The Hobbit: BOTFA Full Review!

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Scene by scene analysis of ‘The Battle of the Five Armies’

Warning: Spoilers ahead

Having just seen the last film for a third time, I think I am prepared to tackle the pleasurable, if arduous, task of writing an in-depth review.

I have roughly followed the soundtrack listing of each scene to keep a consistent and chronological structure to the writing.

Suffice to say, this is quite a lengthy review …

Fire And Water

Given how The Desolation of Smaug ended, it felt appropriate that we should immediately revisit the tense moments prior to Smaug’s fury over Lake-town.

Peter Jackson has ditched the long-standing tradition of a prologue at the start of a Middle-earth film and opted to open this final installment with a fiery sequence that would make Dante’s Inferno blush with shame.

This is probably one of the best openings to any of the six Middle-earth films: a terrifying and gripping sequence that collates technical mastery, music composition and character performance, all in 10-minute blast.

Bard vs Smaug

It is a testament to Jackson’s skills as a fantasy director; but the highlights occur during the quietest of moments: the careful camera shots on the characters’ faces prior to the dragon’s approach, the swooping sound of wings, the shadows on the rooftops, the foreboding sense of approaching menace.

In addition, we are provided with further insight into the character of Bard: particularly the relationship with his son, Bain.

A gripping moment prior to his triumphant deed, sees Bard comforting his son against the oncoming wrath of the dragon.

This is what makes Peter Jackson stand out as a fantasy director above the rest: the ability to balance extraordinary action sequences with emotional impact.

Shores Of The Long Lake

One can clearly see how influential the opening scenes of Saving Private Ryan were in the execution of this scene.

The much-missed New Zealand landscape makes a triumphant return to replace the restricting spaces of greensceens.Tauriel and Legolas (Shores of Laketown)

Several wide-shots of survivors scrambling onto the fog-enshrouded shores enforce the wonders of the real within a fantastical world: opting for hundreds of extras in a real environment instead of CGI wizardry – something that is so synonymous with the beauty of The Lord of the Rings.

Yet again, Bard’s character is given the necessary importance as he becomes leader of the Lake-town people.

Luke Evans’s performance shines through as he immerses himself completely in the travails of his character.

We are also introduced to the much-loved (by some) – and hated (by others) – love triangle between Kili, Tauriel and Legolas. It’s all platonic and up-in-the-air so far, but it makes you think that this valuable screen-time could have been used for more important matters.

Beyond Sorrow And Grief

Meanwhile, the four dwarves left behind in Lake-town have been reunited with the rest of the Company, and have witnessed the decline of their leader’s mental state.Troubled Thorin (gold)

As Thorin gazes upon the wealth of his people, he becomes more aggressive, greedy and suspicious in search of the Arkenstone. Coming across as a troubled Shakespearean character, it is Richard Armitage who stands out in this third film.

His performance as the dwarf king stricken by dragon sickness is breathtaking, and one that does full justice to the book’s version of the character, if not more memorable.

Indeed, watching the entire Hobbit trilogy, you are able to witness the evolution of Thorin’s character as a complete story arc, on par with that of Bilbo’s. This scene is one of several in this film that proves it.

Guardians Of The Three

For the past two films, the Dol Guldur subplot has been building up to this moment.

In The Desolation of Smaug we learnt the true nature of the Necromancer via a nail-biting scene which saw Gandalf bravely (if foolishly) taking on Sauron himself.

Suffice to say, expectations for the resolution of this storyline were high.

Unfortunately, the so-called “attack on Dol Guldur” (as this sequence was affectionately called by fans) results in no more than a couple of minutes of screen-time.

Still, what it lacks in length it makes up for sheer creepiness and atmospheric intensity. Originally introduced to filmmaking via Horror, Peter Jackson mastered this genre in his first few films prior to The Lord of the Rings.

Dol Guldur (Ringwraiths)

The setting of the ruined fortress is, quite frankly, unsettling (as it should be).

Cate Blanchett, once again, nails the performance of the Elf queen with a gracefulness that defies human acting.

But the real highlight of this scene is Elrond’s and Saruman’s confrontation against the Ringwraiths. Powerful flashes and fluent sweeping strokes, inter-cut with Galadriel and Gandalf’s tender connection, creates an edge-of-your-seat moment as one eagerly expects the tide to turn with the presence of Sauron himself.

Unfortunately, the promised confrontation between the Dark Lord and Galadriel results in an epileptic-inducing series of back-and-forth flashes that are more reminiscent of a mental battle, rather than a physical.

Which is fair enough. But it seems odd that Jackson, known for this love of action sequences, would miss the chance of a blow-to-blow conflict and instead replace it with a jarring attempt at a “psychological” struggle.

All this is not helped by the so-called “nuclear Galadriel”, as she unleashes her wrath against Sauron.

It would have improved the overall scene had her physical appearance been more akin to the powerful elf queen in The Fellowship of the Ring, rather than creep-girl Samara from The Ring.

It seems as if Jackson mixed his rings somewhere.

That said, this is a stirring sequence and brilliantly foreshadows the return of Sauron and the War of the Ring seventy years later.

The Ruins Of Dale

Finally, we get to see the wonderful set that the folks over at Stonestreet studios laboriously worked on for months.

Dale made its major appearance way back in An Unexpected Journey: a breathtaking city of men in all its glory – only to be decimated by Smaug a few moments later.

The people of Lake-town, under the cares of Bard, have settled amid the ruins: hoping to find appropriate shelter and an end to their misery.

Their need for provisions is relieved by the arrival of Thranduil and his army who, in the elf king’s usual arrogance, assures us that his primary concern is to Thranduil on his elkreclaim the white gems in Erebor.

It is from this moment that Peter Jackson starts to weave in the political intricacies that will lead to the struggle for the wealth of Erebor.

