I had joined the RA Fan gals in Chicago December 20th to see “The Hobbit: The Battle of the Five Armies” (THBOFA). But I wanted to see it at least one more time before I put my reactions to paper–other than to say that I loved it! And yesterday, December 27th, my husband and I went to see the film together in our hometown. So what follows are my impressions, and then his impressions about the film. I haven’t read his comments before making mine, so it will be interesting to see where we agree or disagree, and which parts we liked best. So on to my review.
***Note, major plot spoilers!***
I have to say that viewing THBOFA the second time around was even more visually stunning because my husband and I were able to see it in Real 3D, HFR. And though it was not an IMAX theatre, we were sitting only about ten rows back dead center–so our peripheral vision still had the elements on the screen in its sights. In general, this format is so lush and painterly–and Sir Peter Jackson subtlely uses the 3D for effect to perfection–it felt as if we were in the action and that we could reach out and touch the characters.
The Battle of the Five Armies (THBOFA) film begins with the dragon Smaug burning up Laketown, the citizens fleeing pell mell through the city’s waterways, and Bard the Bowman ending up using a very big and pointy iron arrow to bring down the dragon. Luke Evans as Bard did a very credible job as the father of three everyman turned hero, saving the day.
Of course, the mayhem by Smaug was caused by the Dwarves of Erebor who ticked him off at the end of the second movie, The Desolation of Smaug (THDOS). That was a case of the Dwarves monumentally misjudging their ability to kill the dragon with the molten gold Smaug coveted. But in ThBOFA, the Dwarves and especially their leader Thorin Oakenshield, King Under the Mountain–portrayed mesmerizingly by the exquisitely talented British actor Richard Armitage –are busy trying to find the Arkenstone amongst the mounds of gold in the treasure hoard. Needle in hay stack? Try needle in a field of haystacks. Thorin’s overriding consuming goal is to find the Arkenstone, the king’s jewel, that will bestow upon him his “right to rule” [below]. And nothing will sway him from seeking it.
And therein lies the crux of Thorin’s problem, his dragon sickness problem–played with subtle nuanced perfection by Richard Armitage. Thorin is a study in paranoia [(x)], him believing that the Arkenstone has been found, but taken by one of his comrades who is withholding it from him. Thorin is hostile, views others with suspicion, and makes impossible commands to test loyalty–such as wanting the Dwarves to throw Bilbo over the parapet. Heck, I couldn’t blame Thorin. But as King, Thorin needed to be wise, calm, honorable, and unruffled. Oops!
And the Arkenstone had been taken–so Thorin isn’t that paranoid. As the saying goes, “Just because you’re paranoid, it doesn’t mean that people aren’t out to get you.” But Thorin does not guess that it is Bilbo the Hobbit who has taken it. I ask myself, why would Thorin think that his Dwarven comrades–and his family in Fili and Kili–would betray him before thinking that the relative stranger (and other species) Bilbo has done the deed? Frankly, Bilbo–portrayed deftly by Martin Freeman–has his suspicious moments. But no one seems to suspect that Bilbo has betrayed them. Even though Thorin was very suspicious of Bilbo in THDOS [right], that didn’t seem to carry through into the third film.
However, these Dwarves have been with Thorin for decades. Might it be that familiarity has bred contempt amongst the Dwarves? And could Thorin’s gratefulness to Bilbo at the end of the first film [right], The Unexpected Journey (THAUJ)–wherein Bilbo saves Thorin from being killed by an Orc–have deluded Thorin into thinking that Bilbo is above suspicion? Only Tolkien knows, because he wrote it.
Of course, Thorin’s mistrust of others is cemented by the Elven King Thranduil–deliciously menacing and Machiavellian as portrayed by the very tall Lee Pace–who brings an army to wrest some gems from the mountain. But Thorin recognizes they are trying to manipulate him and declares war [ below] on men, on Elves, on anyone who wants to take his gold.
Has Thrandy gone off his nut, too? The viewer is left to fill in the gaps about why Thranduil cares so much about the gems. Had they been intended for his wife before she was killed? Because we all squirmed during that closing Father-son chat that Thranduil had with Legolas, telling him that his mother loved him. What does that have to do with the price of eggs? And let’s talk about Legolas. For Orlando Bloom now being 15 years older in real life than when he began his Middle Earth journey with filming the Lord of the Rings trilogy of films, he is certainly spry and fleet of foot–grabbing bat ankles, lobotomizing trolls into toppling towers, and leaping up a collapsing walkway before he hurtles to the ground. Legolas isn’t an Elf, he’s a miracle walker.
And Legolas’ supposed love for Tauriel that fanned in the second film, THDOS, seems to have cooled to a few statements of protectiveness about her in THBOFA. And I did not sense heat emanating from him to her. Don’t Elves kiss? A scene with Legolas trying to persuade Tauriel that he is the better man/Elf/Dwarf–over Kili–would have been priceless! And you know Kili would step up to that challenge. So there could have been a kiss off contest. I think Kili would have won that. Of course at that point, Tauriel had already switched her heart’s allegiances to the “tall for a Dwarf” Kili–heir to the House of Durin–anyway. And her pain at Kili’s death is very palpable. What I didn’t get was Thranduil trying to go all Dr. Phil on her and explain why she hurt–“because it was real.” Yeah, that remark will go down in the annals of advice giving.
