The Hobbit: The Battle of the Five Armies

Thursday was both a very exciting and a very sad day for me because I went to see a triple bill of The Hobbit, culminating in a midnight showing of the final instalment, The Battle of the Five Armies. It was a very long film viewing experience, but I hadn’t seen the previous two films since they were released at the cinema (I’m holding out on getting the DVDs until they’re released as an extended edition box set), so I thought a nice film marathon would refresh my memory and build up nicely to the final film. (I also hoped it would help me to finally be able to tell the dwarfs apart, but it was not to be. It’s very difficult when they all have plaited beards and very similar names!).

Goodness me, but it was epic! The first film did seem to go on for rather longer than I remembered, but the second one was so full of action that it flew by. And the third! It was over in a jiffy! I was home and in bed by 3am (not that I could sleep for ages, I was buzzing so much. That could have been due to all the jelly babies I ate though). I was on the edge of my seat, especially during the last two films, and I have to point out just how incredible the soundtracks were for the entire series, they really added to the whole experience.

A little surprisingly, Smaug the dragon was killed off very early into The Battle of the Five Armies. It seemed a little strange as pretty much the whole of the second film, The Desolation of Smaug, was centred around the dwarfs trying to work out how to defeat the dragon, but then he was disposed off very quickly, and actually rather easily really. The rest of the film focused on the dwarfs (well, Thorin, who turned into a bit of a dick) then trying to hang onto the mountain they’d reclaimed, and protect it from various peoples who’d heard the dragon had been killed and wanted to help themselves to a bit of the treasure. I wasn’t really sure how the rest of the film would be filled, as Bilbo gets knocked out in the book and misses the entire battle, but of course Peter Jackson gave us full view of a battle of truly epic proportions. I’m still not entirely sure exactly who the five armies are, and what counts as a separate army. Is it two orc armies, the dwarfs, the elves, and the people of Laketown? Or does Thorin’s band count, and either the orcs count as one, or the elves are combined with the people of Laketown? Surely thirteen dwarfs don’t make an army though? I was trying to keep track and count the armies as they appeared, but it all got a bit confusing and then war bats appeared, which threw me completely.

The battle itself was incredible. The effects were brilliant, but then we know from The Lord of the Rings how good Middle Earth battle sequences can be. It did get a bit daft in places, mainly when Legolas used a load of falling rocks as a sort of moving staircase to get to Bolg, but then he slides down a staircase using a shield as a skateboard on the bannister in The Two Towers, so maybe that’s just Legolas’ habit of being a show-off. He’s really not a very likeable character in the Hobbit franchise (and seems to have a much squarer head than in the days of Lord of the Rings), but then his dad’s a bit of a mean pillock and the girl he loves would rather be with a dwarf than him, which must be pretty insulting considering how much elves and dwarfs are meant to hate each other. At least we know he mellows later in life, when he befriends Gimli.

I was very concerned about watching this film, because having read the book I knew who was going to die, and as always it was some of my favourite characters. The book was upsetting enough (mainly because Bilbo woke up after the battle and we hear, almost as an aside, of Kili, Fili and Thorin dying), but I knew it would be worse in the film because Aidan Turner made Kili even more loveable, and then Tauriel was invented as a love interest to make it even more sad when Kili’s killed. The thought of it was making me very anxious, even though I didn’t know exactly when or how the three of them were going to die. It was very sad, especially poor Kili, but in a way it was even sadder that poor old Fili was sort of glossed over. He was killed very quickly and then sort of forgotten about, while Tauriel cried over Kili’s body and Bilbo cried over Thorin’s. Who cried over Fili’s?

Originally I wasn’t too sure about the idea of Tauriel being invented as a character, but I actually really liked her. Plus it would have been a bit of a sausage fest without her. Female characters were rather thin on the ground, but at least Tauriel and Galadriel got to be feisty, strong characters who could hold their own instead of being damsels in distress. It did annoy me that Bolg was killed by Legolas instead of Tauriel though. At least Galadriel got rid of Sauron, which was pretty cool, but does everyone just forget about him until The Lord of the Rings though? If they knew where he went, why did they just leave him to get stronger for sixty years? It seems a bit odd.

It makes me very sad to think that, after fourteen years, we’ve finally reached the end of the Middle Earth films. I love the Hobbit films, but for me they can never quite match up to The Lord of the Rings. I think it’s because Lord of the Rings has so much more in terms of plot and a greater variety of characters, plus it holds a lot of sentimental value for me. The Hobbit films were just as epic though, although they perhaps take themselves a little less seriously. They’re definitely much funnier. I especially enjoyed the character of Alfred in The Battle of the Five Armies, even though he was very daft and over the top, and Billy Connelly’s appearance as a gobby dwarf chief riding a war pig got probably the biggest laugh in the cinema. But one of the things I like most about the Hobbit trilogy is how it comes full circle, and it ends as it began with the build-up to Bilbo’s party, leading perfectly into The Lord of the Rings. I’ll have one hell of a marathon weekend watching all six films once all the extended editions have been released! It wraps up so tidily, Legolas is even sent off in search of Aragorn (Strider). I do still wish that they’d stuck with the original title of There and Back Again for the third film, but I suppose The Battle of the Five Armies was more appropriate for the actual content of the film. I just feel like it really would have come full circle with There and Back Again as the title. But I think one of the loveliest things about the wrapping up of The Battle of the Five Armies is the song for the closing credits, The Last Goodbye, which is very fittingly sung by Billy Boyd, and has a wonderful music video with footage from both The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings, saying goodbye to Middle Earth as a whole and to the cast and crew from both films. It’s a very touching way to finally end such a mammoth Tolkien adventure; I just wish it wasn’t the end.

See also The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey, The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug, A Very Mini Musing on The Hobbit, or read previous Film Review featuring Pitch Perfect.