Battle of the Five Armies

So, the waiting is over, the Saga is complete, and Goblins are upon you! I’ve just got back from watching the final instalment of Peter Jackson’s epic adaptation of the Hobbit.

EXTENSIVE MOVIE SPOILERS FOLLOW.

It’s little surprise that the film begins in Laketown, which suddenly has a large, and rather irate dragon bearing down on it. As we would expect, Bard takes the dragon down, thanks to the black arrow – although the mysterious dwarven windlance concocted for film 2 has vanished. The Master is crushed beneath the falling dragon, but his lackey, Alfrid, escapes, in order to be a recurring pain throughout.

GaladrielsGlade107Meanwhile in Dol Guldur, Gandalf is rescued by Galadriel, only for them to be ambushed by 9 spectral Nazgul. Fortunately, she is not alone, and Elrond and Saruman appear to battle the wraiths, while Galadriel gives Gandalf a kiss and loads him onto the Bunny-sled (now we know what Celeborn “much desires to speak with” Gandalf about…) Just when victory seems in their grasp, Sauron appears, and Galadriel is forced to go into full negative mode to drive him off.

A messenger arrives on the shores of the lake to inform Legolas that he is summoned home, and Tauriel that she is banished. He refuses to return without her, and Legolas and Tauriel go north to visit Gundabad. Legolas talks about his mum. There are bats. Hopefully in the extended edition, we will discover a reason for all this happening.

DainIn a brief return to the works of Tolkien, the people of the Lake occupy the ruins of Dale, whilst Thorin searching for the Arkenstone fortifies the doors of Erebor. We discover that Bilbo does indeed have the Arkenstone hidden in his jacketses, but decides not to give it to Thorin as he is going mad with “dragon-sickness.”

Alfrid is given the night watch in Dale, and fails to spot the arrival of an entire elven army. There is the expected tooing and froing with the elves and dwarves getting closer and closer to outright fighting, Bilbo smuggling out the Arkenstone, and Bard trying to barter it back to Thorin and co. . Highlights of this bit of the film are Thranduil on his Moose, and Billy Connolly as Dain, riding an armoured pig, and trying to see how much mild profanity he can get into a 12A film.

Just as they are about to start fighting each other, the Orcs appear, having burrowed through the mountain with some help f

rom the enemies previously seen in the Nightmare Hills of Emyn Muil Tunneling-Nameless-Thing

With Azog standing atop a high hill, his false hand seemingly replaced with a Bat’leth, long battles scenes ensue, periodically interrupted with the continuing tale of Alfrid’s cowardice, as he hides, shirks, and ultimately runs away in a dress. Thorin comes to his sense, and leads his company out to rally Dain’s dwarves.

In a particularly inexplicable moment, Thorin, Dwalin, Fili and Kili suddenly find some mountain sheep and charge them up Ravenhill to take out Azog. Of course, it’s a trap, and Fili is killed. Kili dies trying to save Tauriel, and Thorin and Azog have a twenty minute plus fight. Legolas flies up to the top of the hill hanging from a bat, and fights Bolg, including a strange running-up-falling-blocks scene, which I’m fairly sure I remember from Sonic the Hedgehog on the Megadrive. The only vaguely plausible moment is when Legolas finally runs out of arrows!

Out-of-Arrows-Front-Face

At the end, the body-count is remarkably true to the books, if anyone can still remember them. Tauriel is still alive, and we must live with the fear of Jackson going completely George Lucas on us and re-editing Fellowship to have Tauriel rescuing Frodo from the Nazgul Thranduil and Legolas share a strange scene, in which Legolas says that he cannot return to Mirkwood, and Thranduil suggests he go north to find a promising young ranger named “Strider” – at this point I actually shouted “he’s six!” at the screen. I realise the error of my ways. Aragorn was in fact ten at the time of the battle of five armies (but still, a small child living in Rivendell, not a ranger in the north).

Bag EndBilbo goes home, finds his stuff being sold off, reclaims his spoons from Lobellia, and neatens up the pictures of Peter Jackson and Fran Walsh above his fireplace, before turning back into Ian Holm answering the door to Gandalf on his eleventy-first birthday.

My initial plan had been to compare the film and the LCG Quest by the same name, as differing interpretations of Tolkien’s work, but honestly, I think the film is so much of a departure that I’m not really sure that such a task is possible. In time, I hope I’ll be able to look back at this film, and enjoy it for what it is. I’m not convinced I’ll ever be able to sit past the point in the credits where it says “Based on the works of JRR Tolkien, and I say “really?”

The actual battle itself occupies a scant few pages in Tolkien’s novel, and anyone trying to adapt it, be they game designer or film producer will need to employ a bit of artistic license.

BolgThe LCG Quest, Battle of the Five Armies came in the second Hobbit box, and it combines three simultaneous quest-stages (siege, battle, and normal) with various cards and effects that power up from the number of quest stages in play with no progress on them. It can get particularly nasty in four player, as it features lots of “surge,” and an enemy who cannot be attacked or killed until stage 5 (Bolg in the game, not Azog), but it’s a fun experience which showcases a lot of the mechanics available in the game at that time. There’s also an Eagles of the Misty Mountain card, which jumps out the encounter deck to save the day- although as with any such card, the timing is rather hit and miss.

I was disappointed at the time the box came out that we didn’t see an official Thranduil hero (we’re still waiting, although shelfwear and Hall of Beorn have both produced fine versions), but players do still have the option to combine whatever ratios of dwarves, elves and men they want in tackling the quest. It’s hard to capture the sense of all the different armies fighting in a swirling maelstrom, and I think the game provides a good experience, even if the feel is slightly off.

