A Fitting End – The Hobbit: The Battle of the Five Armies

I saw the light fade from the sky

On the wind I heard a sigh

As the snowflakes cover my fallen brothers

I will say this last goodbye

 

Warning!  The Hobbit films spoilers ahoy!

So at last, we’ve come to the end of this long road that we started in 2001.  Over the weekend, I saw the final movie in The Hobbit trilogy, and I thought that I would share my thoughts and reflections about it and it being the conclusion to the rest of the Peter Jackson movies about Middle Earth.  The Hobbit: The Battle of the Five Armies is most likely the last movie that we will see for a long time that tells a tale from Middle Earth, and almost certainly the final movie that Peter Jackson and this cast will make about this world.  It was a long journey, full of struggle, comradery, and loss, and it was one that I enjoyed thoroughly.  I will certainly miss this world, but am glad that the films exist and I can go and visit whenever I like.

So, first off, I really enjoyed the final film.  The Hobbit: TBotFA was an excellent note to go out on, and Peter Jackson should feel proud of all he’s accomplished.

The first film, The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey, was a lackluster affair.  While enjoyable overall, the film had a real identity crisis, unable to find the right mix of ridiculous, frightening, and exciting.  It bounced from feeling to feeling, trying to understand itself and not ever quite getting there.  It also could probably have lost about 30 minutes, easily, and been better for it.

Even the poster seems unsure of itself

Even the poster seems unsure of itself

The second film, The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug, was much better, in my opinion.  It found a more appropriate balance with regards to adventure, menace, and the more light-hearted tomfoolery.  Granted, there were some over-the-top moments, but even scenes such as the barrel chase or running from the dragon were, for the most part, really well executed.  They were exciting, damn fun at moments, and put our heroes in peril, which is a big part of an adventure movie.

"Ugh, that's not like the book." -People who prefer short, boring scenes where nothing happens.

“Ugh, that’s not like the book.” -People who prefer short, boring scenes where nothing happens.

Then we come to the final film in the trilogy, The Hobbit: The Battle of the Five Armies.  This is easily my favorite film in the series and I’m glad that Peter Jackson finished the epic tale of Middle Earth in such fine form.

The first thing that I appreciated about this film was that it picked up exactly where the second film left off, with the monstrous dragon Smaug attacking Lake Town.  I had been worried that they wouldn’t get to this for some time in the film, perhaps using flashbacks or telling what another character was doing in order to draw out the time before we get to Smaug.  Nope!  Boom, right from the get-go, fire and death, baby!  He comes roaring into town and just ruins everyone’s day.  I was going back and forth in my head about whether they should have put this at the end of the second movie or not, but I’m pretty sure that I like it how it is.  The cliffhanger ending of the second movie was slightly annoying at the time, but even when I saw it in theaters, I loved Bilbo’s “What have we done?”.  It was a great moment, the realization that they possibly have doomed every resident of Lake Town through their actions.  Then the third movie finally arrives and the dragon kicks things off with an incredible attack scene, and both films are the better for it.  Smaug certainly delivers on his claim of being fire and death.

Dragon attack!  How every movie should begin.

Dragon attack! How every movie should begin.

The death of the dragon is the catalyst for the five armies making their way to the lonely mountain.  The elves, the dwarves, the humans, and 2 separate orc armies all want a piece of the treasure contained in the mountain.  Thorin refuses to give the humans and elves what they claim, as he is succumbing to madness, caused by greed and desire for the Arkenstone.  It is a recurring theme in these movies, an item driving a person mad, and I wonder if the madness that Thorin is suffering from is akin to what affects Gollum and later, Bilbo.  He turns on his friends, refuses help, and craves only his riches, specifically the Arkenstone.  It’s interesting to note that the madness only seems to happen to Thorin’s bloodline, however, as almost no others are afflicted in the same manner.  Can the Arkenstone choose who it latches onto?  I bet Tolkien wrote, like, three books about it.

