It has been two years since Bilbo said, “I’m going on an adventure!” as he gleefully bounded out of the Shire, following after Gandalf and “quite a merry gathering” of dwarves. And here, we come to the end … of Biblo’s story, of Thorin’s, of Thranduil’s … but the beginning of the tale of The Lord of the Rings.
Like a lot of people, I was skeptical at the money-grab of dividing one short children’s book into three films. And having sat through the saga, I still believe two would have been enough … but that might have robbed us of some of the magnificent of this third installment, so maybe I should eat my words. The Battle of the Five Armies is, I think, the best of The Hobbit films. It has everything that made the first two entertaining (action scenes, humor, and memorable characters) but adds back in the heart and character development missing from last year’s installment. Some of my usual complaints remain intact … namely, I don’t think Peter Jackson knows when a film is long enough, and his battle scenes and one-on-one fights reflect this … but, all in all, I loved it.
Opening with the burning of Laketown was a nice idea; it sets the stage for immediate action, it exits the major villain of the former film in a dramatic fashion, and it paves the way for all the angst-ridden character stories that follow … it sees the rise of Bard as an unlikely leader, it brings the arrival of Thranduil (and all that entails … including family strife), and it shows us early signs of Thorin’s descent into insanity. He stands, not watching Laketown burn, but staring at the mountain … at the great doors … thinking of the treasure contained within. His heart is not with the screaming people of the town, reaping the disaster of his arrogance in challenging Smaug, but with the missing Arkenstone.
Thorin’s journey has been at the heart of the saga from the beginning, and this is the only film that truly brings that into focus, because it pivots on the change in him … in his descent, his redemption and then, finally, tragically, his death. Truly for me the most heart-breaking moment in the film was him laying in Bilbo’s arms, taking his last breath, as the tearful hobbit assures him that “The eagles are here!” It’s all right, Thorin. The battle is won! But … it is too late. He died heroically, but he still died. The wages of sin is still death, though like Boromir, he turned from the darkness at the end. It’s a nice reversal for that other scene, for this time it is a hobbit who cradles a king.
While so subtle that it might get lost at times in the overwhelming drama of five armies converging upon one place, the plot arc surrounding Thranduil also tugged on my heartstrings. The haughty, disdainful, even dislikable elven-king’s hardened exterior cracks to show us a glimpse of his true soul, of the immense fear of loss and the hatred of death that impacts many of his decisions. His break with Legolas is truly what undoes his pride; you can see it on his face, the intense injury done to him at the thought that Legolas will abandon him because of his behavior. Their reconciliation is a muddle of elven restraint, of things not said but generally understood, that bleeds into Thranduil’s conversation with Tauriel, as she holds her fallen dwarf love in her arms and cries for his loss. “Why does it hurt so much?” she asks the elven-king; and begs him to take her feelings from her. He refuses, and answers, “Because it was real.” The line speaks to a profound truth: if there is no pain in loss, the love itself was never genuine. We must feel loss, to know love.
And in that moment, we see Thranduil’s true heart. He forgives, and he understands, only when he sees Tauriel experiencing an emotion he knows all too well – loss, the loss of his wife, the immense yawning grief he has lived with ever since. That, to me, is more tragically romantic than any star-crossed elf-dwarf romance on screen. In a handful of lines, in a poignant look, is told a love story even more impacting than what unfolded on screen; but without Tauriel and Kili, we would never have seen it. It is these intense but repressed emotions that draw me so to the elves; that make me enjoy having them on screen, even if it is brief. The scene with Elrond and Galadriel was short too, but awesome. It ended so abruptly, with dangling threads, that I half suspect there is more to come in the extended edition. But it was fun to see Elrond deliver one of the best lines (“You should have stayed dead”) and leap in to defend Galadriel, who then turns on the full force of Nenya against the darkness, morphs into a “great and terrible queen,” and banishes Sauron into Mordor. Given her full-on Goth transformation, all I can say is … no wonder the dwarves think her a “great elf-witch.”
I love the scene preceding it, but I’m not sure how I feel about this interpretation of her; it seems dark, too dark… she looks evil though she is not, and I must wonder why. Is it the power of Nenya against the Dark Lord that transforms her appearance, or is it that she is reflecting evil while fighting it off? It puzzles me, and is the only element I’m uncertain of, but I thought the confrontation was done well. I hope there is more of it to come.
In terms of cinematic enjoyment, I think this may be my favorite of all six films. I liked the characterization and the emotional depth of it.
How did you feel about it?
Well, now that The Hobbit trilogy is complete, you’ll have to write “Watching the Hobbit with God”! After the extended edition comes out, of course.
You’re the second person in a week to bring that up. Maybe God is trying to tell me something. 🙂
I brought it up myself on one of your other blogs not long ago, but my name should have been the same on that blog as here. So if another person has also made that same suggestion, well, great!
Loved the review. I agree whole heartedly that it was the reflection onto other characters that dwarf/elf romance served best. I was surprised, and pleased how it was used in the end. Previously I was neutral, and amused, thinking that overall it was unnecessary. But like you said, had we not had this “romantic angle” in the story, we never would have seen such a glimpse into other truths and characters. Life itself is like that, and I’m intrigued when I find an element in a story that turns out to be something actually edifying, worth the previous annoyance or neutrality, whatever the case may be. That’s interesting storytelling. This has to be my favorite of the Hobbit films–close in second to The Return of the King. What incredible stories.
Gosh I can’t tell you how much I want to get into making movies myself. SO much to show people!
And about Galadriel–looking forward to more info on that as well. Really interesting aspect….
