Spoilers Ahoy for both the movie and the books.
So if I thought Desolation of Smaug was better than I thought it woul be, then I have to admit that I watched a good portion of Five Armies (hence forth BoFA) with the my arms crossed and slightly slumped in the seat.
It didn’t help that there was like 45 minutes of trailers for nothing I wanted to see either.
Okay it was more like 30. Still, I heard people snoring.
No, I am not joking.
Luckily, BoFA is not the type of movie you can sleep though.
Before I start what will no doubt descend into a rant with the word thrush being used repeatedly, I will acknowledge that the acting was great. Seriously, it seemed someone, somewhere, was trying to get Freeman and/or Armtiage some type of nod for some sparkly trophy thing. The movie picks up pretty much right where Desolation left off. The flight from the town as well as Bard’s battle against Smaug (who is worth the price of admission, to be honest - BEST DEATH SCENE EVER!) are well filmed and engrossing.
But, damn, Jackson what did a thrush ever do to you? Huh, one of the greatest heroes in the bloody novel and you totally cut the poor bird out! Seriously, I could forgive you the whole black arrow screw up because even though Bard’s wonderful “Black Arrow, you never failed me” speech would/is non-existent, using a large arrow to kill a dragon made sense. But the thrush? I’m sorry I can’t forgive you the thrush. That’s how Kingship is proven in Tolkien, even with the Dwarves. You remembered the ravens, but not the thrush? Bard’s willingness to listen to the bird and then shot true shows his kingship. Instead Bard’s helper in killing the dragon is his son Bain. This is nice in the terms of a family that slays dragos together type of a thing, but throughout the movie it is always Bain doing heroic things while the two daughters scream and run. Not that I blame the daughters for screaming or running, and Tilda is too young to do much of anything, but they could have done something more.
Sadly, this trend of women being helpless or quasi helpless is repeated again and again thorough out the movie.
To be fair, it does seem as there was an attempt to balance this, and in the original Hobbit there are no women of any kind. Yet, watching this movie, one wishes for the LOTR that Jackson filmed, where the strength of what few female characters there were was more front and center. One of the ways Jackson and co try to balance out the heroics in terms of gender is the inclusion of the Battle against the Necromancer, something that happens off-page in the novel. In this piece, we have Elrond, Saruman, and Galadriel going to rescue Gandalf, though for some reason, never fully explained at least to my satisfaction, Galadriel’s power fades a bit (after fighting one orc) then comes back when she seems to remember she has a ring. She basically wins the battle but is exhausted. The two men – Elrond and Saruman are still standing after defeating the Nine Kings (the Nazgul) in ghost form.
And there is a scene in the Battle of Dale where the women, inspired by one snappy lady, deicide to take up arms and battle alongside the men folk, but we never really see any of these women fighting. We see plenty of man fighting, however.
Then there is Tauriel who I found, at the end of everything, to be a disappointment. Part of this is the love triangle that does not work. Far better, and more realistic, to have Legolas see her as a sister instead of this romantic love thing, or almost thing. It seems as if no one is really sure which way to go with it – one minute romantic love, and then close friends, then basically siblings. When Legolas refuses to return to his father after Tauriel’s banishment, one has to wonder why Legolas would do such a thing. To be blunt, she should be banished; she’s the Captain of the Guard and left her duty because she wants to save a dwarf. It’s true, at least in the book version of LOTR that Eowyn also abandons her duty, but in both films and movies, this breaking is worked up to far better. Eowyn doesn’t simply do it for love of Aragorn, but also due to depression, anger, and love of her uncle. Tauriel’s scenes with Kili feel better than the last movie, but also weaken her character. Her only motivation for most of her actions in this movie seems to be simply because she loves Kili. This illustration weakens her best moment when she challenges Thanduil as he is about to leave the battle. She isn’t doing it because it is the right thing to do –we must ban together to face this evil – but because she wants to save Kili and doesn’t care who else dies as long as her dwarf is safe. Instead of having a principled woman (elf) who stands up for her belief that there is a bigger picture (hinted at with her lines about the spiders in the previous movie), we have someone who wants to get laid. A warrior who is so distracted by worry for her honey bun that she is almost killed, and has to be saved twice by the dwarf and elf who supposedly love her.
All the big baddies in this movie are killed by men or males. If that is how you are going to end things Jackson, please don’t include the women at all. It comes across as pandering, and Tolkien might not have used many women in any of his work, but when he did they were powerhouses – even Rosie Cotton.
And this movie is in many ways a huge slug fest with doses of “love well save us all” (a message that Tolkien might have approved of).
There are some bright spots in the film. The negation between Thorin and Bard prior to the elves and men attacking the dwarves is brilliantly done, with both characters bringing good points to their argument. The animals that the dwarves ride into battle are awesome. Dain is great. Bard is great. Thandruil’s elk is a beast not to piss off.
(source #Hipster Thranduil)
There are some parts that don’t make sense though. While don’t the elves shot arrows into the charging orcs? Did the union for the Dune Sand Worms have something on Jackson because why did they get a cameo (and no thrush)? The death scenes are great, though at times Thorin’s duel goes a bit too long (and honestly, who didn’t see that coming)? If you move in your seat, you will miss Beron.
Yet, the Hobbit should be more than a slug fest ( in the novel Biblo misses the battle) so the missing things, such as the thrush - are missed. There isn’t enough Bofur, for instance, and if you blink you will miss most of the other dwarves. It’s true that the idea of love is pleasant and is given as a reason for some of the characters acting the way they do (in particular, Thanduil), but there is a sense of the movie missing more than a thrush. It is to Jackson’s credit that he ties the prequels into his versions of LOTR very well and very closely (and far, far better than some other famous prequels), yet if this was what the other movies were heading towards, it almost feels too rushed, even with the nice touches such as the spoons.