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The Hobbit: The Battle of the Five Armies
Album Cover Art
Regular Edition
Special Edition
Album 2 Cover Art
Composed and Produced by:

Co-Orchestrated and Conducted by:
Conrad Pope

Co-Orchestrated by:
James Sizemore
Victoria Kelly

Performed by:
New Zealand Symphony Orchestra

The London Voices

Additional Music by:
Billy Boyd
Labels Icon
WaterTower Music
(Regular Edition)
(December 8th, 2014)

WaterTower Music
(Special Edition)
(December 16th, 2014)
Availability Icon
Both the regular and special edition releases are standard commercial products, though the regular edition CD pressing was not made available at some major retail outlets (they offered it only as a digital product instead).
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   Availability | Viewer Ratings | Comments | Audio & Track Listings | Notes
Buy it... on the "special edition" CD release if you seek a more fluid arrangement of many of the cues from this, Howard Shore's impressive final journey to the realm of Middle Earth.

Avoid it... on any album if you still absolutely insist upon hearing music that will compete favorably with that from The Lord of the Rings, a feat never realistic for Shore given the butchering of this prequel trilogy by its director.
Review Icon
WRITTEN 1/24/15
The Hobbit: The Battle of the Five Armies: (Howard Shore) History will not look back at Peter Jackson's treatment of J.R.R. Tolkien's classic "The Hobbit" with any more respect or admiration than what existed in the muted response to its debut in the early 2010's. The affection, acclaim, and goodwill extended in perpetuity to Jackson's The Lord of the Rings trilogy was perhaps never destined to continue with his bloated adaptation of "The Hobbit" a decade later, the director's choice to mangle the narrative in an effort to extend the story over three films a fatal blow to its opportunity to reach the same pinnacle. Audiences indulged themselves with the three The Hobbit films between 2012 and 2014 anyway, making the trilogy a continued fiscal success, but little of the same critical praise persisted by the end of the three films dedicated to The Hobbit, that scant flurry of residual affirmation typically manifested in nostalgic references to the art direction, visual effects, characters, and music that carried over from The Lord of the Rings. The last of these films based upon The Hobbit stormed through the holiday season of 2014 with over $800 million in grosses to show for itself, but few viewers could honestly say that the culmination of this Tolkien story could compete emotionally with the impact of The Lord of the Rings: Return of the King in 2003. Jackson's finale this time consists of the portions of "The Hobbit" dealing with the defeat of the dragon, Smaug, and the conflict between the armies of orcs, dwarves, men, and elves (and a few singular contributors, including the titular hobbit) as they posture themselves for control over treasure and territory before the dark days that lie ahead in the tale of The Lord of the Rings. The interracial warfare resolves itself through seemingly endless battle scenes and a touch of cheap, slow motion, gravity defying fighting style that takes this story a bit too close to The Matrix for comfort. Nevertheless, the table is set for The Lord of the Rings by the conclusion of The Hobbit: The Battle of the Five Armies, the entire flashback of this trilogy neatly resolved and set to lead directly into the next narrative.

The music for this series of The Hobbit films has taken listeners on a wistful but elusive journey back to the glory of The Lord of the Rings, Howard Shore's three new scores constructed with the same structural and instrumental elements and performed with a similar vocabulary and voice. For many, the music of The Hobbit has presented itself like one massive "bonus feature" related to The Lord of the Rings, a collective work never meant to compete with the unquestionable classic status of the original but still entertaining in its offshoots from those origins. Just as it is pleasing to see Ian McKellen, Ian Holm, and especially Christopher Lee alive and well enough to perform in this trilogy, it's equally satisfying to hear Shore continue with this franchise regardless of the quality. The same sentiment was expressed regarding John Williams and the Star Wars prequel scores that debuted from 1999 to 2005 (not to mention his work on the final trilogy in the 2010's), and there remain interesting parallels between the prequels in both these George Lucas and J.R.R. Tolkien universes. More about such observations will conclude this review, but it suffices to say that listeners may very well react to the scores of The Hobbit the same way they interpreted the Star Wars prequel scores, causing the perception of the quality of the newer entries to diminish as a result of expectations and fatigue. By the release of The Hobbit: The Battle of the Five Armies, it has become clear that the universe was not aligned to allow Shore's prequel scores to compete with the preceding classics, and the vaunted status of The Lord of the Rings all but ensured that outcome. But also at play is a sense of fatigue with these scores for The Hobbit due to their rapid succession. Whereas the Star Wars prequels were offered up at three-year intervals, Jackson pushed out his films based upon The Hobbit in three consecutive years, leaving The Battle of the Five Armies at a disadvantage for fatigued listeners not ready to truly appreciate each of these prequel entries as any kind of singular event. The passage of time, along with thousands of lesser new film scores by comparison, will inevitably elevate the status of these prequel works given the likeliness of renewed perspective.

