My Thoughts on The Hobbit: The Battle of Five Armies (and a Prediction)

The movie on virtually every Tolkien fan’s mind these days is The Hobbit: The Battle of Five Armies. I’ve avoided reviews from anyone else in an attempt to keep my own opinions clear, so I actually don’t know what the fandom as a whole thinks of the film. I know the general public generally doesn’t like it, but what else is new? (I still haven’t recovered from the offensive lack of acting nominations for RotK at the Oscars…)

Taking the movie as a whole, I don’t have a lot to say. I liked it better than Desolation of Smaug but not as much as An Unexpected Journey. Its strongest moments were, in my opinion, (most of) the fight scenes. Martin Freeman was excellent as Bilbo, as always. If I had to summarize, it’s a fun, two-and-a-half-hour fan fiction about the last 40 pages or so of The Hobbit. My strongest opinions are about certain portions of the film.

Of course, if you want to avoid spoilers, stop reading now.

Dol Guldur

First things first: I’m not in the least bit bothered that the film showed what happened at Dol Guldur. I think it was a solid way to tie The Hobbit films with LotR (by making Sauron’s role clear) and it provided a visible reason for Gandalf to “abandon” the company. But the devil is in the details.

I could go on forever about every little detail, but then I would never finish this long-overdue post. So I’ll force myself to summarize.

  • The Elven rings were never meant to be used as weapons–they can’t be used as weapons. While they weren’t explicit in the scene, I definitely got the impression that their power came primarily from their rings.
  • Why wasn’t Celeborn there?
  • Not even going to touch Gandalf/Galadriel with a 10-foot pole.
  • Most importantly, can someone please explain to me what happened to Galadriel? She turned into evil!Galadriel from FotR. So when she banishes Sauron, she’s evil? Or when she uses her power she’s evil? And why the crap did she have dreadlocks?!?!!

Thranduil

Thranduil was more fabulous than ever. His war-moose was amusingly ridiculous, and yet Lee Pace managed to not look utterly laughable while riding it. And that eye roll Thranduil gave Bard when Gandalf was trying to convince him not to attach Thorin? Perfection. Can’t wait to see the gif.

Alfrid

“Coward? Not many men would wear a corset!” That’s all I have to say. Take from it what you will.

Bard

Luke Evans did a great job. I like how they handled his character. I would have liked to see a little more grimness in him, as he’s described in the book, but that would have made it difficult for movie-goers to relate to him. I actually really like that they gave him children, too, although it surprised me.

Smaug

Benedict Cumberbatch did a wonderful job, of course. It was an interesting choice to have Smaug’s death at the beginning of the third movie instead of the second movie’s finale. I actually would have liked that as a finale much more than the ridiculous Rube Goldberg machine-esque, gold-surfing sequence in the second film. I’d be very interested to hear Peter Jackson’s reasoning for carrying Smaug over into BoFA.

Finale Battle

As I mentioned above, some of the best scenes in the film were the battles. The final showdown between Thorin and Azog was well-done and exciting. The look on Thorin’s right before Azog fell in the icy water might have been the best moment in the film. I can just hear him say, “What are you going to do now?”

The Next Part of the Journey

Now I’m going to make a prediction. As I said, I haven’t read any other reviews yet, so I don’t know if other people have posited the same theory or not. It seems fairly obvious to me, so I doubt I’m the first to mention it.

The last scene with Thranduil and Legoas was a little odd–especially considering that Aragorn would have been only ten years old at the time. (Which begs the question why Thranduil would have told Legolas to look for Aragorn, since Aragorn lived in Rivendell until he was twenty.)

My thoughts? They’re prepared the audience for a series of films on Aragorn’s life before LotR. It’s actually perfect–they have the rights to the content (since it’s all covered in the appendices) and there’s tons of scope to do whatever they want. Of course, we would quite literally be in fan fiction territory for nearly everything, but it could be interesting.

Final Thoughts

The most burning question I have is this–where did Thorin get those battle rams that he and the other dwarfs rode??