Ridding themselves of the obstacle of Smaug, the way is paved for the story to cleverly build upon previously-established tensions that will result in the Battle of the five armies.

Yet again, it’s great to see such an extensive physical set in this trilogy with only the barest hint of CGI in the background. This is the Middle-earth we fall in love with in The Lord of the Rings.

Bard in Dale (Elven Army)

Story-wise, the tensions between Elves, Men and Dwarves intensifies. At the same time, it becomes apparent that Alfrid’s role as the comic relief will be more extensive than previously thought.

Not a bad thing, considering Ryan Gage (a theatrical actor) delivers a convincing performance – but unfortunately, he seems to occupy more screentime than Bilbo does.

The Gathering Of The Clouds

Whilst the three races are at each other’s throats, unbeknownst to them, Azog is marching his forces towards Erebor: intent on carrying out his Master’s orders to take hold of the Mountain. At the same time, he dispatches Bolg to lead a second host from Gundabad: the main orc stronghold in the North.

Once more, it would appear that Jackson has been making extensive use of on-location filming, as the camera sweeps round the breathtaking views of New Zealand’s lush plains – currently being trampled on by thousands of realistically-rendered CGI orcs: with Azog riding his monstrous warg at their head.

The scenes continues to build on the rising tension, as the different characters with their own aims, make their way towards Erebor.

In a way, The Battle of the Five Armies is a strategy film that cleverly sets in play the political and geographical aspects of Middle-earth; an unsettling quiet before the storm.

Mithril

The lack of Bilbo in this third film has been noticed by most people: even those who were not familiar with the book.

And whilst we hope for more of the hobbit in the Extended cut, thankfully, Martin Freeman’s performance radiates on screen whenever his character has any dialogue.

Pit Freeman’s innocent persona against Armitage’s declining royalty and you get this deeply moving and gripping moment.

THE HOBBIT: THE DESOLATION OF SMAUG

As Thorin rewards Bilbo with a mithril vest (of important significance in The Lord of the Rings), the dwarf begins to suspect his own Company of stealing the Arkenstone.

Using Smaug’s words to Bilbo and giving them to Thorin, to highlight his descent into madness, is a powerful reminder of a major theme in the book (and the films): greed.

Bred For War

I have nothing against Orlando Bloom’s portrayal of Legolas (none at all).

LegolasHowever, I still hold by my belief that his character should have had a brief (in the background) cameo in the second film: making his appearance more powerful than the bloated screen-time he has had.

His constant presence detracts and distracts from the main characters of The Hobbit, and his elf-like acrobatics – whilst impressive to watch – could easily have made way for more dwarven character development (who, regrettably, have been left largely anonymous through the whole trilogy).

That said, it was a wise choice by Jackson to introduce us to Gundabad and its relation to the orcs. Not only do we get a glimpse of the infamous stronghold (and yet, another impressive Middle-earth location on screen), but the director shifts the focus from the Lonely Mountain towards the next big threat the story is leading up to.

It’s a pity therefore, having introduced the idea of Bolg and the Gundabad army, not to fully integrate it during the third act of the film (more on that to follow).

A Thief In The Night

Whilst anyone going to see The Hobbit films should have entered the theatres without any strict expectations of adherence to the book, it is nice to see scenes play out closely to what Tolkien wrote.

Case in point, the chapter ‘A Thief in the Night’ makes a crucial appearance in this final film.

A Thief in the Night

Bilbo scrambles over the battlements and makes his way towards the Elven king’s tent where, once again in Freeman’s top-notch acting, he delivers a moving speech about saving his friends by offering the Arkenstone as a barter.

The scene is made even more powerful by the presence of three of the most imposing characters in the trilogy (Thranduil, Bard and Gandalf), who look upon Bilbo with respect and a new perspective on the possible outcome of this knotty situation.

The Clouds Burst

The final parley with Thorin begins and the whereabouts of the Arkenstone are revealed to him – along with the thief.

Yet, the dwarf king will not submit to the demands as he notices the arrival of Dáin II Ironfoot and his army.Dain

In a much anticipated scene, we finally get to see Billy Connolly’s portrayal of Thorin’s cousin.

And what a portrayal.

Having read the book numerous times, Connolly brings the right amount of arrogance and craziness to Dáin: not only as a character, but his appearance is also daunting and one worthy of a successor as King Under the Mountain.

Much has been said about the possibility of a CGI-ed Connolly, and whilst it has yet to be confirmed, the rumours appear to be true. However, given the leap in quality in visual effects, this is barely noticeable expect to the keen-eyed.

Yet, our attention is primarily focused on the imminent clash between the Dwarves and the Elven/Lake-town forces. That is, until the arrival of Azog’s army signals a significant turn of events.

Battle For The Mountain

Let’s leave Skull Island and go back to Middle-earth, shall we?

Forget those giant earth-eaters for a moment and let’s focus on what happens next …

The first hour of The Battle of the Five Armies was busy building up the tension and motivation of the major characters. Suddenly, with the appearance of Azog, the gears rotate into position and open the way to the start of the titular battle.

There were some justifiable fears that Peter Jackson might go bigger than the Battle of the Pelennor Fields – undermining that battle’s significance in The Return of the King as “the greatest battle of our time”.THE HOBBIT: THE DESOLATION OF SMAUG

However, concerned moviegoers had nothing to worry about. Whilst the scale and the action is immense, it never reaches the same emotional resonance and canvas of the battles in the War of the Ring.

That said, the choreography is mouthwatering. The strategies are tantalising. The hand-to-hand skirmishes and clashes are gritty and intense.

Peter Jackson knows how to direct a battle scene, and having proven his stock in the Rings trilogy, the opening stages of the Battle of the Five Armies is another resounding success.

Furthermore, the mixture of action sequences and character emotions is well-known to be part of the director’s trait in executing a successful conflict.

