Movie review: The Hobbit: The Battle of the Five Armies

I have seen Five Armies! All hail Paul who got invited to a private early showing courtesy of his brand new workplace, and since he was able to bring a guest, I came with him. So we just got home from seeing the movie!

First, the spoiler-free picoreview: if you didn’t like Unexpected Journey or Desolation of Smaug, you probably won’t like Five Armies either. But I for one enjoyed myself immensely, and as I told folks at work today, I was already a hundred percent on board with Jackson’s story. This movie didn’t do anything to shake me off of that.

Parts of the movie played kind of weirdly shakily to me. Parts were played out in ways I was not expecting at all. One side character was entirely unnecessary. But Mr. Freeman and Mr. Armitage were every bit as spectacular as expected, and all the parts that I expected to make me go *WAUGH* did in fact do so. My only regret is that we had to leave the theater before I could give a full proper listen to Mr. Boyd’s song over the closing credits. I will be making a point of listening to that properly on my second viewing.

Full commentary, with spoilers, is behind the fold (or over on, if you’re seeing this on LJ or Dreamwidth). If you’re reading this on LJ or Dreamwidth, come on over to’s master post to comment. Ditto if you clicked in from Facebook or Twitter or G+ or Tumblr–I ask that you leave spoiler commentary on this post in order to keep it away from folks who haven’t seen the movie yet.

(And one other thing: with all due respect, please don’t rant at me about how much you’re hating Jackson’s movies on my post. I don’t need to hear you ranting about how it should have been just one movie or two. I PARTICULARLY don’t need to hear it if you hate Tauriel and everything her character stands for.

Believe me, The Hobbit is a critical, formative part of my childhood, too. And I get the feeling of betrayal if a screen adaptation of a movie actively breaks part of your childhood for you. But I don’t subscribe to that myself. My childhood is not broken because Jackson’s movies don’t line up with the story in my head when I read the book. Because look, people, we still have the book. Tolkien’s immortal words are not damaged or erased from history because Jackson chose to implement a different version of the story. The original still exists and we can read it as often as we like.

I’m not saying these movies are perfect, and I certainly don’t think they quite measure up to The Lord of the Rings movies. But I do actively enjoy them. Ranting at me about how much you hate them will only make us both sad. For all the flaws I find in this trilogy, I do still actively love it, and I much prefer to celebrate what I love about the movies we got rather than wasting my time ranting about the movies we didn’t get. I will acknowledge their flaws, yes, but I will also take great pleasure in the things I love about them.

If the second movie actively pissed you off, just save yourself time and trouble and don’t go see the third one. Nobody needs to hit themselves over the head with a hammer like that. Hitting yourself over the head with a hammer hurts. So don’t do that, okay? Okay.)

And now at last: to the gates! For SPOILERS!

Good gods, this movie ramped up right out of the gate with Smaug’s razing of Laketown, and pretty much didn’t let up for the entire duration of the movie. In fact, Laketown’s destruction felt surprisingly brief. I won’t go so far as to say you blink and miss Smaug, but he barely has time to burn Laketown down and deliver some snark to Bard before Bard takes him down.

BY SHOOTING THE BLACK ARROW WHILE USING HIS SON AS A SUPPORT, I might add. Thereby demonstrating not only that Bard is the king of all the badasses of Laketown, but also that his son really trusts him. And man, I loved the shot of Smaug closing in behind young Bain’s shoulders while Bard urged him to look at him.

Tauriel leads the evacuation of Bard’s family, and has her initial parting from Kili–the first proof we get that yes, folks, this is intended to be a romance. There was never any particular doubt in my mind, based on how the second movie played it, and I’m sure that those who dislike Tauriel’s romance plot will be rolling their eyes by this point. I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: there is romance and love in Tolkien. Arwen and Aragorn. Lúthien and Beren. Éowyn and Faramir. And there is also doomed romance in Tolkien–Túrin Turambar, I’m looking at you.

So I see no problem whatsoever with Tauriel and Kili. And so yeah, I got the first rumblings of WAUGH as soon as he gave her his stone from his mother.

