I don’t think I’m what you could call a hardcore fan of The Lord of the Rings. I mean, yeah, I watched and loved the Peter Jackson movies like everyone else, and I’ve sat through more than one extended edition marathon.
But I barely know how to spell The Silmarillion, much less know what it is, and I keep calling that Westmarch one the Red Book of Dorne, which is completely wrong because I’m mixing up high fantasy universes and they should revoke my nerd card immediately and ban me from attending conventions ever again.
So I don’t think you could call me a fan by any definition of the word. I do, however, enjoy the movies immensely — so much so that I went to see The Hobbit: The Battle of the Five Armies last night in the VIP theatre. (Pro tip: do that. They bring you food, like right to your chair.)
But this is not a plug for movie theatres and their rising standards. This is me talking about the movie I saw, my impressions of the franchise, and what I think comes next. So let’s take an unexpected journey, shall we?
The film opens where The Desolation of Smaug left off. The dragon in question is loose, burning the crap out of Lake-town, and Bilbo is forced to watch from the distance atop the mountain. Then Bard places the responsibility of killing the dragon on his son’s shoulders (heh), and together they take out Smaug. This happens within the first, oh, fifteen or twenty minutes of the movie, which left me wondering, “What can they possibly do for the rest of it?”
The answer is, everyone’s left to fight over the massive, now-abandoned treasure hoard inside Erebor. Thorin goes gold-crazy and won’t pay the Lake-towners for helping him, so those guys get pissy and decide to lay siege to the mountain until he pays up.
On top of that, Thorin accuses his dwarves of stealing his Arkenstone (which is… important for some reason? Because shiny?). So everyone inside Erebor is having a bad time, especially Bilbo, who actually has the Arkenstone and isn’t entirely sure what to do with it, apart from keeping it out of Thorin’s hands.
Meanwhile, Thranduil’s forces are massing at the mountain, too, because there seems to be a fancy necklace that he wants. Azog is bringing in a bunch of goblins as well, and eventually Thorin’s cousin Dain shows up with more dwarves. So there’s a lot of setup for the battle itself, which is fairly long and drawn-out and a bunch of people that I’m very fond of are dead now.
Once the battle is over, Bilbo heads back home. He lies to Gandalf about still having the Ring, but Gandalf obviously sees right through that, thus explaining how he knows that Bilbo has it in The Fellowship of the Ring and setting up the events of that movie quite nicely. So the story has come full circle to where we began all the way back in 2001, and that shouldn’t make you feel old and decrepit at all.
As much as this movie was highly anticipated by pretty much everyone, I was disappointed by a few things. For one, after the Smaug scene at the beginning, the movie was fairly slow for a good hour. I know it was setting up for the battle, but I think it could have been much improved by jumping into the action that much sooner. We don’t need whatever the hell was happening with Gandalf, Saruman, and the elves, or Legolas and Tauriel scouting out Gundabad (even though I love it when Tauriel does things).
That leads into another concern I had, which was mostly apparent here in the Hobbit trilogy. I know Peter Jackson was trying to incorporate as much of the world into the story as possible, and that’s fine, because I know that’s the reason Tolkien wrote the story in the first place: to take advantage of this amazing world he created.
But when I don’t get things like Gundabad or seriously whatever was happening with Sauron and the wizard/elf gang, I feel kinda dumb. And I don’t like it when movies make me feel dumb. I don’t understand why Gandalf was a prisoner, why Galadriel of all people felt like she had to rescue him, and where on earth her damn shoes are.
It was also somewhat predictable. That’s no fault of the filmmakers’, for the most part, because I did read the book and already knew that Kili would die. I didn’t remember about Thorin, but with his whole “descent into darkness and rise to redemption” thing, it was pretty clear that he was going to die as well. And that’s even more obvious when you take his war with Azog into account, because you just always knew those two would end up killing each other in the end.
But the big thing is that, throughout the entire trilogy, you know that no real harm can come to Bilbo. We already know he lives right up until the end of Return of the King, so even if there’s a life-or-death situation, I can’t get into the tension because I’m like, “Pfft, he’ll totally survive this and live to see another three movies.”
