I had to the privilege of attending a pre-screening event for The Hobbit: Battle of Five Armies and I’d like to share my spoiler free thoughts on the end of the series.
Now I have been a Tolkien fan since childhood and The Hobbit, though cliché, was my favorite of his stories. When the first trilogy came out I was so in love, well let’s just say, I was a Lord of the Rings fangirl back before I knew what fandoms were. So obviously I was thrilled when it was announced we would be seeing The Hobbit come to life. But before we discuss the end, let’s take a look back at the beginning.
There were many complications on the film’s journey to the screen. Disputes over film rights held up the project for years. Then there was the issue of Guillermo Del Toro originally being picked to direct, though he would work close with Peter Jackson and Weta Workshop. Eventually, because of delays and money issues Del Toro bowed out and the project landed solely in Jackson’s hands.
Of course this would not be the end of complications. A union strike held up production in 2010 and which caused Warner Bros to very nearly move the entirety of filming outside of New Zealand. There was Dean O’Gorman’s late addition to the cast in the role of Fili to replace the previous actor who had left for personal reasons as well as the eventual decision to split the movie into 3 parts instead of just 2.
Despite it all The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey made it’s cinematic debut in late 2012 more than 11 years after Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring. The film was an immediate success and grossed over $1 billion dollars at box office, more than both The Fellowship of the Ring and The Two Towers! Fun side note: our very own Nomsense blogger, Kate, was actually in New Zealand at the time of the first premier and got to see the red carpet! Lucky Kate!
The Desolation of Smaug was also a success, grossing very nearly as much as the first film at box office. There was concern about the addition of the character Tauriel, fabricated by Jackson to round out the female side of the cast. I don’t have anything against her character, she’s clever and kicks some major butt, though the idea that she needed to have a romantic plotline does ruffle my feathers a bit. There was also some rabble over the ending of this film and the fact that The Desolation of Smaug didn’t in fact end in Smaug’s desolation, but was a play on words meant to highlight the destruction Smaug had wrought. This is where our final movie picks up. No time is lost between the two films and we are thrown headlong back into the chaos of a Lake-Town just before the attack.
There was very little I found wanting in The Battle of Five Armies. Honestly the pacing and intensity of the film reminded me very much of Return of the King with narey a dull moment to be had. Though, I would question emotional dissonance of the film. I understand that The Battle of Five Armies was a heavy and dark battle, and that audiences need levity to help carry them through the story. But, I felt that there were just a hair too many moments I would be caught up in a serious moment only to find myself laughing out loud at some ridiculous thing. But, maybe that was just the hysteria talking.
You can also see Del Toro’s fingerprint left behind so to speak. His contributions to the original Hobbit outlines were brought over into the films by Jackson. Personally, because Del Toro has such a specific style, I tend to think I can pick out bits and pieces that really reflect his aesthetic.
Now without naming names or spoiling anything I will say one thing about the deaths in this movie. I am a fan of death when a death has a point to the story. In Lord of the Rings Boromir’s death showed you both the weakness and strength of a man’s will. It served as a reason for Frodo and Sam to separate from the fellowship and was later a key in negotiations with Gondor. Tolkien also handled the way in which he died so that it was also respectful to the character himself.
The problem with Battle of Five Armies is that in the book Bilbo is knocked out early on in the battle and awakens only after everything has happened. Tolkien never writes specifically how each character dies. So the question would be, was Jackson’s interpretation of the deaths respectful to each character? For the most part I would agree. I have racked my brain trying to envision a death scenario that I felt I would have found more appropriate, and I come up blank.
I can only turn for wisdom to the words Gandalf said to Frodo in Fellowship of the Ring, “Many that live deserve death. And some that die deserve life. Can you give it to them? Then do not be too eager to deal out death in judgement. For even the very wise cannot see all ends.”
As I said, Battle of Five Armies starkly reminded me of Return of the King, but it wasn’t just the fighting that did it. There are some choice moments in the Lord of the Rings movies that back in the day were (as I recall them) awe-inspiring, that when rewatched now are let’s be honest, pretty cheesy. In a stroke of brilliance Jackson doesn’t deny these scenes but actually parallels them to scenes in The Hobbit.
All along Jackson has claimed that his vision for The Hobbit was for the audience to seamlessly be able to move from this trilogy to the previous one. And the beautiful thing is, that you really can. Though this is the end of the line, the very last Hobbit film to be filmed, it’s also the beginning. We see Bilbo again, we know what happens to him and Bilbo’s adventures are what inspired Frodo to have the courage to take his own.
It’s hard seeing things we love come to an end, but it hurts because it was real. These stories meant something and they always will. So, I think it’s appropriate to quote Samwise Gamgee in this, my last goodbye.
“It’s like in the great stories, Mr. Frodo. The ones that really mattered. Full of darkness and danger they were. And sometimes you didn’t want to know the end. Because how could the end be happy? How could the world go back to the way it was when so much bad had happened? But in the end, it’s only a passing thing, this shadow. Even darkness must pass. A new day will come. And when the sun shines, it will shine out the clearer. Those were the stories that stayed with you. That meant something, even if you were too small to understand why. But I think, Mr. Frodo, I do understand. I know now. Folk in those stories had lots of chances of turning back, only they didn’t. Because they were holding on to something… There’s some good in this world, Mr. Frodo. And it’s worth fighting for.”