December 15, 2014

The Battle of the Five Armies Initial Thoughts and Reactions (Spoiler-free!)

Wow.  What an amazing day.  Watching all three Hobbit movies in one of the country's largest IMAX theaters was an incredible experience.  After travelling there and back again I'm quite exhausted, but incredibly excited too.  Since I'm still in processing mode sleep isn't coming easily.  So, instead I'll try to write down some of my initial thoughts about the last film, The Battle of the Five Armies.  But don't worry, this post will be movie-spoiler free (i.e. If you don't know the general plot of the book you may want to stay away).

     Can I say it again?  Wow.  After waiting all year long to pick up from where The Desolation of Smaug left off I had pretty high expectations, but they were met and surpassed in so many ways.  That's not to say I liked everything in the film, far from it!  Much of this post will actually be about my negative reactions to the movie.  Yet, despite its flaws it was still a fantastic conclusion to the Middle-earth Saga.

     The parts that stuck true to the book were expertly pulled off by everyone involved, especially the actors.  I'm mainly referring to Richard Armitage's portrayal of Thorin.  His dramatic fall was dark, powerful, emotional, and even downright frightening at times.  Martin Freeman must be mentioned again as well.  His performance as Bilbo has been a joy to witness these past few years.

     Smaug's descent upon Lake-town was a real highlight.  With impressive performances from Bard (and his family) and some huge, sweeping camera movements, it was definitely one of my favorite parts of the film.

     The White Council's assault upon Dol Guldur was also a treat.  While a bit short, it too was expertly delivered.  When Peter Jackson said Galadriel would "lose it" in this film he really meant it!

     The titular battle itself was very character-centered.  I didn't think it necessarily had quite the "epicness" of Helm's Deep or the Siege of Gondor, but it was much more emotional.  (Remember to bring lots of tissues!)  However, this brings up my first quibble.  While I really enjoyed the focus on the characters rather than having just a ton of really big fight scenes for 45 minutes, I would argue against the specific characters they chose to center on.  Legolas and Tauriel have an awfully big part to play.  This is the Company's quest and I thought, with the exception of 5 dwarves and Bilbo, they had too little screen presence in the final acts.  While still on the topic of the battle, there were a few moments that were a bit really overdone (often involving Legolas), but aside from a small handful of these "roll-your-eyes" moments it was brilliant.

     Once the battle wrapped up it didn't take long for the credits to roll.  Thankfully, many of the concluding scenes from the book were kept along with a great transition into The Lord of the Rings.

     In general, it was undoubtedly paced a lot faster than any of the other Middle-earth films.  It was incredibly exciting, but left me, as a self-admitted Tolkien geek, wanting more.  Along with the dwarves, as I mentioned earlier, I would have liked to see a lot more Beorn and Dain.  Some loose ends regarding other items and characters (e.g. Bard) could've been more satisfactorly tied up without compromising the excitement of the earlier acts.  But I guess I'll just have to wait for the Extended Edition.  Hopefully it will come before November 2015!  I don't think I can wait that long! :-)

     As I said before, despite its flaws it is still an amazing conclusion to the Middle-earth Saga.  Is it the best of the Hobbit films?  Hmm. I don't think I can honestly answer that yet.  I'm still processing the whole thing!  In many ways I think it is.  Being a much tighter and more exciting film it will please the average movie-goers and I think it's more faithful to the book in some aspects (there are loads of embellishments, but not as many outright contradictions or changes compared to DOS).  In the end I highly, highly recommend seeing it.  It'll be receiving many repeat viewings from me.  Watch the first two beforehand if you get the chance and bring lots of tissues!      

What did you think of it though?  Please feel free to comment below, but please leave out any specific spoilers or at least leave sufficient warning for those who have yet to see the film!