There’s another thing I’m fairly peevish about too: the Tauriel of it all, but not for the reasons you think. I actually love that they introduced a strong, smart elf-lady into the story, because she’s literally one of four main female characters in the entire freaking six-movie franchise. That is a devastatingly awful statistic, in case you don’t math.
No, it’s because they introduced a new lady character and immediately made her the focus of a love triangle. And I hate those things. And it wasn’t even necessary, because it was clear that Tauriel and Kili were crazy about each other, so why did Legolas even have to be in there at all?
Even that I could tolerate for the sake of Tauriel-related awesomeness, but it was the Thranduil of it all that made me absolutely crazy. He’s like, “Tauriel, you’re banished, and also your relationship with the dwarf isn’t real because he’s a dwarf and that’s crazy.” Then after Kili dies, Thranduil concedes that Tauriel’s feelings were, in fact, real. But guess what? Tauriel doesn’t need Thranduil to validate her feelings, and it pisses me off that they imply that.
She kinda gets this expression on her face after the fact that made me wonder if she thought that, but she doesn’t say anything. And it’s not like Tauriel has a problem talking back to her king. So what’s the deal there? Girl, I get that you just lost the love of your life, but I don’t understand why you suddenly turn into a shy and wilting flower as a result. Would you fight back a little?
It feels like all I’ve done thus far is heap a lot of criticism onto the movie, but I did actually really like it during those parts where I engaged with the story. The bits with Bard and Alfred were amazing in their dry humour, and I loved at the end when Bilbo tells the dwarves that his door is always open to them and they never need to knock. And yes, all right, I broke down and wept when Kili died, because in case you hadn’t guessed from all the times I’ve mentioned him, he was my favourite character.
I also liked it because it made me think. Adventure is one of those things that everyone secretly dreams about, whether it’s as big as climbing Everest or as small as choosing a different brand of fabric softener at the store. But one thing the Hobbit trilogy taught me is that, no matter how amazing your life out in the big wide world might be, there is absolutely nothing wrong with living a small one close to home.
And in connection with that idea, as they not-so-subtly emphasized by Hobbiton’s residents auctioning off the contents of Bilbo’s house, the home you come back to might not be the same as the one you left. Maybe the place you left has changed, or maybe it’s just you. Once you’ve been through an adventure like that, can you ever really go home?
The Battle of the Five Armies started out with the name There and Back Again. And you know what? In spite of how suitable the new name is, I still like the old one better. Because I know it’s supposed to mean “going on an adventure and going home again.” But I see it as tying in with the rest of Bilbo’s life, which is only lightly skimmed over in the Lord of the Rings trilogy.
Bilbo went on his first adventure, the “there.” But after he went home again, he still had that wanderlust, that desire to find his next great adventure, the yearning to go beyond his armchair and his books and his handkerchiefs. So when he left for Rivendell on his one-hundred-and-eleventh birthday, he was leaving behind a once-important place that didn’t have any room for him anymore. His next and last adventure was the “back again”: back to uncertainty, back to danger, back to the person he’d become.
This was the last Lord of the Rings adventure. We aren’t likely to see another one for a long time, although I’m optimistic that Peter Jackson could wrangle something up. But I feel it’s entirely appropriate at this point to adapt a quote from good old J.K. Rowling: “The stories we love best do live in us forever. So, whether you come back by page or by the big screen, Middle Earth will always be there to welcome you home.”
Maybe I’m reaching too far into the realm of introspection, but maybe home isn’t a place you leave behind you while you set out on adventure. Maybe it’s just a sense of belonging. So no matter where you are in the world, as long as you’re comfortable and confident in who you are and where you’re going, you’re always home.
Final Grade: B+
- Now that Thorin’s dead, who’s in charge of Erebor? Fili and Kili were his heirs, but they’re dead too (sob), so who’s running things? Man, dwarves are just really terrible at organizing a succession.
- How much would it suck to come home and find everyone walking off with your stuff because they thought you were dead? Especially with a place as big as Bag End. Bilbo was probably putting stuff back for the next thirty months.
- I’m really curious about what happened to Tauriel after the movie ended. I was fully expecting that she would die, so now that she’s still alive, I’d love to know what she gets up to. That is all.