Bard’s heroic moments as a stoic leader of men are wonderfully inter-cut with his concerns for the safety of his children; during which a slaughter ensues as the orc army enters the city.

Bard in Dale

Alfrid’s constant comedic intrusions start to become a bit too much; and whilst it helps to alleviate some of the tense moments, it is somewhat disappointing when you realise such moments could have made way for more Bilbo presence during the fighting.

Having the Battle fought out over the ruins of Dale and before the Gates of Erebor is a great way to go into some of the tactics employed on the battlefield; especially if the orc army leader is a clear strategist who knows what he is doing.

The character of Azog is given more believably and depth by making us aware of his goals and what a formidable commander he is (rather than just a mindless orc who sends his forces forward without any clear purpose).

It helps to emphasize the dire situation our characters are in.

The Darkest Hour

Whilst things turn from bad to worse for our heroes, Thorin sits idly on his throne: pondering in his madness for gold.

As his most loyal companion (Dwalin) urges him to charge out, a furious exchange of words ensues. Yet again, Armitage delves deeper into his character’s state of Dwalinmind and brings out a gritty and powerful performance worthy of much praise.

The same can be said of Graham McTavish’s disillusioned Dwalin who rebukes his King for not aiding his friends. The scene is a promising tearjerker that ends with Thorin threatening to kill his companion.

The Lord of the Rings had much room for Peter Jackson to experiment with the psychology of the characters under the influence of the Ring (which he managed to pull off so memorably).

In The Hobbit, whilst a few hints of such mental feelings found their way into The Desolation of Smaug (with Bilbo and the Ring), here is finally the chance to visually witness Thorin’s darkest moment and redemption.

Some have argued that the metaphor of being swallowed by gold is a typical cinematic cliché.

Whatever your opinions, it is clear that Jackson has a knack of presenting his audience with the most expressive and beautiful shots to convey the emotions and state of mind of a character.

Case in point, Thorin’s battle with his own thoughts is a pivotal moments in the entire trilogy, and it is executed in a fantastic way.

Shore’s music (which unfortunately has not had the chance to stand out as much as it did in The Lord of the Rings), the echoing voices, the hallucinations of Smaug, the camera angles and expressiveness of Richard Armitage’s face, all contribute to a terrific scene.

Sons Of Durin

Armitage’s performance continues to shine as the film shifts perspective to present us with his redemptive state of mind.

The silhouette of the dwarf emerges out of a bright glow, followed by a deceleration to the Company:  “Will you follow me, one last time?”

We realise Thorin’s character has come full circle: from humble, but proud beginnings in An Unexpected Journey, to the start of his decline in The Desolation of Smaug and ultimate redemption in The Battle of the Five Armies.

Thorin and Kili

It is a real pity that Kili (once again) gets his uncle’s and the audience’s attention, whilst Fili is sidelined.

***

Meanwhile, as Dáin’s forces are about to be slaughtered, Peter Jackson once again employs his skills to heighten the emotional impact of the moment.

Thorin and Company charge out to meet the orc army, in a slow motion sequence which sees the dwarves “rallying to their King”.

It is at this point that the famous line uttered by Thorin in the book would have made this scene even more powerful:

Thorin wielded his axe with mighty strokes, and nothing seemed to harm him.

“To me! To me! Elves and Men! To me! O my kinsfolk!” he cried, and his voice shook like a horn in the valley.

Down, heedless of order, rushed all the dwarves of Dáin to his help. Down too came many of the Lake-men, for Bard could not restrain them; and out upon the other side came many of the spearmen of the elves.

The Hobbit, Chapter 17 – ‘The Clouds Burst’

It was something I had been hoping to see for years, and given the final film, it would have worked beautifully. But unfortunately, we never got to see.

Still the scene is nonetheless intense.

The Fallen

Meanwhile, the Battle is raging in the streets of Dale. Thranduil looks helplessly on the bodies of his fallen warriors – a scene very reminiscent of The Two Towers: as Haldir gazes at the fallen Elves and Uruk-Hai on the Helm’s Deep battlements .

The elf king decides to abandon the fight, but is rebuked for his selfishness by Tauriel.

Much like Bard, what Peter and his team have done with the character of Thranduil is to give him more of a three-dimensional personality than what comes across in the book.

The Fallen - Thranduil in Dale

Lee Pace builds upon what he has established in The Desolation of Smaug and his “elvishness” comes across in a believable way.

However, whilst at this stage in the book the elf has cast aside his own interests and actively joins in the Battle to help the others, Jackson’s own version of Thranduil retains his stubborn and snobbish traits.

Whilst the character’s transformation does occur towards the end of the film, it would have been better if this was done sooner and not let the audience distance themselves from him too much – turning him almost into an antagonist (a trait that should have been resolved with his arrival for aid in Lake-town).

Ravenhill

Thorin, Dwalin, Fili and Kili have ridden towards Ravenhill (a Dwarven watchtower on the southwest spur of Erebor) to get rid of Azog and leave the orc army leaderless.

This is where most of the issues I’ve had with this film start to crop up …

If you’re unaware of what happens in the book then that’s fine. What you see on screen is a climactic moment that pits our dwarf characters against the orcs.

The icy setting and combat sequences are fantastic. It is unbelievable how realistic the CG environment looks.

Thorin on Ravenhill

A favourite shot of mine from this segment has got to be Fili and Kili making their way towards the inside of the tower, covered in a blanket of fog.

The sequence escalates in the deaths of Fili and Kili respectively; and whilst they are emotional, they certainly come nowhere as close as the loss of characters from The Lord of the Rings (think of Boromir in The Fellowship of the Ring).

The problem, yet again, lies in the execution (no pun intended) of the scene and the lack of characterisation: primarily of Fili.