Photo Credit: Screen Relish

  14 comments for “My Thoughts on The Hobbit: The Battle of Five Armies (and a Prediction)

  1. January 20, 2015 at 4:34 am

    I have only seen BOTFA once, and I may well change my mind on certain elements after I have watched the Extended Edition, which I shall treat as the definitive version. Nevertheless, in response to your comments…

    Nuclear Galadriel did not make much sense. The natural implication in Fellowship was that this was a vision of Galadriel corrupted by the Ring, but as you say, that cannot have been the case here, so we must infer it is simply her “powered up” mode.

    I have no problem with most of Peter Jackson’s changes as a way of interpreting and expanding the source material, because it seems to me that most of them work as part of a narrative, but I thought Alfrid was completely pointless (and rather tiresome) in BOTFA.

    I was fine with Smaug’s demise being carried over to the third film, for the following reasons. In the films, Thorin is as much the principal character as is Bilbo. It would therefore seem unsatisfying to have him hiding from Smaug in a tunnel as the Dwarves do in the book. So, a confrontation with Smaug is appropriate, but then it has to be made plausible that a small group of Dwarves can indeed challenge a massive fire-breathing Dragon; hence the lengthy sequence in the forges. Having built to that climax in Erebor, it would have been too much to have a second climax immediately following in Lake Town, which is why I had no problem with DOS ending on a cliffhanger. However, after all of that, I did think that the destruction of Lake Town felt rather abbreviated.

    The only real problem that I had with the big boss battle, Thorin vs Azog, was that it felt too divorced from the context of the Battle of the Five Armies itself.

    I would guess the battle-rams will feature more in the Extended Edition.

    It is good to see a blogger discuss “The Next Part of the Journey” without immediately going to The Silmarillion, which obviously is not going to appear on screen in any form for at least the next 28 years. There is another good discussion here:

    https://atolkienistperspective.wordpress.com/2015/01/11/upcoming-middle-earth-films/

    I think the best bets for further films would “The Fall of Angmar”, which has to some extent been set up as a prequel and would include hobbits; a “bridge” movie to cover the period between The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings (this did actually seem a possibility during early pre-production), which might include the rise of Mordor, Balin’s expedition to Moria (more Balrog!), and, as you suggest, Aragorn’s early career; and then “The War of the Ring in the North” (more Erebor! more Nuclear Galadriel!).

    • Emily
      January 21, 2015 at 12:41 pm

      Completely agree with you! You make a good point about killing Smaug at the beginning of the third movie–I didn’t think about it in that light before.

      I think it will probably be longer than 28 years before we’ll see a Silmarillion movie. While I’m no copyright lawyer, I would think that Christopher Tolkien holds the rights to that just as much as his father did, since he was the editor. Wouldn’t that mean that it would be years after his death? I don’t know how much British copyright law differs from U.S. copyright law.

      I remember that The Hobbit was originally intended to be one or two movies and then the third movie would be a “bridge.” That was a long time ago, but it could still happen. Gotta milk that cash cow for as long as possible!

      • January 22, 2015 at 2:02 pm

        I initially considered the prospect of any further Middle-earth films to be remote, because a large amount of material would have to be invented for such films and they might not be as readily marketable as The Hobbit and LOTR, but the more I’ve thought about it, the more obvious it seems that even just in the Tale of Years there are entries that could easily be used as themes for films that would connect directly to the six films already made (and thus visibly be part of the same “brand”), for example in the form of the trilogy that I proposed in my previous comment, and that if Peter Jackson really wanted to make those films and pitched them to the studio, it is almost inconceivable that he would be turned away (The Hobbit trilogy has already grossed $2.8bn worldwide!). Furthermore, as you point out, some of these ideas must have been discussed back when the notion of a “bridge” movie was in the air (when del Toro was still signed on to be the director). So, we shall see what happens.

        As for the timing of any future Silmarillion film(s) after 2043… I can only argue from opinion and logic, not from any deep familiarity with copyright law and case histories. I have picked up a little knowledge of UK copyright issues over the years, but that’s all, so I can’t speak with authority. Still, for what it’s worth…

        I know that in the UK, at least, copyright endures for 70 years after the death of the author, and nothing can be done to change that, unless the law itself is changed. So, copyright on everything that Tolkien alone wrote will expire in 2043. The complication presented by the published edition of The Silmarillion is that it might be argued, for that particular text, that Christopher Tolkien is a co-author (and not merely the editor), in which case, yes, copyright will last for 70+ years yet. However, I suspect that would only then prevent “The Silmarillion” being used as part of a film title. If someone wanted to film “The Tale of Beren and Lúthien”, for example, they might base it upon material from The History of Middle-earth, in which Tolkien’s own drafts are unadapted and clearly distinguished from CT’s commentary. But, I could be wrong; so, again, we shall see what happens.

