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.
Meanwhile 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.
In 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
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!
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).
Bilbo 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.
The 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.
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?