It was crucial that we got to know as much about the older brother as possible, in order for this moment to work. Unfortunately, this was carelessly handled.

Furthermore, the reactions to his death are almost superficial. Bilbo looks somewhat flummoxed and not knowing what to think, whilst Dwalin’s sob feels slightly off.

Azog (armoured)Having read the novel prior to the films, I couldn’t help feeling somewhat disappointed that the “last stand” of the heirs of Durin did not take place on the battlefield.

Whilst I can understand Peter Jackson’s decision to keep this pivotal moment away from the chaotic scenes of combat, I still think these scenes could have had better impact if it occurred before the Gates of Erebor – together with the rest of the Company.

Which reminds me: what happened to the other Dwarves?

Unfortunately, this third act suffers the most. We are left in the dark as too what happens during the rest of the Battle – focusing instead on Legolas’ fight against Bolg, Tauriel’s interference, and a prolonged Azog vs Thorin fight.

To The Death

I found the Thorin vs Azog confrontation towards the end of An Unexpected Journey to be incredibly moving. And to this day, having seen that first film many times since, it still remains a moving scene.

Peter Jackson managed to make us care for this character so much that, although I knew he wouldn’t meet his end before the third film, I still felt sorry at how badly he was being beaten by the Pale Orc.

In addition, I couldn’t wait to see what the director had in store for the more significant confrontation in this final installment.Azog vs Thorin

Again, let me stress that the choreography and inventiveness of the action is a big plus.

Yet somewhere there is a lack of emotional connection. Perhaps it may have been the omission of a grand score; no presence of any slow-motion scenes to build-up the tension; or simply due to the change in location.

There is nothing to criticise about the performances of the actors, especially Armitage and Manu Bennett – who both give it their utmost.

Thorin on Ravenhill (Orcrist)But I think that the concept of a fight on a frozen lake (or river), trying to fool the audience that Azog is dead beneath the ice, and then Thorin letting himself be wounded to deliver the final blow, indeed feels too much of a cliché.

The tension and the emotion is there, especially post-confrontation: with Thorin giving his parting words to a grieving Bilbo.

However, frankly, Peter Jackson fell into a trap I thought he would not fall into after what he gave us in The Lord of the Rings – and that is: dispensing of a battle fight with an excuse.

We’ve been told through the film that a second orc army from Gundabad was approaching, and once it does, instead of posing the threat we were constantly told it would pose, the host of Eagles (under a barely-seen Radagast, and an even less appearance by Beorn), arrive to save the day without meeting any potential resistance.

Mount Gundabad

Both in The Lord of the Rings and An Unexpected Journey, people have complained about the Eagles’ presence of always saving the day; and whilst this is what happens in the books, Jackson could have gone a little bit further and given us some of the promised “dogfights” between them and the bats.

Inter-cutting this with the Azog vs Thorin confrontation would have alleviated much of the unbalance in the third act of The Battle of the Five Armies.

This could have been done by demonstrating that the Eagles don’t always have it their way, and that the Battle’s resolution and victory were dearly bought, rather than a quick sweep of flight power.

Whilst the four dwarves were on Ravenhill battling Azog and his denizens, what happened to the rest of the Dwarves? How did Bard and his Lake-town contingent fare in the streets of Dale? Did Thranduil go to the aid of Dáin and help repel Bolg’s army?

We have no idea.

True, the third act may improve in structure once further battle shots are introduced in the Extended Edition; but considering the theatrical cut is supposed to be the director’s first choice, I’m surprised Peter Jackson felt it justifiable to be rid of the second orc army in a few shots which barely hint at what’s going on.

Courage And Wisdom

No funeral or coronation scenes and no “multiple endings” are to be found in The Battle of the Five Armies.

For over 10 years since the release of The Return of the King, the filmmakers have been criticised by some of given audiences an overwhelming number of Arkenstoneendings.

It would seem that the writing team gave into that pressure not to do the same thing with The Hobbit: so much so that they’ve gone to the extreme of removing scenes that might have helped to tie up many of the loose ends in this film.

The Arkenstone, Orcrist, the distribution of the treasure, Thranduil’s white gems and others remain obscure – after being continuously told about their importance throughout the entire trilogy.

After three films it feels as if we deserve a longer conclusion to all the stories and characters, instead of a quick summary of brief shots.

However, in a way, the departure of Bilbo from Erebor is handled with care and expertise, and we are soon on our way back to The Shire.

The Return Journey

The last few scenes of The Battle of the Five Armies, do make you feel as if we have come full circle.

After some further wide-shots of the New Zealand landscape, we are back in familiar territory.

Gandalf bids Bilbo farewell and assures him he is aware of the magical ring found along the way – foreshadowing the story-line in The Lord of the Rings.

There is no return to Beorn’s House, nor to Rivendell. In a way, this was a wise choice as it is not necessary for the audience to revist those locations.

Instead, we are taken back to the borders of The Shire.

There And Back Again

Again, it is wonderful to see scenes from the book that actually make their way into the film.

Revisiting Hobbiton on screen is always a special moment – especially since this is the last film we will see it on screen.

Hobbiton (The Shire)

Even the auction sequence is handled with care: giving us all the elements of the scene from the book, but without dwelling too much on it (if only Peter Jackson had done the same with the other scenes that never made it into the final film).

Instead, the director focuses on Bilbo’s return to Bag End – the loss he has endured and the journey undertaken.

His once cosy and cluttered home is now bare and disrupted, and a nice metaphor for Bilbo’s current state of mind.

However, whilst the scene feels like an appropriate ending to a trilogy, it is essential for the filmmakers to setup the story that will lead us into The Lord of the Rings. Hence, the brilliant move to focus on the Ring and end with a familiar scene at the start of The Fellowship of the Ring: perfectly connecting the two trilogies together into one seamless saga of six films.