Returning to the film, I’ve already mentioned above that the highlights for me were definitely the interesting developments on the “mount” archetype. For too long, all our mounts have been horses. It’s time to start thinking outside the box: here are a few options to get you started.

Battle-Ram-Front-Face Moose-Front-Face War-Pig-Front-Face

Who else has seen the film – what did you think? cinematic masterpiece, or a bit too much like an episode of Elfenders. Will anyone be trying out the new Mounts?

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10 thoughts on “Battle of the Five Armies

  1. Tonskillitis

    Your appraisal seems about fair: some fairly pretty visuals and amusing set pieces but what it had to do with Tolkien is unclear. I think you were fairly restrained in not further discussing the pangs of interracial love. In particular Thranduil’s admission that “It hurts because its real,” was particularly corny to my ears and out of keeping with his established character. I was also amused to find the tunnelling things popping up straight out of the Nightmare card game. You gave me a chuckle quoting the age of the mysterious son of Arathorn. I suppose the consistent mispronunciation of the name of Dáin is the least of a Tolkien-lover’s concerns!

    Reply
  2. Pengolodh

    I heartily agree with your review of the movie. And although I don’t recall whether or not Bilbo did take an acorn from Beorn, it was interesting to see that Thorin nearly came out of his “dragon-sickness” by such a simple gesture. Speaking of Beorn, however. Only three or four shots?! The first is a split-second close-up, followed by a wide of a man-shaped figure falling form an eagle and then transforming into a bear, and in the last shot a bear is charging through the orcs. More in the extended cut, please.

    Reply
  3. Gwaihir the Windlord

    I must agree with something Beorn wrote on his website about a year ago: Peter Jackson’s Hobbit films are “loosely inspired by” Tolkien’s book. Here is my top three list of things I didn’t like. WARNING: Extreme theme fanatic’s rant ahead.

    The top three things that bothered me in The Battle of the Five Armies:
    1. The whole Galadriel/Gandalf thing. I will refrain from details, but I will say this: no wonder Celeborn appears to be such a frosty character in Lothlorien when the Fellowship arrives there. He also doesn’t seem to think Gandalf’s death is a big loss. (Side notes: Speaking of Dol Guldur, would it be criminal to say that Saruman’s entrance is awesome, even though we know he’s going to be evil? Also: notice that no one pays attention to Elrond when he says they should pursue Sauron and destroy him once and for all. Poor guy. If people (Isildur, I’m looking at you) just listened to Elrond, the entire saga of LotR could have been avoided!)
    2. Tauriel and Kili (with Legolas thrown in as a third wheel). An interesting addition, and I would have been okay with it if not for this: why do you need a love triangle in the world of J.R.R. Tolkien? Is it that necessary for a story? Why even do that to Tauriel when anyone who has read the book knows that he (Kili) will die and that Legolas will never get married?
    3. This is the biggest disgrace of all: No. Thrush. If I had not been sitting in a movie theatre, I would have paused the film and, after a moment of silence, shouted at Peter Jackson: “What? NO THRUSH?! You put us through eight and a half hours of film and you can’t fit in ONE STINKIN` THRUSH?” Reading the book, I loved the fact that a small thrush aided Bard in the destruction of Smaug the Terrible. it was the one part of the book I was sure and 100% certain that would have to be in the film, and it wasn’t. Is it too much to ask for in the extended addition?

    Keep in mind that those were only the top three things that I did not like in just the one movie; I had many other issues with the films as a whole. Nevertheless, I will try to list some good things about the films:
    1. The unexpected party.
    2. Bard’s family. it made some things worth fighting for.
    3. Martin Freeman as Bilbo. He did a fantastic job.
    Hm. That’s all I have. I could certainly go on for a long time about the impurities (if you will) of the Hobbit films. I will say this for Peter Jackson though: he did a mighty fine job with The Lord of the Rings.

    Reply
  4. TalesfromtheCards

    Great post as always, even if my feelings on the movie differ a bit! Regarding Aragorn’s age, it actually fits in the movie world, because Jackson compressed the time scale from the books, so there is actually a different timeline between the movie and books. In the LOTR movies, Jackson completely eliminates the 17 years between when Gandalf leaves Frodo with the Ring and when he comes back. This means that there are exactly 60 years between the Hobbit movies and the Fellowship movie. In the Two Towers film, Aragorn says he is 87. So subtracting the 60 year difference, movie Aragorn is around 27 during the events of the Hobbit movies, even though the book version is much younger!

    Reply
    1. Dor Cuarthol Post author

      Very good point – I’d forgotten about the mysterious vanishing 17 years between the party and the War.

      Still, I hope this isn’t the teaser for a series of “Adventures of Strider” films.

      Reply
      1. Gwaihir the Windlord

        Wait . . . if Jackson eliminated the 17 years, wouldn’t Pippin be 12 years old in the films, not 29?

  5. Dor Cuarthol Post author

    Hobbit ages are all over the place in the films – Sean Astin is ten years older than Elijah Wood. I think the only explicit reference they make is Merry talking about him and Pippin getting into scrapes “since we were tweenagers” – otherwise, I don’t think they say how old they are.

    Aragorn explicitly tells Eowyn how old he is en route to Helm’s Deep. And I think Gandalf says to Bilbo at the start of Fellowship that it’s 60 years from the events of the Hobbit.

    Perhaps it’s best to try not to think about the ages at all…

    Reply
  6. Master of Lore

    I’d been holding off on reading your review until composing my own, and I thoroughly enjoyed it. I think I became a bit ponderous and your light touch and humor helps the medicine go down. Great work!

    I too was puzzling about timeline changes between the books and films and thought it would be interesting to make a side-by-side comparison of the “Tale of Years” events from Appendix A with a Jackson version alongside. Perhaps an idea for a next post?

    Reply

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