In this scene, too, it’s clearly called out that Legolas has a romantic stake in this too. But another thing I’ll repeat from my commentary about the second movie: I don’t think it’s fair to call this a romantic triangle. “Triangle” is a very distinct kind of romantic scenario, one that implies that the female has to choose between the two males, and that they are competing for her affections. And honestly, what I saw here was no sign of Legolas acting like he was competing with Kili. In fact, Legolas supported her as she went off to Kili’s rescue later in the movie.

Thranduil gives Tauriel more shit for her affection for Kili than Legolas does, in fact–he’s the one that dismisses it as “not real”, even as Tauriel justifiably calls him out on his bullshit elven superiority complex. But Legolas? He’s there fighting at her side the whole goddamn time. More on this below, though.

I liked the bits in Dol Guldur–mostly. I was right out disappointed by how they played Galadriel’s role in that rescue sequence. She came across as too damned fragile through most of that scene, lying there all helpless while Elrond and Saruman did the bulk of the actual fighting. She got one ONE blast of power, and then keeled over, until she finally surged up to deliver her smackdown to Sauron. And… okay, yeah, the smackdown was pretty awesome. And CREEPY. It tied in well visually with her reaction to the One Ring in Fellowship.

But that said–I really didn’t care for how they played that part in general. It made Galadriel come across as a fragile vessel for power almost too great for her to handle, who required the protection of the male characters. Which, if you know anything about Galadriel at all, is kind of bullshit. Hell, it didn’t play well against Galadriel’s portrayal in the other movies, entirely aside of what all is established about her in The Silmarillion and Unfinished Tales. She should have been way more active in that scene than she was, the SIT THE FUCK DOWN smackdown on Sauron notwithstanding.

And oh yes–I found some of the effects used for Sauron in the second movie cheesy, and I’ll say the same thing here. I think it’s because they felt too CGI-ish to me, particularly when compared to the physical presence of the Nazgul in the LotR movies.

But okay yeah, I did like Radagast charging in with the getaway sleigh and his rabbits. <3

Meanwhile, back in the Lonely Mountain, we get Thorin in full on dragon-sickness mode. This is a dwarf with gold-plated crazypants, and yeah, Mr. Armitage is wrenching as he plays Thorin deteriorating through the earlier parts of the movie. Particularly when he briefly surfaces from the pull of the crazy, long enough to show glimmers of his truer self, and to push Bilbo into the decision to make off with the Arkenstone.

Which, of course, he HAS. As anybody who’s read the book OR who paid the slightest bit of attention to the second movie totally knew would be revealed here. Ha. 😀

I really liked though that we saw the other dwarves being actively unnerved by Thorin’s descent, once Fili, Kili, Bofur and Dori finally catch up with them. One of the main reasons I do like these movies as much as I do is entirely because of the dwarves. These boys are living, breathing characters in ways their book counterparts just aren’t, and I say that as a lifelong dedicated Tolkien fangirl. So it was critical to see their worry and concern over Thorin, and they delivered beautifully. I particularly liked Balin’s little exchange with Bilbo, expressing his unhappy opinion that even if they found the Arkenstone, it’d only make things worse.

Bard organizing the people of Laketown into a march to the Mountain, yeah, I liked that. Though I was disappointed that a) toady Alfrid actually survived the dragon attack, and b) he was there mostly to be annoying and to try to play up the whole idea of “King Bard”. I did appreciate that the other survivors weren’t putting up with his bullshit, but by and large, I’m honestly stunned that he survived the entire movie. I suppose that Jackson didn’t want to make him too much like Wormtongue, but really, I could have done without him. (Particularly the last scene he appeared in, trying to flee the overrun ruins, in drag, with gold falling out of his stolen clothes.) Which is all I’m going to say about Alfrid for the rest of this post.

And now more on the elves. I was waiting to see what would pull Thranduil out of the woods, and was relieved to see that the elves showed up to give their aid without any codicils to the Laketown people–which is what happens in the book. It’s still unclear to me exactly what the white jewels are that Thranduil’s willing to go fight for; I need to take another look at the extended edition of Unexpected Journey and refresh my memory. It did underscore though that Thranduil was not operating from entirely altruistic motives, though. And that was certainly in keeping with his attitude to Tauriel, being willing to banish her from the kingdom for violating his orders, and chiding her for her affection for Kili.