Reflecting upon the other Dwarves, we had the main characters with speaking roles and the others relegated to the background. Both Balin and Dwalin try to get through to Thorin about his dragon sickness. It is heartbreaking and chilling to watch Thorin tell Dwalin to leave before he kills him [right]. You want to see betrayal, Thorin? That’s it, right there. Dwalin had followed you faithfully and you throw him away. And then there is Balin–whom I had always viewed as Thorin’s touchstone and anchor about the past, the present, and the future. Balin was the voice of reason–until BOFA. Why would Balin tell Bilbo that Thorin finding the Arkenstone wouldn’t help him? If Thorin was searching feverishly for the Arkenstone, finding it would help alleviate that worry. Sure, Thorin would still be a gold hoarder. But maybe there was a Middle Earth equivalent for an interventionist that might have helped him. Because Gandalf the Grey was too preoccupied with the forces of evil to reign in Thorin any time soon.
And Richard Armitage’s insightful comment in several interviews that Thorin hadn’t made plans beyond reclaiming Erebor–helps in understanding Thorin’s illness and the reason why he won’t bargain with Elves and Men [(x) below]. Because once Thorin had reclaimed Erebor, he was without a purpose–which allowed the dragon sickness to take hold. Yet Thorin redeems himself in having an internal monologue about his dragon sickness and him not wanting to be like his grandfather. These scenes going inside Thorin’s mind were extremely well done–by Richard Armitage and Sir Peter Jackson. I really got the sense that Thorin overcame his demons by finally listening to his Dwarven friends counsel in his mind. And when Thorin emerged from the chaos of his mind to ask the Dwarves if they will follow him “one last time”, you knew that for Thorin it was all or nothing now. He wasn’t defending the lump of rock called Erebor–nor the gold that was piled within–anymore. Thorin was defending the right for his people to exist–to prevent their extinction, which was Azog’s intent. With the Elves and men and other Dwarves turning their attention to the Orcs overrunning them, it seemed fitting that Thorin would lead the charge into battle.
And though I knew the ending was coming, Thorin’s and Kili’s and Fili’s deaths still affected me deeply. The first viewing, I wept tears streaming down my face. This weekend, my tears were tempered but still present–though much fewer tissues were needed. Thorin died nobly–taking out his enemy Azog first. Thorin sacrificed himself in that instant–letting Azog’s blade pierce his body. And then Thorin stabbed the snake Azog and killed him. By the way, did anyone notice the symbolism of Azog’s body gliding under the ice as being similar to the hallucinatory dragon slithering under the gold floor at Erebor? I thought that was a nice little bit of parallel symbolism.
The only thing that I wish had been added to THBOFA was a Viking like funeral scene for Thorin. I wanted to see Thorin interred deep in the mountain and the Arkenstone placed over his chest [Dec2914, see updated illustration below by Seraphim, Thanks to RAFrance for the link]. Maybe I will get my wish in the extended cut dvd. If Sir PJ felt that his running time was going too long, he could have easily cut back on the Bilbo ending. Although Bilbo finding his hankie that he left behind was touching, the links being made to the next film trilogy –60 years hence seemed stilted. Instead, Thorin needed to be valorized properly–not tossed off with a mention that his funeral would happen later. And I say this not only for Thorin, but also for the man Richard Armitage who portrayed him so valiantly–flaws and all. Bravo!
With all of the above said, it is merely me thinking out loud. I am not a Tolkien expert. I didn’t watch the film more than two times and I’m sure that I have missed some nuances. But these are my reactions at this point in time–that this complex film about very flawed people was compelling and riveting. I loved it!
P.S. That Benny Hill like transgender dress up moment by Elfrid–with the gold coins in his oversized bra–was off the charts bizarre and seemed like a lame attempt at comic relief. Though Mr. Gage played it with gusto, that scene could have definitely been cut. I’m ducking now.
Grati’s Hubby’s Review (Thanks!)
I am reviewing the Third “Hobbit “motion Picture, Battle of the Five Armies. I was favorably impressed by the treatment of the literature, although liberties were taken with the original work, it was a good adaptation. In the two previous films, Martin Freeman led the cast, but in this one, Richard Armitage, propelled by events in Middle-Earth history, takes center stage, as well he should.
I thought Richard Armitage brought a subtlety to this role, which would have been quite easy to play quite broadly, and to the back of the house. Well done that. I also thought Sir Peter Jackson’s direction was a little better in terms of pace and editing. He has tackled a tough task with seeming ease and aplomb. Howard Shore has also done a fine job with the musical scoring, truly getting to the point of really doing a fine job of coinciding the score and plot point in a truly fine fashion. I saw The Shape of Things to Come (1936)a few weeks ago, and was much impressed by the parallels between Sir Arthur Bliss’ arrangements and composition for that film, and Mr. Shore’s work in this one. A fine score, and good arrangement.
I also thought the battle scenes were quite well staged, and unlike any films that have gone before. I saw this film in 3-D HFR, or high frame rate, and it did a fine job of adding a weight to the battle scenes, as well as a reality to the CGI characters not often seen in such films. However real you see Middle Earth as being, whatever you think of Tolkien’s works, this film has done a good job of presenting it, and some higher moral and ethical issues involved with it. It is more than just CGI and 3-D. It is a timeless story with some real meat on its bones. It is well represented here. I can give it a solid approval, and tell you that it is well worth seeing.