        • Emily
          January 25, 2015 at 4:24 pm

          I’ve also heard that studios have to release films based on a particular license every so often or they forfeit the license. (Thus why Spider-man was rebooted so soon after the first Tobey Maguire film.) Even apart from the initial money grab another series of film’s would present, the studio has to protect future money grabs! I don’t know if I would rather see LotR rebooted or visual fan fiction, but I assume the latter would be much more acceptable to film-goers.

          It will be very interesting to see what happens with The Silmarillion. Putting aside director and studio interests, I’m sure that Christopher Tolkien will do everything in his power to prevent it from happening! I honestly don’t know how I feel about the possibility. I think, as you say, we shall have to wait and see.

  2. January 25, 2015 at 12:09 pm

    “And why the crap did she have dreadlocks?!?!!” – hah! Brilliant :)

    The Elrond/Saruman confrontation with the Ringwraiths was so beautifully realised; unfortunately, Galadriel’s “drowning” look completely destroyed what would have otherwise been a great (albeit short – considering they’d been hinting at it for two films) sequence.

    Someone, somewhere, posted a tantalising explanation to why Galadriel looked the way she did. As she’s holding Gandalf in her arms, Sauron says that she cannot fight the darkness – so the only way for her to “defeat” him is by turning “bad”. A bit far-fetched in my opinion, but quite interesting.

    As to her drowning look, another viewer has stated that since she’s wearing Nenya (the Ring of Water) she assumes that “wet” look when using the ring’s power (same thing happened in FOTR). It’s an intriguing idea, but whilst I found the FOTR version acceptable, this went overboard, unfortunately.

    I found Ryan Gage’s performance as Alfrid to be quite a spectacle. What he did to his character was great in terms of acting and energy. But unfortunately, he became too much of a presence – especially during the battle: turning dark moments into unnecessary comic relief. That said, I can’t wait to see how he meets his end in a rumoured scene of the Extended Edition :D

    Like you, I found the Smaug opening to be absolutely wonderful. Personally, it is the best part of the film and most likely the most beautiful opening to any of the 6 Middle-earth films. To be honest, I was one of those who rooted for this scene to take place at the end of the second film. Whilst I could understand those who were opposed to such an idea – deeming it would be ridiculous to introduce and get rid of your main villain in one film – I thought that an opening with his death would lose the power and momentum gathered prior to his flight from Erebor.

    That said, I’m in love with the Forges sequence in The Desolation of Smaug (there, I said it!) and, as already stated, the attack on Lake-town in film 3 was spectacular. I can’t wait to see more of it in the Extended version :)

    As to the battle, I completely agree with Graham. The Thorin vs Azog fight felt too much apart from the main battle.

    I think that BOTFA suffers mostly in the middle of its third act (the climax basically). First off, PJ should have situated the whole Ravenhill fight in the midst of the battle – and whilst I can understand his intentions not to distract us with too much fighting, the whole sequence was lacking the punch we were promised through the course of 3 films.

    As for the battle rams, I am almost convinced we will get to see the Dwarf army charging on them in the EEs (as seen in the teaser trailer).

    With regards to Aragorn being 10 years old, I think it boils down to a slight discrepancy with the 60-year Hobbit/LOTR gap in the films and the 77-year gap in the books.

    PJ skipped the whole 17 years of Frodo in Bag End after the Long-Expected Party, and therefore one could argue that in PJ’s universe Aragorn was in his 20s during the time of The Hobbit.

    It’s all a bit confusing, but I still like your idea about potential films featuring the ranger’s adventures.

    (oh dear, I can’t seem to stop writing lengthy posts! Apologies …)

    • Emily
      January 25, 2015 at 4:17 pm

      Hm, those theories about Galadriel’s appearance are interesting. I would take issue with her looking wet because she’s using the Ring of Water, though. The Three Rings where never meant to be used as weapons, so it doesn’t make sense for her to be using Nenya’s power. Maybe the interviews on the DVDs will shed some light.