On the Soundtrack

Howard Shore knows what a piece of Middle-earth music should sound like; after all, he was the one to introduce it to us in the first place.

In The Desolation of Smaug, it felt as if the major themes at play did not stand out as they did in the first film or The Lord of the Rings.The Battle of the Five Armies Soundtrack Cover

Perhaps the visuals overshadowed the score, but for some reason the music wasn’t as emotionally stirring or engaging.

That said, once the tracks were heard separately, you could let yourself be transported into that world. And now, whenever I rewatch The Desolation of Smaug, the music feels more powerful in each scene.

The same thing can be said of The Battle of the Five Armies. Whilst there are some moments of intense orchestral music, they are few and far between. Hopefully, once I listen to the soundtrack a few more times, I can appreciate more the acoustics together with the visuals.

A note on The Hobbit trilogy

I may have expressed my dislike and frustrations towards certain decisions made with these films, but The Hobbit trilogy sustains itself as a worthy piece of cinema; and though it may not reach the levels of realism and excitement as The Lord of the Rings (though it comes close), it is an essential and satisfying set of films that beautifully introduce the world and the narratives leading into the events of the War of the Ring.

Copyright of images belongs to Warner Bros. Studios, MGM Studios and New Line Cinema

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33 thoughts on “The Hobbit: BOTFA Full Review!

  1. Thanks for the thorough review! I like that you point out Thorin’s line from the book: “To me! To me! Elves and Men! To me! O my kinsfolk!” I can see how that would have been an amazing moment. I’ve read The Hobbit several times, but I avoided reading it in its entirety during the past 2 years so that I wouldn’t let it sway my first viewing of the films too much, because it is disappointing when you expect awesome lines or moments that just aren’t there.

    For example, I think Thorin’s death scene would have been even more emotional if they had left in the line about him going to the halls of waiting to sit beside his fathers until the world is renewed, but I can see how they might not have wanted to put that in because it is too reminiscent of what Theoden says when he dies.

    I found BOTFA to be a beautiful and satisfying film, and I think like AUJ it will have a high rewatchability factor. One of my few quibbles is that I felt it was a bit of a shame that they had to cut back-and-forth between Kili and Thorin dying/being mourned over instead of letting Thorin and Bilbo’s goodbye play out uninterrupted. The focus on Kili/Tauriel kind of took away from Thorin’s scene. I liked the Kili/Tauriel moments in the film, and the actors did a fantastic job with them, but I wish they didn’t detract from Thorin and Bilbo’s much more important goodbye scene, since they are the main characters.

    I also kind of wish that Bilbo hadn’t been knocked out as long, and had actually played some sort of role to help or at least watch Thorin in the ice battle, instead of showing up after it was too late, iirc. I might be remembering wrong at what point exactly Bilbo wakes and shows up, but I would have liked more involvement, something that would mirror in some way the scene in AUJ where Bilbo saves Thorin from Azog, even if only to contrast it in some way (Bilbo trying but being unable to help, or using the Ring to sneak up on Azog and stab him in the leg like Merry did to the Witch-King).

    RE: Thorin drowning in the gold, it is a great parallel to Gollum being swallowed up by the lava, but I kind of wish there had been a more dramatic rather than abstract impetus for curing his dragon-sickness. However, I like that Thorin is constantly being compared with his lust for gold to characters who lusted for the Ring such as Gollum, Denethor, and Isildur (he is compared to Gollum with the drowning scene, to Denethor with his heavy black king’s robe in BOTFA and the scene where he briefly catches on fire in DOS, and to Isildur cutting off Sauron’s arm when he cuts off Azog’s arm in AUJ). This is kind of why I hoped Thorin’s death scene would be more comparable to Boromir’s, with a kiss on the forehead, which might have made it more emotional as well, because Boromir and Thorin are also thematically similar with their fall and redemption and lust for the Ring/gold. This was also such a great running, thematic image at scenes of parting, with Galadriel to Frodo, and Frodo to Sam, for example. I was kind of surprised that Bilbo and Thorin did not get the same moment, especially after Jackson decided to have Thorin and Bilbo hug at the end of AUJ, which parallels Frodo and Sam’s hug in the boat at the end of FOTR. Jackson did decide to give greater significance to Thorin and Bilbo’s friendship than is in the book, though, by giving Bilbo that line at the end to the auctioneer.

    Two possible errors I noticed: In AUJ, Bilbo says he caught Lobelia with his spoons in her pocket, but they are not in her pocket in BOTFA. Also, the auctioneer reads the name “Thorin Oakenshield” off the contract, but Thorin signed his name “Thorin son of Thrain.” I guess if someone has the Hobbit Chronicles book which has the full contract text, they can confirm whether or not he is referred to as Oakenshield in the contract.

    • Hey Sarah, thanks for the input.

      Some great comments there about the film and I think you hit the nail on the head regard Thorin’s death scene.

      Good catch also on the errors, especially the “Oakenshield” reference. You are right, the contract only states “son of Thrain” – I just checked 😉

      • Thanks, James (and thanks for looking up Bilbo’s contract).

        One of the great things about The Hobbit trilogy as a whole is what it adds so much to our view of Tolkien’s mythology on film. Before this trilogy, there was a very narrow view of Dwarves and what they represent as a part of Middle-Earth. Now we view them as an entire culture with its own important history and a sense of nobility that LOTR alone could not provide. Regardless of Legolas’s fancy CGI tricks, I genuinely view Dwarves as the best and toughest fighters in Middle-Earth now, something I never would have presumed before this trilogy. (And how cool is it that a Dwarf–Thorin–gets the most epic one-on-one fight scene in the whole series of six films?)

