The Hobbit: The Battle Of The Five Armies – Reaction Post

THE HOBBIT: THE DESOLATION OF SMAUG

SPOILER WARNING. If you have not watched The Hobbit: The Battle Of The Five Armies, please proceed with caution as this entry contains spoilers, or do not proceed to read at all until you’ve watched it.

I watched The Hobbit: The Battle Of The Five Armies today (at a press screening at 9 in the morning. In a cinema out of town. Because they made us. Trust me, I only wake up at 6 o’clock for Peter Jackson.) And here is my ‘reaction post’, which is a fancy phrase to say ‘notes about the movie that are not turned into a review yet.’

Again, the spoiler warning applies. I do not want to be responsible anyone getting spoiled.

If you have no watched the film, the next line is the start of Too Much Information for you.

(And if you scroll all the way down to listen to the sound bites, Richard Armitage’s sound bite may contain spoilers. Martin Freeman’s should be spoiler-free.)

Here are my initial thoughts on the film:

– The duration is 144 minutes, which is several minutes longer than Exodus: Gods And Kings, which I watched last week and found terribly boring. And yet with The Battle Of The Five Armies, this duration felt somewhat too short. Things zipped along at an incredible pace and before you knew it, we’ve returned to Bag End. At times it felt like Peter Jackson forgot to focus on a few things (Dain Ironfoot, for one, but more on that later) and too much on other things (again, there’s more of this later), during several non-stop battle sequences. Literally, the only moment we’ve had for drama was during the transition from Lake-Town to Dale – and not much at that – and the Company’s moments inside Erebor. This is good for many people, because An Unexpected Journey was criticized for being too choppy/stagnant/whatever, but me? I think I’d have preferred it if there were about 180 minutes in the movie because I’d like some room for more drama. For more everything, really.

Actually, you know what, I’m not sure what my problem is. I’m not even sure if I should be complaining about this. The bottom line is: this movie felt too short for me. I just want more of it.

– The thing is, there are so many characters to focus on in The Battle Of The Five Armies. Other than Bilbo, Thorin, Bard, Thranduil and Gandalf, which are the main characters in the book that we only got to see, there’s also Azog, Bolg, Legolas, Tauriel, Kili, Galadriel, Elrond, Bard’s kids, Bard’s people, Alfrid and everyone else. While Bilbo, Thorin, Bard, Thranduil and Gandalf remain the key characters, sometimes scenes cut away to Bolg. And Tauriel. And Bard’s people and Alfrid. Did I say Alfrid? Why does Alfrid get more screentime than Ori, or Balin, or Dwalin or any of the Dwarves in Erebor?

– I’m not getting into the Tauriel-Kili debate. Purists will have already hated their scenes enough (at least some purists in RL that I know will have.) But to be perfectly honest, there is too much Tauriel in this movie. I’m sorry – I love seeing a strong female presence in this movie but some of her scenes were kind of unnecessary to the story. She’s not a character that brings the story forward or influences the future of this story in any way. I might change my mind later but at this point I feel that her story is more supplementary to the main character arcs. So this is a bit of a problem.

– Another thing that I have to ask is whether the filmmakers are actually allergic to showing Beorn on screen. It is such a waste of a character to not show him during the big battle. He got one kick-ass shapeshifting sequence and… nothing. I do not comprehend why he seemingly gets cut off from so many scenes since the last movie.

– Now let’s talk about Dain Ironfoot. We barely got a glimpse of Dain in any of the promos before the film was released. We also did not get a lot of him in the film itself. My pet theory for now is that the filmmakers probably didn’t want to focus heavily on Dain because him becoming King of the Mountain, replacing Thorin and his nephews but without actually going through the hardships they had gone through, would probably demean Thorin’s story. And yet, for those who do know who and what Dain is (in the future, as well), the fact that The Battle Of The Five Armies only got one or two close-ups of him was disappointing. We didn’t get any back story. We didn’t get to see Thorin summoning him for battle. Nothing.

I love Billy Connolly as an actor. He’s usually very funny and entertaining. And Dain Ironfoot in this movie was a waste of Billy Connolly’s talent.

Although, that bro-hug between Dain and Thorin did make me giddy. When the home video comes out, I’m going to put on my DVD and replay that scene a hundred times.

– On a more positive note, there are some great performances in this movie. Namely, Martin Freeman and Richard Armitage. I’ve already known that PJ hit the casting spot on for Bilbo and Thorin and with this third film in THe Hobbit trilogy, these two actors paid my trust in them many times over. They were pitch perfect. Ian McKellen and Luke Evans were great too. The latter, especially, was impressive in how subtle he showed the doubts of a new leader, the rage of someone betrayed and the worry of a father who needs to protect his children. And McKellen is always a solid, dependable actor who obviously knows his character very well – his Gandalf is a constant and reassuring presence in any scene. But Freeman and Armitage are, I have to say, on a league of their own.

