Dara and I went out last night with friends for her first viewing of Five Armies and my second one. My overall reaction to the movie remains pretty close to my initial one, i.e., I’m clocking it in at a B-.
I’m overall still pretty happy with the movies we got; as I said in my initial post, I’d rather spend time talking about what I love about these movies rather than lambasting Mr. Jackson for the movies he didn’t make. And with that in mind, I wanted to address a couple of things from Dara’s reactions that actually make me feel better about certain things I talked about in the first post.
Everyone to the gate for SPOILERS!
First: Galadriel. I was feeling pretty cranky about her wilty-flower participation in the Gandalf rescue scene, but on the way home from the movie, Dara pointed out that canonically speaking, Galadriel does have issues with desiring power. We see this in the Fellowship movie when she reacts to the One Ring, and is strong enough to turn it down. And from Unfinished Tales, we also know she was prideful and desired her own realm to rule. Christopher Tolkien writes in Unfinished Tales that his father was working on the idea of Galadriel having been banned from returning to Valinor, a ban that was finally lifted after her participation in the War of the Ring and her rejection of the One Ring’s temptation, although there are conflicting versions of her backstory in his father’s papers.
I also note with interest how Galadriel’s page on the LotR wiki cites an interesting quote from Cate Blanchett about her portrayal in the Hobbit movies:
As in The Fellowship of the Ring, the filmmakers opted to explore, once more, a surprising aspect in Galadriel’s character. “It’s almost,” says Cate, “as if you cannot have good without the threat of it being challenged and even taken over to the dark side, as if you can only know shadow when you know light. Peter wanted to give a shadow to Galadriel in The Lord of the Rings, and he really went there in The Hobbit. He referred to it as ‘psychic distress’, that sense of a war within, that internal battle between one’s dark side and one’s better self. In coming to Gandalf’s aid, Galadriel has to grapple with the seductive power of the Necromancer to draw other beings into a void of darkness, despair, and decay. She has to summon every particle of her strength to resist and, in doing so, we see Galadriel’s incredible power and realize that—but for the finesse and strength of her spirit—how quickly that power for goodness could be turned to evil.”
What the mighty Ms. Blanchett has to say here, to my mind, does fit in rather well with what we see in Unfinished Tales. Moreover, Dara said that she found Galadriel’s visual appearance in the height of her power during that scene to be thematically appropriate with the overall idea of her wrestling with the temptations of power. Here, we see her able to ward off Sauron’s temptations while wielding Nenya–and this time around I note that we DID get a lingering camera shot on her hand, ON NENYA, when she enters the scene. In Fellowship, we see her resisting the One Ring. That is her passing that final test and getting her leave to come back to Valinor.
So yeah, feeling better about this scene in general. Plus, she did deliver a glorious smackdown to Sauron. (And the wiki page mentions something else I missed–that she specifically throws Black Speech words back at him as she’s telling him to bugger off back into the Void!)
Secondly, more on Tauriel!
Dara also told me that she found herself surprisingly okay with the Tauriel/Kili resolution, and she pointed out something that completely eluded me the first time through the movie: i.e., that her last scene with Thranduil is all about Thranduil’s acknowledgement of her grief, specifically because he’s been there. Because he lost Legolas’s mother, a thing we see Legolas addressing earlier in the movie, a thing that Thranduil never talks about. This goes a long way towards Thranduil redeeming himself for his asshole behavior earlier in the film, and lends much more weight to Tauriel’s earlier confrontation with him too.
I’ve seen other reviews that called Tauriel to task for not bloody well paying attention to her own surroundings when she’s freaking out over Kili in battle, citing this as evidence that she’s being reduced to the function of “romantic interest”, and that Kili winds up having to come to her rescue. As counterpoint, I note that that entire exchange played for me as Tauriel and Kili coming to each other’s rescues, which I’m absolutely fine with. Sure, Tauriel freaked out when she saw Kili being attacked. But Kili also freaked out when he saw her under attack, too. AND he freaked out when his brother was killed. I have no problems with characters of either gender reacting badly during a battle when their loved ones are in peril, in general.
Moreover, Tauriel did not become ineffective in battle. She barreled into Bolg and pushed his ass over the cliff, and while she didn’t actually kill him, I choose to believe that that softened him up nicely for Legolas to finally take him out.
Thirdly, Dara and I are in total agreement that the Earth-eaters were entirely unnecessary, and not even remotely canon. They really should have come up with some other way to have Azog’s first army sneak up on them all, or just dropped the entire concept of Thranduil sneering about “where is this army?”
We’re also in agreement that really, there’s way too much battle in this movie overall. Dara’s now in the “there should have just been two movies” camp. I’m not quite there, and am generally quite happy with the movies we got. But I definitely see the argument for why there should have been only two movies. In The Two Towers and Return of the King all the battle sequences were balanced by other equally vital plot threads that had nothing to do with battle. But this movie doesn’t have that; there’s no other plot to jump to at this point. So the unending wave of battle through most of the movie does get wearisome after a while.
I’m given to understand that there are another 30 minutes of footage that didn’t make it into the theatrical cut. I’ll be really interested to see what that footage covers, and to see whether it improves the pacing of this movie at all, as happened with Unexpected Journey.
For now, though, I feel Five Armies held up nicely to a second viewing. And I was really glad that we all stayed to hear Billy Boyd’s lovely song over the closing credits!