Glad you enjoyed this ending, Charity. I know it was basically the ONLY film you were anticipating this year. 🙂
Okay, some feelings for you… 🙂
I was really upset when I found out The Hobbit would be split into three parts and I’m massively relieved that these movies have turned out as well as they have!
When I rewatched DOS recently I wondered if it would have been better had they wrapped up all of the Smaug stuff in that movie but after seeing this one I think differently. The destruction of Lake-town made for a thrilling opening scene and I was glad that they gave Smaug some lines. I didn’t think he was going to have any lines at all in this one.
Richard Armitage is FANTASTIC! Martin Freeman is terrific in this movie too and it’s still definitely Bilbo’s story but I found Thorin’s story arc more moving and emotionally engaging. *sniffles*
Thranduil’s amused smirk after Dain Ironfoot insults him was so hot! *ahem*
The Dol Guldur scene was a spectacular action sequence. Yes, it was short but it was so awesome!
I really liked Tauriel’s character in DOS and I didn’t mind the Tauriel/Kili romance in that movie. The Feast of Starlight scene was one of the highlights of DOS for me and I thought the actors were cute together. Here it annoyed me. It bothered me that Kili died trying to save Tauriel instead of Fili or Thorin and – not only that! – that Tauriel still couldn’t save herself and had to get rescued by Legolas! The character and Evangeline Lilly deserved better than that. And I found the dialogue in Tauriel and Thranduil’s scene cringeworthy. Lee Pace and Evangeline Lilly are great actors but even they couldn’t save that scene for me. That scene would have been 1000x more moving with no dialogue at all, if they’d just let the actor’s facial expressions do all the work.
I’ve only seen this movie once so my feelings could change but at this moment in time DOS is still my favourite out of The Hobbit saga. I really enjoyed this movie on the whole though and I’ll probably be going back to see it in a couple of weeks 🙂
I think killing Smaug at the end of the last film would have been anti-climatic; it’s better that they had a powerful opening sequence in this one, and then went into a bunch of low-action, character-driven material before leading up to the big battle. Keeping Smaug alive in-between was smart on their part.
Richard Armitage’s performance really did steal this movie out from under everyone else. He was really magnificent. I loved the shift between his changing emotions … his insanity and doubt and then his redemption and humility.
Thranduil is … gorgeous. Enough said.
The fact that Tauriel needed to be saved by TWO guys did bother me a lot. If Eowyn could handle herself in Middle-earth, Tauriel should be able to — but not only did Kili have to run in and save her, Legolas had to finish the fight for her. I wanted to see her take down the orc! Give us some girl power! (I guess the girl power here was Galadriel … but even she needed back up with the Nazgul. Sigh.) But I can also see the opposing viewpoint: they needed a reason for Legolas to be in this movie, and giving him one of the two ending fights was it.
The dialogue between Tauriel and Thranduil didn’t bother me, because it had meaning behind it — the emotional weight behind it, their expressions, their heavy presence, took away from the lines themselves (which I did not find that cheesy, honestly). I liked it. So we’ll have to disagree there. I think they needed dialogue there, to repair the rift between them — Thranduil needed to connect emotionally with her and I’m not confident the audience would have totally understood with just a look between them. We needed that line from Thranduil, to understand why now he sees Tauriel differently — to remind us of his dead wife and his immense grief.
I really hope Richard Armitage will get more recognition after his performance in this because he completely deserves it. He deserves to be just as famous and critically-acclaimed as, say, Benedict Cumberbatch and Tom Hiddleston. So does Lee Pace. It shouldn’t be available on the Digital Theatre website until February but I’d strongly recommend checking out the Old Vic production of The Crucible that RA starred in. He’s magnificent in that as well!
“Enough said?” But what about how completely unphased Tnranduil was about Thorin pointing an arrow at him? Or his totally cool fight scene after the Elk got killed? Or when he asks Bilbo if it was him who helped the Dwarves escape and you think he might get angry but instead he’s just like “Oh okay, so it was you then. Cool. Just checking.” Hehe! 😀
I liked that Legolas got more to do in this movie but I think they could have quite easily given him something meaningful to do without him having to rescue Tauriel. We could have seen him giving orders out on the battlefield or saving the Bard’s kids or taking out those worms or something.
Oh dear, now you’re making me wonder if I have a heart! I’ll be interested to see if my reaction to the T/T scene is the same on my next viewing. It was those lines of Tauriel’s at the start of the scene that particularly bothered me: “If this is love I don’t want it! Please take these feelings away!” I found those lines embarrassing. I’m not even sure why.
In case I’m sounding really negative, I should probably add that I still enjoyed this movie QUITE a lot and I really enjoyed reading your take on it 🙂
Well, I would say that landing a role like Thorin to bring him international attention as an actor is a good beginning. I doubt he will be stuck doing just BBC stuff anymore. (Not that it isn’t good, but … he will get work outside England now.) Thanks for the recommendation; I’ll check out his play. (It’s nice they’re filming and distributing this stuff now.)
Thranduil has a snotty smile on his face most of the time that is just great. He’s a terrific character … an emotionally vulnerable elf underneath a cold exterior. I love buttoned up characters like that. Raging furnaces under ice formations, occasionally leaking a bit of emotion. So sexy.
We all have things that touch us or make us scoff at them. I happen to be a particularly soft touch sometimes, though I would deny it in public. 😉
I think Smaug should have gotten a little more speaking time. He’s one of the few things that makes the trilogy especially memorable.
That, he does. 🙂
He did get quite a lot of speaking time in the last film, though, which was nice.