      That’s a good point about the 17-year gap that PJ left out. Did he really leave it out, though? Bilbo had aged considerably between his birthday and when Frodo saw him in Rivendell. Plus I distinctly remember Elijah Wood commenting that he had never played a 50-year-old before. But, then again, you do have Merry and Pippin at the party, so now I don’t know. Has PJ or Fran or Philippa ever stated that they skipped those 17 years? I can’t remember.

      • January 30, 2015 at 9:26 am

        After the lack of Dol Guldur behind-the-scenes in the DoS EE, I too am hoping we get some much-needed info on how this subplot was created.

        I think you’re right in that although the characters look the same, there’s no telling whether those 17 years passed or not. To be honest, I’m not sure whether it was ever mentioned by the filmmakers. I just took it for granted! :D

  3. Ron
    May 25, 2015 at 4:15 am

    Personally, I was very disappointed in all 3 installments of “The Hobbit”.
    I will preface this by saying that, yes, I am a bit of a Purist, and yes, I understand that a movie needs to maintain a faster pace than a book (with today’s audience especially)…so I understand diverging from the book….but why do so if it only takes away from the original story…shame on Peter Jackson.
    Bilbo’s angst and dark journey toward Gollum’s lair should have been delved into rather than a CGI version of “Mouse Trap” with comical Dwarves tumbling over bridges that swung up at just the right time – it made it look like a Middle Earth version of Kartoon Kops…designed for 7 yr olds.
    The rest of the movie took on a similar feel.
    Why??
    Why focus on tumbling Dwarves? Why invent Legolas in Laketown and Dwarves left behind?
    Why destroy the nervous tension of the Dwarves wondering where Smaug is, not knowing that he is dead? The action sequences of the Dwarves were no ggreater than what could have been Bard’s quandry when fighting the dragon.
    Was the original story, plot twists, and tension not good enough??
    This was LAZY production….resorting to gimmicks instead of being equal to the task of presenting the (much better) drama of the (actual) story.

    Even the treatment of the backstory was pedantic.
    Yes, it is a great backstory….great writers like Tolkien know that the Isle glimpsed from afar arouses more interest than a map of the island…but the makers of this movie insisted on choking us on the backstory, and even reinventing it in brain-numbing detail by the preponderance of new Orc Generals as major characters.
    Lazy, lazy; lazy.

    This movie looked like an over-budgeted version of “Zack and Cody go to Middle Earth”.
    Whoever wrote the screenplay was LAZY in his or her vision…choosing silly comedy-action sequences over necessary drama.
    This movie was made for 10 yr olds, by 10 yr olds, and clearly devalues not only a great story, but the adults who pay for a good movie. The 3 Hobbit movies are made like a Saturday morning kids’ cartoon…..like “Land of the Lost” with a budget.

    It was a 2nd go at the Tolkien franchise that turned out to be a cash cow…but whoever is responsible forgot the simple things that got them there with LOTR…a good movie with dramatic tension that doesn’t resort to gimmicls.

    • Emily
      May 30, 2015 at 10:44 pm

      While I don’t feel quite as strongly as you do, I generally agree. I remember my initial reaction to the first Hobbit movie was that Peter Jackson was given far more creative license than he had with LotR–which is why it suffered. PJ has a very odd imagination at times and he definitely went overboard at some points.

      I think if I had been at a different stage in my life, the Hobbit movies would have been an extreme disappointment. I feel oddly distant from them, so I can take the bad with the good. I think the casting was near perfection, for the most part. I admire the attempt (although I’m not wild about the execution) at handling all thirteen Dwarves and giving them recognizable personalities.

      I definitely agree that there was a lot of laziness involved. Or perhaps it what the team’s attempt to capture the lighter tone of [i]The Hobbit[/i] that LotR lacked?