        Furthermore, The Hobbit trilogy did what I don’t think I ever expected it to do: Give me new favorite Middle-Earth characters and actors. I like Bilbo, Thorin, Balin, and Thranduil just as much and in some cases perhaps even more than many of my LOTR favorites. Sam was always my favorite book and film character. But now I think my favorite film character is Thorin, a character that I loathed in the book and was prepared to hate on film. I even watched AUJ the first time without giving him the attention he deserves because all I could remember was that I hated him in the book. By the end of the film, the filmmakers and Armitage had convinced me Thorin was a worthy and likeable character, a flawed hero that was on a tragic journey. They completely changed my perception of him, in a good way. I can see now why Bilbo cries so hard in the novel at Thorin’s death. And who doesn’t feel sad now at Balin’s tomb in FOTR?

        For me, AUJ is on the same level of quality as LOTR. Besides the excellent storytelling, I find the visuals breathtaking. For example, I love the shots of the waterfall in Rivendell when Elrond reads the moon runes, the stone-giants, and the eagles soaring in the daylight at the end. There is so much grandeur in AUJ (and BOTFA) that is just not being done elsewhere in film. ROTK was always my favorite film, but I think AUJ is (to my surprise) my new favorite. It is nice to be able to visit Middle-Earth in an adventure that is lighthearted and humorous as opposed to the tense, heartbreaking experience that ROTK is.

        I’m so glad that Peter Jackson got to share his vision with us for The Hobbit. I would not have wanted anyone else to direct it. There will be plenty of time in the future for other filmmakers to show us their interpretations of Middle-Earth (and I look forward to them now that Jackson’s vision is complete).

      • What a wonderful set of comment, Sarah!

        You’re spot on regarding the culture of the Dwarves.

        What LoTR did for the Elves, The Hobbit did the same with the Dwarves.

        It’s great to finally get two trilogies focus on the two races separately – (Men and Orcs get their fair share in both 😉 )

        I also agree regarding characters. Who’d have thought I would ever consider Bard to be my favourite character? In the book, since there isn’t an overwhelming amount of characterisation to him, it’s great to see his on-screen version. And no doubt I’ll view Bard in a different light whenever I re-read The Hobbit.

        I absolutely love the connections (subtle and direct) that have been created in The Hobbit. They add even more depth to the world established in The Lord of the Rings.

        It’s so real it’s surreal at times! 😀

      • Hi James,

        This is in reply to your Dec. 30th comment below (for some reason, WordPress is not allowing a “reply” button to show up in threaded comments once a third comment has been reached).

        I think that is great that the trilogy has made Bard, a character who is given little “screentime” in the book, into your favorite.

        This is a premature discussion, I know, since who knows when LOTR will be adapted again, but I have been thinking lately that I would love to see it adapted as a 7-season TV series or mini-series. I feel like the only way to realize it on screen now would be to go in a completely different direction, and a longer form like TV would allow for chapters like “In the House of Tom Bombadil” and “The Scouring of the Shire” to be realized. I think Jackson was right to leave them out of his films, but TV would allow us to see a completely different version of the story.

        I will admit that ever since I saw Showtime’s The Borgias, I have felt Neil Jordan would be the perfect writer-director for a new LOTR adaptation. His show had a sumptuous attention to detail for historical sets and costuming, as well as great battle scenes and stunning cinematography. Furthermore, Jordan’s extensive knowledge of Catholicism might bring out some of the more religious aspects of Tolkien’s work in interesting ways.

        And while I wouldn’t expect LOTR to be filmed entirely in NZ again, they do have a permanent Hobbiton set just begging to be filmed again for a TV series… just throwing this idea out into the universe and hoping it will take… 😉

  2. Very thorough analysis; all though I think your criticism was a tad too generous to the Hobbit trilogy, I agree wholeheartedly with one of the problems you pointed out: the lack of a certain hobbit named Bilbo Baggins. Bilbo was the main character of The Hobbit, hence the catchy title of the book. And if you read Humphrey Carter’s authorized bio of Tolkien, you begin to see how important hobbits were to Tolkien. The book was about a hobbit named Bilbo Baggins. The Hobbit trilogy shifted into something else entirely. Besides, Martin Freeman is a wonderful actor. In both the second and third movies of the trilogy he was pushed aside; I think you’re right about Legolas chewing up valuable screen time, as well as the improbable “love triangle” of the trilogy.

    • I agree that Bilbo could have used more focus in the last two films. I would compare his relatively small screentime to Frodo’s as well, though, which may or may not be something to criticize, depending on your view. In ROTK, it seems Pippin and Gandalf have more lines than Frodo; and much of both TTT and ROTK is spent away from him. So, in the sense that Bilbo and Frodo are each just one part of a much larger war, it works. More scenes for Bilbo would have been welcome, though!

      • Good points–I didn’t pick up on Frodo’s lack of screen time in ROTK because I was just happy the focus was off him! Frodo was my least liked character, both in Tolkien ‘ s work and in the LOTR movies–I found him to be an over – earnest whiny prig in the books, and Elijah Wood portrayed that perfectly in the movies/I thought Martin Freeman would have been a great Frodo/the actors chosen for the Hobbit trilogy were much better than LOTR.

    • I guess if you view The Hobbit only as fantasy films (without it being an adaptation) you get a rather powerful trilogy.

      That said, even without knowledge of the book, you still get a sense of things missing (in Film 3), that would not normally plague what the general audience may call a “good” film.