  1. I just watched the movie today! I'm literally just about to post my take on it on my blog, Pendragon. I was looking for photos to use in my post and that's how a found you. Reading your post was a breath of fresh air. Just got finished with reading some really negative takes on the movie, and now I just want to hit them over the head, because they obviously were lost on some very core aspects and OBVIOUSLY never read the BOOK! Good grief that really gets under my skin! The power of the last movie is agree, its emotional power. What a whopper. (To put it irreverently). I'm heartbroken that it's all over. I LOVE Thorin and Bilbo's relationship. Friendships are the best stories, in my opinion. You can change background, circumstances, worlds--but everything meaningful comes down to our fellow man and what we believe in. What a gutting movie...I will admit I had to wipe away a couple tears. I was never a fan of Tauriel and Kili's love story, but in the end I cared about them, especially considering how it served the story in its little way. But I really agree that they have left a LOT of loose ends, and I can't wait for the extended edition!! And there was way too little of Beorn. Honestly. And Smaug killed before the title? Did not expect that! I think a bit more would have served better. He was so impressive, he deserved the prolonged presence and effect. I did like how he effected people even after he was dead. The mark of a brilliant villain. One who speaks truths.

    I will be following you!

  2. The movie was pretty good, but a little less than I expected. They cut Smaug's part way short. Also they made everybody cover vast distances way too quickly. The Elven and Dwarven formations were awesome. You only saw Beorn for five seconds��. Alfred was ridiculous. It was great when Thorin "drowned" Azog. They did a great job with the Nazgul. The orcs were way more organized than they should have been. They did a good job of making the dragon sickness slowly build up on Thorin.

    1. Interesting thoughts Nathan. I don't think there was much they could've added to the opening Smaug sequence, but you're right about distances. The geography in all six films has been a little confusing a times.

      I haven't heard anyone else discuss the orc army organization. Personally, I actually really liked that part, showing how orcs can be far more dangerous and intelligent than one might think. They were not like that in the book ("they came on like a tide in fury and disorder") and overwhelming numbers were their advantage, but I think it's a change necessitated by The Lord of the Rings. Orcs seem much more intelligent in LotR, especially in the film. Furthermore, by making the antagonists much smarter it made the battle more intense. Yes, a rushing horde of goblins running through the valley would be scary, but an army directed by an intelligent, calculating general is far worse. It makes them more of an equal adversary to the Free Peoples and that was something needed to be done in light of Tolkien's larger world.

      On a more practical note, having the signal on top of the hill was really ingenious. During medieval and even colonial times it's not exactly known how information was transferred during battle or how commanders kept order and directed the troops during the ensuing melee (if they were able to at all). The signal provided a logical, practical method of moving troops around on the battlefield and drew upon sources from antiquity and from the book. It's thought that flags and standards were a key in maneuvers and as the goblin army comes storming down the mountainside in the book they carry countless banners of black and red.

    2. The reason I mentioned Orc army organization is because in most of the battle books I read, the side with the best formation wins. Also formations tend to give a greater advantage than superior numbers(Crecy, Bannockburn, etc.)

  3. I just got to see the film a few days ago, and my largest thought is that if I were naming the movie, I would call it The Bowman instead of The Hobbit

    Once I got over the (I think) ridiculous added plot, I could really appreciate the movie. It was amazing, inside the bounds of their own invented not-really-side-plot.

    1. Interesting thoughts Jake. I thought Bard's role in this last chapter was really accurate to the book. Yes, they added his family and all that, but I think they added those extra things to Bard's character so we could sympathize more with the men of Lake-town. We get to know the Elvenking and the dwarves quite well, but I don't think the story and plight of the displaced Lake-town residents could have meant much to audiences without spending some time with some of their characters. Since they were able to explore Bard and the people the tense standoff is much more dramatic and engaging for the viewer because the audience has developed close connections with each of the three races, elves, men, and dwarves. The use of Alfred though was overdone. He kind of took over the role of the Master in the book and provided foil to Bard and even Thorin (in the case dragon-sickness), but some of his scenes were just too much. I would have gladly traded one or two of those for Thorin's funeral.