  4. shree
    June 1, 2015 at 1:35 pm

    Galadriel turning evil is something great I found in the whole movie… I just want to ask that what is so creepy and bad about it? Things are quite clear – that she wielded Nenya ring of adamant/water; She was the most powerful elf (at current time of the scene); and most importantly she was confronting evil Dark Lord Sauron which was necessary for her to turn evil instead of standing in front of him like a beauty model; She turns evil not when she uses her power but when she confronts something evil. In FOTR she confronted the ring and in BOFTA she confronts Sauron; and yes she doesn’t turn evil when she uses her power; twice before confrontation she uses her power, 1st to throw down the orc and 2nd to order Radagast to leave, at that time she doesn’t turn evil.
    I do not understand what is the problem with her drowned hair look, it is just for an appearance to look horrible. I don’t think her drowned look must ever a discussion of criticism; and instead I would like to defend that thing by saying that when I saw the movie it appeared to me as if she has gathered all her possible power in her and henceforth her physical appearance has gone “stretched up” such as her darken lips, eyes, robes and most importantly believe me I never considered her hair to be drowned; it looked more like burnt and stretched. That was something interesting I found in movie. Any which ways, I like your thoughts about other stuff in the movie. :)

    • Emily
      June 1, 2015 at 9:37 pm

      I have to disagree with you about it being necessary for Galadriel to turn evil in order to confront the Dark Lord. One of the primary themes in LotR (although admittedly less so in The Hobbit) is that good must stay good in order to truly defeat evil–otherwise you end up with a Saruman or a Denethor.

      The core of my criticism is that her power is revealed to be ugly and/or horrifying. While I found her temptation scene in FOTR a trifle over-the-top, I definitely understood what PJ was portraying: Galadriel was showing what she would become if she took the Ring. I’m not saying she needs to be beautiful at all times (some would argue that she should be, as an Elf). However, I do find it odd that when other characters are revealed in power (Gandalf, particularly, but also Aragorn, Théoden, and others) there is nothing repulsive about them. Terrifying, maybe, as power often is, but not horrifying.

      I would be interested to hear more on why you thought this was an important thing to communicate. Why must she be similar to that which she is trying to defeat? I love hearing other people’s opinions. :)

      • shree
        June 2, 2015 at 3:13 am

        Thank you for the reply. I think your opinion or philosophy of good staying good is a great idea; and also the fact that you explained the difference between terrifying and horrifying :) but my simple opinion or point is that “sometimes” a person or a being goes into a temptation of anger just to defeat its enemy. I have seen, read in many folklore and cultural mythological books and sources, where decent people/creatures/gods of terrible power goes into a horrible form to defeat evil and I want to tell or ask you rather, which I didn’t mention in my earlier comment is that ‘is it necessary that if a person looks horrible he/she has to be EVIL? She was looking horrible because she wanted to show Sauron that how terrible she is.
        I felt the scene to be good because of simple policy that – good must be treated good and bad with bad. People are claiming that rings were never meant to be used as weapon, but I hope that people also know according to JRR Tolkien’s legendarium – on the year 3019, Nenya specifically was used by Galadriel to destroy Dol Guldur in the Battle of Dol Guldur; and when Lothlorien was thrice assaulted by Dol Guldur orcs; she used Nenya to keep Lothlorien safe. Yes rings were not meant for war but according to the sources Galadriel had used in the battle. I hope you understand my point now :) :D
        One more thing I want to add something different from Galadriel is — what about the Morgul blade story, I was kind of excited for it. Last time we saw the blade was in Rivendell, and all of a sudden we see the blade in the hand of Witch King again in the Dol Guldur attack, Can anyone explain me that?

        • Emily
          July 26, 2015 at 12:49 pm

          I’m sorry for the delayed response! I didn’t get an email about your reply and I’ve been sadly remiss in caring for this blog lately.

          I agree that there’s precedent for good people/creatures looking evil to defeat true evil. I don’t think it fits as well in Tolkien’s legendarium, though. I can’t recall any instance when Gandalf or Aragorn looked horrible. Terrible, and even terrifying, but not horrible/evil. I don’t object to the scene in and of itself–just in the context of Tolkien’s legendarium.

          I’m glad you brought up Galadriel using Nenya to tear down Dol Guldur–I had forgotten about that. Now I want to do more research into the use of the Elven Rings as weapons/defense. Elrond also used Vilya to defend Rivendell from the Nazgûl (in the books).

          I don’t remember the reference to the Morgul blade in BotFA, so I would have to re-watch the movie. My understanding was that “Morgul blade” was more of a generic term–like a broadsword or a rapier. That’s another area to research…

          • shree
            September 28, 2015 at 12:42 pm

            :) Thank you for the response ….though the fact that even I visited this blog after a very long time (finding a reply on my comment and truly enjoyed the discussion!

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