– It is very hard to play crazy but Richard Armitage pulled of Mad King Thorin admirably. His brand of insanity is very nuanced: extremely harsh at one point, annoyingly frustrating at another, and then there are those lucid moments where you could see Thorin remembering himself. Thorin doesn’t always get good scenes (one of them was particularly ridiculous, and by that I mean the part where Thorin was literally illuminated by bright golden back light) but this actor’s performance always manages to rise above whatever’s lacking about the scene and his character is always truthful. It’s like he’s not acting; but it’s like he is.

– The same thing is true of Martin Freeman’s Bilbo. Again. I don’t know how he does it. He knows which buttons to push with me, emotionally, and I always get drawn into his performance like nothing else. He takes you on a roller coaster ride of emotions – I laughed so hard when he met with Thranduil and Bard… and cried so hard when he cried. Believe it or not, I was not crying when any of the character deaths happened… until Bilbo started crying. And then it was over for me. He made me into a blubbering mess. The only person in the entire cast who managed to do that to me was Martin Freeman.

– Combine Armitage and Freeman and boom. Their conversation of the acorn? Brilliant. I was so, so delighted by that scene. It started off as tense, because Thorin initially accused Bilbo of something, and then it became so sweet… and then so dark. The entire sequence was mad, chock full of goodness and I just never wanted them to end. And then the scene where Thranduil and Bard came to confront Thorin, after Bilbo had given them the Arkenstone, and Thorin attacked Bilbo… it met my expectations and more. And the great death scene… the same result. They both delivered on every single scene they were both in.

– I think it was sweet of the writers to include lines about how Bilbo always thought of Thorin as a friend even after he came home. It was the best possible redemption of Thorin Oakenshield’s soul that we could ever get, the one that the book didn’t truly provide (which makes it slightly untrue to the book, perhaps) but I personally enjoyed it. It left the movie on a good note and it was better than any funeral that we could have witnessed on screen.

But I am still hoping the extended cut of TBOTFA will contain that funeral, as well as Dain’s crowning or something. I just want to see Thorin laid in a tomb with Orcrist.

– Speaking of Orcrist, I loved how Legolas returned that sword to Thorin.

– Another thing I enjoyed very much was the appearance of The White Council. Gandalf’s rescue from Dol Guldur was something that I’ve always wanted to see, so to see it fleshed out for real was very satisfying. Galadriel was properly formidable, Saruman the White kicked ass and Elrond was majestic. And the Nine! (Yeah, enjoy that temporary resurrection, Witch-king of Angmar. Eowyn will just kill you again, you Nazgûl bastard.) Amazingly done.

– Is there battle fatigue? Not really. Like I said at the beginning, I didn’t feel like we got enough battles. (More! More! More!) But if we’re going to play the comparison game, then I have to admit that Pelennor Fields were more impressive. It was just better choreographed over all and the action and the drama were more balanced. Having said that, the battles we see in this movie did not disappoint. The big fight at the Gates of Erebor was clearly meant to be the centerpiece of the action but for me, it was the smaller ones that grabbed my attention Thorin’s fight with Azog was incredibly tense and cleverly shot, and Legolas vs Bolg Round 2 was just as harrowing as Round 1.

– One of my friends complained about the movie having yet again ‘too many endings’. My reaction to that was: “What many endings? The movie didn’t end yet!” There is that strong feeling of ‘unfinished tale’ to The Battle Of The Five Armies because of its relation to Fellowship Of The Ring. The last scene we saw of old Bilbo was a scene straight out of Fellowship and from there we move on to the next part of the saga… so this is not a proper goodbye to Middle-earth. I’m not sure people will agree with me on this point but then again, I’ve never really got the point of complaining about ‘too many endings’. For me, they ended the way it should have, which is how it ended in the book.

– On that note, I’m very, very pleased to see Bilbo’s actual return to Bag End, with people carrying his stuff away… and an auction! And Lobelia Sackville-Baggins! You have no idea how gratifying it is to put a face to a name. She’s always been mentioned but never shown. Now she has been. That was a very lovely nod to the books.

– Overall, on this first viewing, I judged The Battle Of The Five Armies to be fast paced, highly entertaining and filled with high-octane character drama. Despite some issues that I outlined earlier, which makes it not a 100% perfect movie, it is still a crowd-pleaser that lives up to its hype.This is the culmination of an adventure gone bad (or perhaps I should say, gone Gunda-bad… no? Okay. No. Let’s start again.) 

This is the culmination of an adventurous tale about going out of your door and discovering the world and all of its complications. It is also a celebration of the hard work and incredible talent of a group of people headed by an admirable filmmaker named Peter Jackson. It is definitely worth watching and should be remembered as one of the Middle-earth greats on screen.

And now – because I can and because I can’t help myself and because Martin Freeman and Richard Armitage – I give you two more sound bites from my favorite Hobbit actors.

Martin Freeman

Questions: Can you talk about the way Bilbo, who starts out very childlike, has to make some very hard decisions at the end? As an actor, how was it to get from that innocence to that growth? | What are the scenes do you like playing?

Richard Armitage

Questions: 
How dark can you take Thorin before audiences go “What the hell’s going on with Thorin?” | Did you play [his madness] as an insanity rather than a character flaw?

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