Watching The Hobbit: The Battle of the Five Armies is sure to be an emotional experience for any Lord of the Rings fan. It marks the end of an era, the end of Peter Jackson’s Tolkien adaptations, the end of over ten years of waiting and watching. It’s been a long, crazy ride, but since the Tolkien estate is unlikely to release the rights to any other Tolkien works, the ride is now over.
It’s a bittersweet ending. I have enjoyed a lot of things about the Hobbit movies—Martin Freeman, Richard Armitage, seeing the Shire again, watching the White Council in action. But most of the sweetness comes from the memories of Peter Jackson’s original trilogy, his wonderful adaptation of the Lord of the Rings Trilogy. It’s not that the Hobbit movies are the “bitter” part of the bittersweet ending, but for a finale, it has been disappointing.
I’ve watched these Hobbit movies (An Unexpected Journey and The Desolation of Smaug) with people who have both read and not read the book. In general, I’ve found that people liked the first movie, did not like the second movie, and are split over the third movie. I understand that separating the book from the movie probably makes The Battle of the Five Armies more enjoyable, but I didn’t have to make that distinction to enjoy Jackson’ original trilogy, so I don’t feel like doing that for Jackson’s farewell to Middle Earth.
I think almost everyone agrees that stretching this short children’s novel into three movies was a big, money-grasping mistake. All films are filled with unnecessary wastes of time, from more new characters and action sequences than any viewer cares for. Most of these scenes were in the second movie, which was by far the most filler of all the movies, but it also caught up with the third film. Why did the movie spend so much time with the sleazy Alfred from Laketown when he was a cheap Grima Wormtongue knock off? I don’t know. Why have there been so many orc chases in all of the movies?
I understand that when adapting a book to a movie, there have to be some changes, but I thought movies like The Book Thief and The Fault In Our Stars taught us that there don’t have to be that many changes to make a good movie. After all, if a book has a good story, that story will translate to a good movie. Here are the changes in The Battle of the Five Armies that I thought detracted from the story.
Tauriel. I know that Peter Jackson and his writing team thought there needed to be a bigger female presence, but Tauriel felt like a cheap rip off of Tolkien’s female characters in Lord of the Rings. The romance between her and Legolas was stale and Tolkien would balk. The romance between her and Kili was cheesy (I can’t believe the same people who wrote dialogue Aragorn and Arwen wrote the dialogue for Tauriel and Kili), and Tolkien is rolling in his grave. It also felt like a cheap rip off because Jackson actually did rip off his own tricks from the original trilogy, like bathing Tauriel in light like he did Arwen, making her a warrior like Eowyn. Also, Tauriel is not canon. You can change canon in little ways to make your story work but you cannot create entirely new main characters. You just can’t.
Smaug. The second movie ends with the dragon flying to Laketown to destroy it, so naturally that’s where the movie picks up. The first thing that happens is Bard kills Smaug. It’s so anti-climatic for that to happen first thing and then have to move on to the battle so quickly. It would have been much more effective storytelling to end the second movie with the slaying of Smaug. I can’t believe Jackson and company couldn’t see that.
Azog. Peter Jackson and team thought they needed more agency to push the storyline, so they had an orc with a personal vendetta against the dwarves chase them. Of course, they wouldn’t have needed this agency if they hadn’t made this tiny book into three movies. But my big issue with Azog in this last movie is when he fights Thorin, Kili, and Fili. In the book, Thorin and his nephews die fighting in the midst of a battle to defend their homeland and their people. By staging a fight with Azog high above the battle, Jackson took away the meaning of their death. It was nothing more than this personal vendetta of revenge when it was suppose to be a valiant redemption. It wasn’t meaningful. I didn’t even cry, and I sob when I read this part of the book.
The ending. The subtitle of The Hobbit, given by Tolkien himself, is “there and back again”. The story ends with Bilbo returning home to his hobbit hole Bag End. The movie had that part, but it felt so rushed. Thorin dies, Bilbo heads off after a short goodbye to the dwarfs. This movie is the finale to LOTR movies as we know them, but the closure felt rushed and in hurry. Maybe I’m nostalgic and emotional and needed more time to process the ending of this era, but I would have liked a more meaningful ending, like the ending of The Return of the King. I also thought Thranduil’s exit from the story was rushed. Thranduil in general probably deserved more screen time, as some of his mystery character motivations were left half developed. But maybe I’m biased because I think Lee Pace is amazing.
In the end, I was disappointed by The Battle of the Five Armies, but all three Hobbit movies in general. There were things that I liked—the casting, mostly. But after Jackson’s incredibly successful Lord of the Rings trilogy, I guess I expected more. By stretching the book into three movies, adding new characters, and taking unnecessary and harmful tangents into the story, Jackson and his team feel short of what could have been a miraculous adaptation. Perhaps after the success of LOTR they thought had had more artistic license, I don’t know. But maybe they missed Tolkien’s original intent of The Hobbit. Maybe they tried to make it too much like Lord of the Rings. Either way, The Hobbit movies were not what they could have been. That’s not to say they were a total waste. When I have the urge to see Bilbo Baggins on screen, I can turn to these movies, but ultimately, these movies simply make me yearn to see the superior Lord of the Rings adaptation.