In this film, we also see Galadriel unleash some of her power that was only hinted at in previous movies.  I don’t know why, but this scene felt like a bit of a misstep.  They used the same strange discoloration that they used in the Fellowship of the Ring, and I felt that it looked strange even then.  I guess maybe they wanted to make her seem more intimidating?  Or perhaps convey that when she uses her strength, it has its own dangers?  Or that her powers are of a somewhat sinister nature, and when she used them it changes her somehow?  I don’t know, I’m not as well-versed in Tolkien lore to know if that’s the case, but either way, I think that was a little silly looking in both instances, and undermined the great performance that Cate Blanchett gives.  I think a subtler approach might have worked better, or even a completely different one altogether.  The rest of the rescue scene was great, however.  Seeing Saruman and Elrond kick some Nazgul ass?  Thrilling.  But Elrond and co. just accepting that Saruman has the whole Sauron thing covered…kind of weak.  Not gonna follow up and that at all, Elrond?  Just gonna assume it’s taken care of?  Okie dokie, then.

I, uh, can't believe this happened!

Sauron’s back?!  I, uh, can’t believe this happened!

Then we get to the namesake of the film, The Battle of the Five Armies.  While not quite on the level of the Battle of Pelennor Fields, Jackson made us really feel this fight.  The dwarves, humans, and elves all suffer through the battle, which lasts a good portion of the film.  They are vastly outnumbered, fighting on several fronts, and endure many casualties.  It barely seems that anyone survives the battle, their numbers are so diminished at the end.

One thing that did bother me a little was that the humans were able to defend themselves at all.  They were all poor fishermen who were underfed and exhausted.  Really, the orcs should have just rolled right over every single one of them without any problem, but the humans were able to fight off throngs of them.  I guess it’s about human perseverance, but it didn’t really play out on screen plausibly.  Not a huge complaint, as a slaughter of humans would have been kind of a bummer, but there it is anyways.

It had been a long time since I had read the book, so honestly, the loss of Fili, Kili, and Thorin all came as a surprise to me.  Fili and Kili were especially sad, having fallen into a trap which Bilbo wasn’t able to prevent from happening.  And poor Kili, being too dead to get with Tauriel.  Though, I felt that their romance was still a little half-baked, and Thranduil’s line about their love being “real” wasn’t truly earned, but it’s a small gripe.  It was still incredibly sad and I felt Tauriel’s pain in the moment.

And I feel yours, Kili.

And I feel yours, Kili.

The fight between Thorin and Azog was really well done, though my complaints about how the orcs should have been men in costume and makeup still holds true.  The CGI orcs just haven’t resonated with me as the live ones did in The Lord of the Rings.  However, I will say that the CGI orcs do look as great as any CGI characters have so far.  It’s fantastic work, truly.  I just feel that if they had gone the other way it probably could have felt more real.  But I’m also not on set nor the director, so I’m sure they did what they felt was best for the film.  Either way, the fight was great, with Thorin outwitting Azog, then Azog outwitting Thorin, then the last moments where they are simply struggling with one another before fatally wounding each other were tense and tragic.  Thorin’s sacrifice was noble, struggling with his madness before ending his journey by leading his people and ultimately dying for their victory.

thorin & co

He came through for his boys

By the end of the film, I was truly sad when Bilbo had to leave his dwarven friends.  He had helped them regain their home and I felt for him when he wanted to simply slip away.  Goodbyes are hard, and sometimes you want to avoid the pain of departing.  I’m sure that Peter Jackson felt the same way, finishing this movie.  He was ready to rest, but saying farewell is not without its own cost.  I found myself not wanting to leave the theater and sitting through all the credits, enjoying the drawings that were displayed and listening to the beautiful music.  “The Last Goodbye” is a sorrowful, gorgeous song written and performed by Billy Boyd, and it caps off the film series perfectly.

The Hobbit: The Battle of the Five Armies was not a perfect film, nor is it better than the Return of the King, but it is the best of The Hobbit movies and a high note to end the adventures in Middle Earth.  To Peter Jackson and everyone who worked on The Hobbit films and The Lord of the Rings films:

I bid you all a fond farewell.

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