief. This is apparently Jackson's style (even in King Kong) and I did notice it in this film more than the prior two Hobbit films but even so, it didn't bother me as much as it did others.
The action is furious, from the opening scene to nearly the end. And even though I read the book and knew the outcome, I still watched the movie tensely hoping the elves and dwarves would not suffer attrition fighting each other before the orcs arrived. On the other hand, while there was some sense of hopelessness and despair during the battles, there was not nearly as much as in The Two Towers or Return Of The King. The orcs in this film seem to die pretty easily even though they are fully armored from head to nearly toe (one mega-sized orc even died after using his head as a battering ram against a wall). As that goes, it's probably okay for a nine- or ten-year-old to watch the movie, depending on their maturity, especially since all the deaths are bloodless—even the numerous decapitations.
The dialogue was fine and there were some humorous points sprinkled throughout the film. As for the characters, some of them seemed like throwaways—Bard's children in particular were entirely unnecessary, for example. Tauriel turned out to be a welcome addition to this trilogy—even if she was strictly a Jackson invention. All the actors were excellent overall. But Martin Freeman in particular was a revelation. His portrayal of Bilbo is absolutely top shelf. I cared about Bilbo as much as I cared about Frodo. When he cried over Thorin's death, you cared that he cried—regardless of how you separately felt about Thorin. When the movie neared its end, I was actually sad to see it ending. Other critics may scoff but I wish there would be more movies with Freeman as Bilbo; he is the perfect Bilbo.
And that is the biggest drawback of the film: that Bilbo has such little of a role in this film. As much as you like Bilbo, he really doesn't do much here, which is odd for a titular character. That's not entirely Jackson's fault, as that is the same issue in the book. It's just not as obvious in the book because the battle takes up only a chapter or two, whereas the battle in the film takes up most of the screen time. The other drawback is that the One Ring is not shown as evil in this trilogy of films. Bilbo wears it with no obvious detriment to his character; the ring just seems to give Bilbo the "superpower" to disappear. This leaves a gap in understanding how the ring could then be such an instrument of evil in LOTR, where the longer the ring's owner possessed it or wore it, the more it would corrupt him. But this too is not Jackson's fault, as the ring in the book does not convey any evil essence about it.
In the end, I liked the film despite its minor flaws.
The 3D High Frame Rate (HFR) aspect on a five-star scale: ★ ★ ★ ★ ★
I've never seen an HFR movie before. I watched the two previous Hobbit films in plain ol' 2D after reading several negative reviews about HFR in those first two Hobbit movies. But one reason you go to the theaters is to get an experience you can't get at home. And HFR is not something you can experience at home, even if you have a brand-spankin'-new 4K TV. So with this release of The Hobbit, I wanted to see if it would be worth the money. Here's my take.
The first thing I should point out is that when I wore my 3D glasses during the 2D ads, I could see some flickering horizontal lines. I didn't really notice any flickering during the 3D previews, but I suppose certain individuals may perceive flickering even in 3D movies. However, during the Battle Of The Five Armies, there was no such flickering at all due to the High Frame Rate.
As critics described, HFR indeed makes the movie seem more realistic, like watching a HD camcorder movie. In comparison, regular movies have a visually duller look and feel to them, due to their being shot at 24 frames per second (fps) while HFR shoots at double that rate (48 fps). The 24 fps technology has been in use for at least nine decades! HFR is new technology, and James Cameron has been said to advocate HFR to the point where he wants to push the envelope even further, hoping to shoot future films at 60 fps.
Some argued that HFR gives them a headache. That wasn't the case for me—nor for any of my three kids who watched in HFR with me.
The clarity of detail on HFR is stunning. Think 4K (or higher) TV but at the movies. And HFR makes 3D even more stunning. You know how many 3D movies only have a few scenes actually shot in 3D, with the rest of the movie converted to 3D in post-production? That's not the case here. Combining 3D with HFR made EVERY scene in gorgeous, jaw-dropping 3D. It's not the type of 3D where objects appear to come at you; it's simply depth to all the background elements—multiple layers of depth!
There's not much else to say other than I love, love, love HFR (and so did my kids). Now I regret not seeing the first two Hobbit films in HFR now. Jackson should be lauded—not ridiculed—for insisting on making HFR available to the masses for these films. If I ever get a chance to see any movies I'm interested in in 3D HFR, I'm absolutely there. Bonus: since nobody appears to like HFR, the theater I went to see The Battle Of The Five Armies was nearly completely empty, so we didn't have to contend with noisy or obnoxious moviegoers. So let everyone else continue to think 3D HFR is bad. I'm going to Think Different. Let's just—shhhhh—keep it a secret...just between me and you.
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