How they played out the initial meeting at the Mountain was refreshingly back to the book, particularly the reveal of the Arkenstone and Thorin’s subsequent ragefit at Bilbo–and here, again, we get to see the dwarves going “this shit isn’t right” as they refuse his order to throw Bilbo over the wall.

Then Gandalf finally shows up with the obligatory ORCS ARE ON THE WAY YOU FOOLS warning. Thranduil gets to be skeptical, and so does Bard for that matter, and the armies of the elves and the men are about to get all Two Towers on Thorin when SURPRISE! THE OTHER DWARVES SHOW UP!

And okay, Dain Ironfoot? Entirely goddamn awesome. Do not, repeat, DO NOT, piss off the dwarves of the Iron Hills and their MIGHTY WAR GOATS. Also, mad love at this point for Kili behind the wall being all I’M GOING OVER THE WALL TO FIGHT, WHO’S WITH ME?

But this being, of course, the big battle movie to close out the story, we don’t take long before the orcs show up. And they’ve got an ace in the hole here. Literally. “Earth-eaters”, great worms, digging subterranean passages for their armies to use to sneak up on the elves and men and dwarves. This is another part that made me make faces–because those giant worms looked way too much like the giant leeches from Jackson’s King Kong, not to mention that my aforementioned lifelong Tolkien fangirling brings me no sign whatsoever of Tolkien putting anything like these creatures into his world. So this is another bit I didn’t like and I wish they would have found some other way of having the orcs being able to charge in.

Once they got that out of the way, though, I did like the free-for-all that erupted all over the goddamn place, and more than once throughout the latter half of the movie, I scooted forward to the edge of my seat. Some of my favorite moments:

* The dwarves lining up to face the oncoming orc horde, Thranduil getting called out for not having the elves joining the fray–and then the front line of the elven host vaulting over the dwarves in one great flowing row of AWESOME.

* Bard coming to the defense of his children–though Paul and I both flinched at one weirdly played moment that looked for all the world like a troll killed Bard’s son. I’ll need to watch for that moment on viewing #2.

* The troll using its head as a battering ram and then stumbling off looking all dazed as if it wasn’t entirely sure why it did that.

* Okay, Thranduil spends half this movie being an asshole, but I gotta admit, he looked magnificent on his war stag. And once he was off the stag and in the thick of things, we see where Legolas gets his ridiculously preternatural fighting moves from. XD

* Legolas is in fact called Legolas Greenleaf on camera. <3 <3 Shoutout to the book fans!

* The women of Laketown! They’re all SCREW THIS HIDING SHIT and grabbing weapons to fight alongside their menfolk, because FUCK YEAH. The women of Rohan could stand to take notes from these women. 😀 😀

* I spotted some non-white faces again among the people of Laketown. <3

* And while it seemed kind of oddly timed, not to mention I wasn’t at all sure how fast Legolas and Tauriel pulled off the journey there and back, I did like the scene they had spying on Gundabad. And the bit of backstory with Legolas’ mother.

And eventually, we have to get to the last third of the movie–the parts that made me start in on the WAUGH.

Thorin’s hallucination sequence on the floor of molten gold–oh, that was good. I particularly liked the glimpses of the dragon shape beneath the gold. And I loved how Thorin at last, once he fought off the madness, came back out to his kin with all his finery stripped away… returning himself to the Thorin they knew. *sniff*

And oh, Kili coming up to him and touching foreheads with him. *sniff* I think that’s the first bit where I started crying.

And our dwarves blowing open their gate and charging out to join Dain and his kin! With camera shots on all of them, just to remind you of everyone’s presence. I’m not kidding, you guys, that lifted my heart. And oh god, Thorin and Dain fighting side by side. And Dain roaring “WHAT TOOK YOU SO LONG?”

Of course we have to have the final showdown between Thorin and Azog. So of COURSE the four best fighters of Thorin’s company have to be the ones to charge up in search of the Defiler–at which point the movie is suddenly taking place in Skyrim, *lol*. Paul called this out in particular, and he’s in a position to know, given how much Skyrim he and Dara have both played! And I’ve certainly seen them playing it often enough to recognize the influences Jackson’s design must have had on that game.

But of course Fili’s the first to die, and AUGH. And of course Kili had to flip out as his body fell and go after the orcs all the more fiercely.