      And yes, the lack of Bilbo is a serious issue. Thorin seems to be more at the centre of this final installment more than any of the others. Which I’m absolutely fine with – but the “extra” stuff (Legolas, Tauriel, etc) could easily have made way for more Bilbo …

  3. Man, I dunno if I can agree with you on the Dol Guldur review. Galadriels gracefulness seemed misplaced. How can she carry Gandalf? That looked weird. Elrond and Saurumans lines were so cheesy! “You should’ve stayed dead” and ” are you in need of assistance milady?” Also one of the most abhorring blunders from Jacksons movies happened here….nuclear Galadriel. While you say it was more like the Ring horror flick I thought it actually was reminiscent of the Galadriel we got in FOTR….which is a disaster! She went nuclear in FOTR because she was being tempted by the ring….that was “dark” Galadriel. So, why are we seeing dark Galadriel when facing the Dark Lord. Tolkien’s theme of dark versus light was utterly trashed in this scene! Galadriel should have been positive light facing off against Sauron’s negative darkness…more like Gandalf’s confrontation with Sauron in DOS. However, the Ringwraiths were way cooler here and I loved the action scenes. Also, I agree with you about the jarring flashes and jerks to portray a psychological battle…didn’t work.

    • Nuclear Galadriel has never really worked for me in FOTR. In fact, the first time I saw the movie, I was 15, I had not yet read the book, and I did not understand from the scene that Galadriel was not in fact evil. I didn’t understand the significance of the line “I passed the test” after she nuked out all sinisterly. It would have made more sense had they merely had her say “No!” as she transformed back to normal; that would have registered better for me that she was rejecting the Ring.

      Yet, seeing her nuke out again in BOTFA worked better for me as a sign of her power this time, and I think it helps reconcile the incongruence of her nuclear scene in FOTR. So, I actually liked the choice to have her go nuclear again.

    • To be honest, when I heard the rumours of Galadriel carry Gandalf, I really laughed (and despaired!).

      Though in seeing the film, it didn’t look so bad. After all, you could always reason it out as being due to the fact that Galadriel was the strongest elf in Middle-earth at that time, and could have used her powers to aid her in carrying an even lighter burden due to Gandalf’s then-weakness and his spirit as a Maiar (not sure if that makes sense!)

      As to nuclear Galadriel, in FOTR it didn’t feel completely as a temptation test (from a film perspective). It could also be seen as her demonstrating what she is capable of becoming and how powerful she really is when her “veil is lifted” – which leads to the similar appearance here in Dol Guldur (unfortunately, continuity wasn’t on the filmmaker’s minds it would seem…)

  4. Interesting analysis. As to your final remarks about The Hobbit films matching the realism of LotR, I don’t think they were ever fully intended to. All the visual gags, humour, and more “story-book feel” I think are a result of Peter Jackson trying to balance the whimsical tone of the original while still bringing it in line with the The Lord of the Rings. IMHO, all these debates and controversies over these films stem from that point, the CGI, the elves, changes to Bard’s character (especially in film 2), the dwarves’ attempt to kill Smaug, etc.

    Second, Tom Shippey pointed this out about the Lord of the Rings films and I think it applies here, the screenwriters built in a lot of scenes where (minor) characters change their minds. The two most obvious examples that come to my mind this moment are Legolas and Thranduil. Legolas sided very much with his father when he was introduced, but by the end of the third film he openly rebelled in front of part of the elven guard. Thranduil was incredibly self-centered in the movies, but through effectively the loss of his son and the grief he saw in Tauriel his heart seemed to have been softened a bit.

    Third, I agree, the depiction of Galadriel was a little weird. Magic in Tolkien’s works is very abstract and I appreciate the battle of wills we saw in DoS and BotFA. I think to add some kind of physical combat between Galadriel and Sauron would have strayed too far from Tolkien’s books where it really seems to be a battle of wills, a psychological thing. I appreciated the addition of the physical darkness in DoS, but I don’t think something like that was necessarily needed for Galadriel’s duel. I just can’t figure out her visual depiction though. Why is she so dark and menacing? She’s supposed to be light and good? Right? The only way I can see it is that the use of great power like that is a very dangerous thing, and a very risky thing. Hopefully Peter, Fran, or Philippa will explain their reasoning behind all of it.

    • Hey Andrew, I agree with you that what the writers have done (in most cases) was to add further depth and stronger themes from a cinematic perspective.

      As to the Galadriel vs Sauron confrontation, I too wouldn’t have thought it necessary; but I would say to Peter: “if you introduced it in the film, why give us such a jarring visual representation for it? What were you trying to imply?”

      There are some things which were added to enhance the experience, where I just can’t understand the reasoning behind them! 😀

  5. That epilepsy-inducing back and forth battle at Dol Guldur would have worked better if it was Saruman going mano a mano with Sauron.
    And yeah Legolas had to much screentime. Were they seriously relying on fangirls alone to get their expected amount of cash? That screentime totally could have been used to further develop the dwarves and Thorin and most importantly Bilbo, THE HOBBIT!!! I’m serious about developing the relationship of Bilbo and Thorin more. As much as I dislike to say it. Their friendship scenes can be easily used as slash-fuel and we already have too much Thilbo floating around the web!
    I also agree that the “To me! To me! Elves and Men! To me! O my kinsfolk!” he cried, and his voice shook like a horn in the valley. scene would have been pure epicness to witness on the big scree (with the addition of invisible, Sting-wielding Bilbo charging to his leader’s call, an epic and action-packed foreshadowing to their reconciliation later on). Then he takes off the Ring as he charges in true Tookish style only to put it back on again when he gets surrounded by orcs, who then get cut down by a floating blue sword. 😀
    I also agree that Fili and Kili’s deaths were not as emotional as they could have been. If you haven’t tead it yet, I wrote my own preferred interpretation of the Last Stand of Thorin II and His Sister-Sons on the Battle of the Five Armies Extended Edition Speculations post. 🙂
    Thorin’s death would have been better executed (no pun intended either) on a deathbed like in the original book. Also they could have added a couple more sentences to his farewell: “Now I truly understand why Gandalf chose you… Because, of all the numerous hobbits of the Shire, you were one who showed true spirit…” (Place this somewhere before the last two sentences of Thorin’s actuall farewell and we get a little more insight to the relationship between Bilbo and Frodo in the FotR movie) 🙂
    I found the penultimate scene a bit… disturbing. Had they left out that one scene of Bilbo’s Ring-induced viscousness in DoS, then the final scene with the Ring would have worked better: making it appear as a precious consolation gift to Bilbo rather than a menacing power lying in wait, which will then make the whole “One Ring to rule them all” revelation in the FotR prologue a bigger shock to future viewers.
    But I agree that The Hobbit trilogy is a worthy cinematic companion to the Rings Trilogy!

