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The Hobbit: The Battle Of The Five Armies by Howard Shore (Review)

posted Dec 16, 2014, 11:46 AM by Kaya Savas

Here we are again, the completion of another Middle Earth trilogy from Peter Jackson and Howard Shore. As I reflected back on The Hobbit films and scores, I realized they didn’t leave as much of a lasting impact as The Lord Of The Rings. The thematic impact of The Hobbit scores were much less, and this is mainly due to the fact that Warner Brothers forced Jackson to make three films out of a a 320 page novel. This resulted in Shore’s score having to “…“feel thin, sort of stretched, like butter scraped over too much bread.” as Bilbo once said. The final product is a 3-act story being spread across 3 lengthy films instead of 3 books being adapted into three lengthy films. That doesn't mean though that Howard didn't perfectly accompany the narrative here. We indeed to have some brilliant scores, including this one. The first score was a great introduction to this journey, however the main motif of it wasn’t written by Shore. But he ran with the “Misty Mountains” motif and made it work. The second score, while strong, lacked thematic structure. It had to fill space for most of the second act narrative and pretty much “kill time” till movie #3. Now for The Battle Of The Five Armies, we truly see that Shore was saving the best for last. We finally have fully realized thematic structures, and the score becomes a tremendous experience.

What you notice about this score is that it truly hits the ground running, and that’s expected since this entire film is the third act of a story that has taken us two films to get here. The added narrative filler does hurt the trilogy somewhat and story-wise makes them inferior to The Lord Of The Rings trilogy, but in no way are The Hobbit films bad films. The Battle Of The Five Armies is a whopping epic of a score. Shore weaves themes with propulsive melodies to build a sense of scope and magnitude that we haven’t heard since The Return Of The King. Rousing battles, threatening intensity, wholly organic emotions and a swelling tone of regality make the whole score an absorbing epic. Shore references some familiar themes from the LOTR trilogy that creates a nice bridge and truly makes these films feel part of Middle Earth. We wrap up the journey in a nice sentimental fashion that reminds us that Frodo’s journey is what lies ahead. Overall, The Battle Of The Five Armies does a fantastic job of providing a rousing climactic epic to this adventure embedded in a world of fantasy.

Howard Shore’s music for Peter Jackson’s adaptations of the Middle Earth saga has become an iconic part of our culture. In many ways it was the Star Wars of a different generation; a truly engrossing journey filled with characters we love and a story we resonated with. Middle Earth felt like a real place because of Shore’s music, and the characters felt real because of the thematic arcs he built for them musically. The Battle Of The Five Armies is a superb final act to this long and sometimes tiring journey of Bilbo Baggins, but after 3 films we can smile contently as we have another great trilogy worth getting lost in. WaterTower Records’ fantastic special edition treatment of the score is worth snapping up immediately to complete your collection.