And INCOMING TAURIEL, at which point I started thinking, this is where she goes out in a blaze of glory. Except… to my shock, I was wrong. She actually survived the movie, despite how her tumbling down the mountain looked like something she should not have survived. But we did get a final scene with her kneeling in tears beside Kili’s lifeless form. More on this below.

And, of course, Thorin’s death. AUGH. I like how they played Bilbo’s part in this–because while Bilbo does eventually get knocked out, he DOES have a more active role to play in this version of the story. He’s the one that brings the warning to Thorin about the incoming second army. And Bilbo has an awesome little exchange with Gandalf about how no, actually, the orcs won’t see him, and while we’re on the topic, Bilbo’s not actually asking Gandalf’s permission to go after Thorin, either. You tell him, Mr. Baggins. \m/

But oh god, Thorin’s death. Yeah, that got me outright crying, not just tearing up, particularly when Bilbo finally finds Thorin and he delivers his final lines about how if more people valued home instead of gold, the world would be a merry place. I was waiting for that line. I was praying I’d get to hear Armitage deliver it. I was not disappointed. This almost ranks right up here for me with “I would have followed you anywhere, my brother… my captain… my King.” *sniff*

I loved Bilbo’s last little scene on the battlefield with Gandalf, too. Gandalf just sitting down beside him, while Bilbo’s got this shellshocked look on his face like “well, THIS ENTIRE DAY HAS BLOWN DONKEYS”, and Gandalf just gives him some quiet companionship. While he’s filling up the pipe. One of the most effective scenes in the movie, and not a word uttered. <3

And then, Tauriel’s last scene. I think some of her final lines in her exchange with Thranduil felt clunky–but I do appreciate the sentiment they were trying to set up here, i.e., Thranduil realizing he’d been a dick and acknowledging that yes, Tauriel had genuine love for this young dwarf. And now I’m really wondering if my secondary theory for Tauriel’s eventual fate is going to have to come back into play now–whether she goes into the West because of grief, by way of explaining why she’s not around for the War of the Ring.

I am not sure what I think about the exchange between Thranduil and Legolas, either–because here, we get another point of evidence against this whole “romantic triangle” notion, because Tauriel survives the movie. But LEGOLAS DOES NOT STAY WITH HER. He’s all “whelp, Dad, I’m outta here”. And Thranduil of course has to drop hints about this “young Ranger” he should go find. *snerk* And yes, I heard that musical cue from the LotR soundtracks in there, Mr. Shore. 😀

Bilbo’s farewell to the surviving dwarves: *sniff!* Important note: I was startled that more dwarves survived the battle here than did in the book! But I suppose with three major characters killed off on camera, that was actually more than enough. Killing off anybody else on camera I think would have been superfluous.

ETA: A commenter has pointed out that actually, the number of dwarves killed off does match the book–I was clearly mixing this up somehow, probably because of the animated version of the story, which kills off more dwarves. I just doublechecked against the book, and yeah, ten survivors of Thorin’s companions are specifically noted. Thanks to the commenter for bringing this to my attention!

(Plus, we do know a few of these dwarves do eventually die in Moria. Like Balin. WAUGH. I will never be able to watch that bit of Fellowship quite the same again.)

And Bilbo’s last scene with Gandalf: HA. Gandalf doesn’t believe his claim to have lost his magic ring for an instant.

And HA, of course we get Bilbo coming back to find the Shirefolk auctioning off his stuff. And Lobelia Sackville-Baggins in particular making off with his spoons.

And we get one final return to old Bilbo–transitioning from young Bilbo returning to Bag End, to old Bilbo musing over his old map, JUST as Gandalf arrives. And suddenly we’re back in Fellowship of the Ring!

Which, all things considered, was a lovely way to end the movie. It bookended nicely with the framing bit at the beginning of Unexpected Journey.

Overall: of the three, I’m kinda thinking Desolation is still my favorite. But my reactions to this movie so far are still very new, and I need to see it again to finish processing everything! I’m calling this a B- effort, I think, mostly because of my disapproval of how they handled Galadriel. But like I said for Unexpected Journey, a B- out of Jackson is still pretty damned good. No, it’s not Lord of the Rings, which still remains Jackson’s masterwork for me. But I’m still very happy.

And I’m going to see it again. VERY SOON.

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