Before launching into a direct analysis of the score for The Hobbit: The Battle of the Five Armies, there are a few disclaimers that have to be made, because these issues have a significant impact on any review of Shore's music. First, obviously, is the fact that the initial iteration of this review takes into account only a portion of the score. The totality of brilliance in the music for The Lord of the Rings only became apparent upon the release of the complete recordings (which, of course, were not truly complete), and the same is true of The Hobbit. Whether you choose the regular or special edition of the original album presentations of The Battle of the Five Armies, you will encounter tasteful but unsatisfying edits of longer cues into shorter tracks. Another general disadvantage you have with the music of The Hobbit is the seeming change of direction that took place with the strategy of the scores after An Unexpected Journey. Whereas that first score in this prequel series retained more of the long-lined thematic tendencies of The Lord of the Rings, Jackson butchered that recording in the final edit of the film, diminishing Shore's narrative technique. Possibly as a result, Shore seems to have abandoned that prior inclination towards longer statements of theme and has taken the "attention deficit disorder" route instead, unfortunately yielding scores for The Desolation of Smaug and, to a lesser extent, The Battle of the Five Armies that fail to satisfy with their development of the melodic foundations due to hasty entrances and exits for each theme. There is no doubt that these six scores in sum strive to set the bar for leitmotific excellence, and blame has to be placed on Jackson for steering Shore away from a proper execution of that technique over the course of The Hobbit. On top of those two issues, you also have the simple mathematical logic that, by the time of The Battle of the Five Armies, indicates that Shore had between 25 and 30 new themes in the trilogy of The Hobbit to utilize, not to mention the multitudes of those from The Lord of the Rings that remained applicable to characters and settings. Part of the "leitmotific attention deficit disorder" owes to this oddly intriguing problem. Read the following review with these disadvantages in mind and, where necessary, do try to cut Shore some slack in how you respond to his tackling of this final Middle Earth assignment.

For Shore, much appreciation must be expressed for his continued participation and vigor in this franchise at all. While Shore isn't in his 90's like Christopher Lee, the demands placed upon any composer in his late 60's by this franchise are not to be easily dismissed. Some listeners have taken note that there may some diminished accomplishment to the music after Shore ceded conducting and orchestration duties to veteran collaborator Conrad Pope, though there is nothing tangibly noticeable about the scores that can point directly at Pope's increased involvement being a detriment. The general complexity of the composition is what matters the most in this franchise, and here Shore continues to excel. There is truly nothing in film music during this era that can compete with the motific tapestry and the execution of those ideas in this franchise. There may be several faults worth mentioning about The Battle of the Five Armies, and these are illuminated by this review, but the lack of adherence to the superior quality of manipulation of the musical language in this score is certainly not one of them. When listeners claim to have less of an emotional connection to this score (and also The Desolation of Smaug), it's because of Shore's inability to state his ideas with longer expressions of majesty instead. Whereas the themes in The Lord of the Rings, whether major or auxiliary, were offered up for minutes at a time, largely uninterrupted, The Hobbit doesn't allow Shore the same luxury of time. Count this as the primary manifestation of Jackson's "attention deficit disorder" issue. The moments of absolute tonal grandeur in The Battle of the Five Armies still exist, but they last seconds rather than minutes. So short are these sequences now that Shore doesn't even bother hauling in an array of vocal and instrumental soloists to perform them, another major difference between this trilogy and the one before. Also count the sheer quantity of themes as another issue relating to the lack of connection for some listeners. The pivotal concluding sequences in The Battle of the Five Armies have no chance to compete favorably with the equivalents in The Return of the King. There is no match for the definitive sense of release you sense at the end of "Elanor," for instance, as the door to The Lord of the Rings is literally shut. The same general narrative flow exists in The Battle of the Five Armies, but the touches of magnificence in each thematic statement are sadly missing.

Ratings Icon
Average: 3.72 Stars
***** 426 5 Stars
**** 196 4 Stars
*** 158 3 Stars
** 125 2 Stars
* 98 1 Stars
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Why are you being so lenient?
Vincent - September 12, 2016, at 5:53 a.m.
1 comment  (892 views)
For god's sake, Clemmensen ...   Expand >>
GK - April 13, 2015, at 5:51 p.m.
6 comments  (3669 views)
Newest: April 17, 2015, at 7:04 p.m. by
No electronics   Expand >>
GK - January 29, 2015, at 8:12 a.m.
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Newest: January 30, 2015, at 7:49 a.m. by
Edmund Meinerts
Master of Lake-Town Theme??   Expand >>
Joel A. Griswell - January 27, 2015, at 10:21 p.m.
5 comments  (3047 views)
Newest: February 6, 2015, at 2:20 p.m. by
Ethan R. Smith
Rank The Hobbit Scores+My Alternative Review   Expand >>
Callum Hofler - January 27, 2015, at 6:35 p.m.
2 comments  (2507 views)
Newest: April 1, 2015, at 5:04 p.m. by

Track Listings Icon
Audio Samples   ▼
Regular Edition Tracks   ▼Total Time: 94:17
CD 1: (45:24)
• 1. Fire and Water (5:57)
• 2. Shores of the Long Lake (4:01)
• 3. Beyond Sorrow and Grief (2:50)
• 4. Guardians of the Three (5:14)
• 5. The Ruins of Dale (3:39)
• 6. The Gathering of the Clouds (4:07)
• 7. Mithril (3:08)
• 8. Bred for War (3:20)
• 9. A Thief in the Night (4:14)
• 10. The Clouds Burst (4:13)
• 11. Battle for the Mountain (4:38)
CD 2: (48:53)
• 1. The Darkest Hour (5:32)
• 2. Sons of Durin (4:24)
• 3. The Fallen (4:56)
• 4. Ravenhill (5:48)
• 5. To the Death (5:13)
• 6. Courage and Wisdom (5:10)
• 7. The Return Journey (4:18)
• 8. There and Back Again (4:20)
• 9. The Last Goodbye* (4:07)
• 10. Ironfoot (5:03)
* written and performed by Billy Boyd
Special Edition Tracks   ▼Total Time: 108:34

Notes Icon
The insert of the regular edition includes no extra information about the score or film. That of the special edition features a note from the director and analysis of each of the score's major themes by author Doug Adams.
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or redistributed without the prior written authority of Christian Clemmensen at Filmtracks Publications. All artwork and sound clips from The Hobbit: The Battle of the Five Armies are Copyright © 2014, WaterTower Music (Regular Edition), WaterTower Music (Special Edition) and cannot be redistributed without the label's expressed written consent. Page created 1/24/15 (and not updated significantly since).
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