  6. “The first hour of the Battle of the Five armies was busy building up the tension and motivation of the major characters-”

    *Cue tire screech sound effect*

    Wha? Seriously? That… It took an hour for the battle to start? I thought it was a lot less, like 30 minutes only. What the frick is wrong with me?

    And well done review. As more time goes by, and I rewatch more scenes online that I used to hate but now love, and think about it more and more, I think my original disappointment is not that it was bad, but more that it was so different than what I originally thought it would be.

    Also, I noticed that the beginning of the fight in Dale was much darker than I thought it would be. I mean, you see Orcs stabbing and slashing civilians. I didn’t think Jackson would show that, but, kudos for doing so. Much more realistic and gritty that way.

    • Yep! I’m afraid I can’t give you the exact timings but the intermission always got to the point when Legolas and Tauriel arrive at Gundabad (prior to the start of the battle).

      Considering that soon after that scene of the battle (stated to be 50mins in length) actually starts, and the total running time of the film was around 2hrs 20mins, I gave a mathematical guess that it takes roughly an hour before the battle begins.

      I’m not very good at maths, so you can guess the accuracy of my calculation! 😀

      P.S. I’m glad you are experiencing re-views in a similar way and that each time the film gets better and better …

      • It does actually. Just rewatched a scene from the film that I felt nothing from but this time my jaw literally dropped.

        It’s the bit you mentioned above when Dwalin confronts Thorin. Just… Wow. In the theater I felt it was stupid for some reason. Now I LOVE that scene.

  7. Great film, great analysis! The big difference between BTFA and the first two films is that the dwarves (apart from Thorin and Kili) are no longer the main characters. It’s much more the story of the elves and Lakemen interwined with Thorin and Bilbo. That shift means that the film needs two endings, one for the Company and one for the Five Armies. And this is perhaps where the third act really suffers a bit. I think a funeral scene for the dwarves would go along way in bringing emotional closure to the whole trilogy.

    • Cheers Marc! You’re spot on with the “two endings” – there is much need for closure with regards to the Bilbo/Dwarves relationship.

      Fingers crossed for the Extended Cut (though I still can’t believe Peter Jackson didn’t perceive the theatrical cut to be lacking so many things we have here noticed)

      • I think they’re just desperately trying to increase the amount of added footage to the Extended Edition so that it has more minutes of new footage compared to AuJ and DoS, and the theatrical cut of BotFA suffered for that… Sigh… 😦
        That Extended Edition better be good, or else the fans will do what Ori promised to do in the fitst film! Lol, just kidding 🙂

  8. I was expecting, and hoping for multiple endings myself, but I do think the criticisms the filmmakers received after “The Return of the King” was a factor here as well. I was also really hoping for Bard’s famous line before he fires the Black Arrow, but, oh well. Despite the things I disliked, I did overall love the films. It is always a good thing to see Middle-earth on film again.

  9. Fantastic review! I agree with you on a lot of points after seeing it twice, and I like how you’ve made comparisons to The Lord of the Rings, I never really thought about it like that until you mentioned it! I suspect scenes like the funerals of Thorin, Kili and Fili will be in the extended dvd when it comes out next year 🙂

  10. Having been a Laketowner in films 2 & 3, I was lucky enough to work on both the Laketown and the Dale sets, and I can confirm that they were were indeed awesome. The level of attention to detail by the builders and dressers was incredible. It was impossible to tell what was real timber and what was carved polystyrene unless you touched it, for example. Billy Connolly was around at the time as well, and while he bantered with us he wasn’t looking well. I have heard that he had to stop filming early so I wonder if Dain was CGI’d simply because they didn’t get enough Billy on film? He was still inspirational though… 🙂 https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=EUNxlT86Dtk

    • Hi Nikky thanks for commenting 🙂

      You’re incredibly lucky to have had the opportunity of working on these films! And I totally believe in the authenticity of the sets.

      As for Billy Connolly, I remember in an interview he had talked about issues of heat and the costume, so I wonder whether they CGI-ed him not to undermine his performance … perhaps via motion-capture?

      I guess we’ll have to wait for the behind-the-scene features on the Extended Edition 😀

      (Cheers for the link!)

  11. Smart choice using the OST’s title list to head your review. Much of what I wanted to say have already been mentioned by you and other readers, so I’ll just say that Peter Jackson had better put in another hour at least of extended material to compensate for this film’s inadequacies.

  12. You literally took the words right out of my mouth for many of your points (particularly in the treatment of Fili and Thorin’s fight with Azog), so when I write my review in the next few weeks, I want it known I did NOT copy you! I am very glad that someone shares my opinions, however. I agree that this film was well worth the trip to the theatre, but it will never stand up to Jackson’s original trilogy. I, too cannot wait for the Extended Edition because I am hoping that much of what should have been in the theatrical version will make its way to the extended release. Thank you for your in-depth analysis.

    • Haha noted next time I read your review 😉

      I actually just saw the Extended Edition of The Fellowship of the Ring, and to tell you the truth it was emotional if in it’s opening stages – the relationship between Gandalf and Bilbo.

      It felt like there was so much more history between them now that we have seen their adventures in The Hobbit. It was surreal. And their parting at the door of Bag End felt so much more significant.

      True, I may have my gripes towards this new trilogy but Peter Jackson surely gave us something rather extraordinary 😀

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