O.K….It’s wasn’t as bad as all that.
I was house/pet sitting over the weekend and had a chance to watch The Hobbit: Battle of the Five Armies on their big screen TV, so I wasn’t missing much in terms of perspective from the theater.
Now, I delayed seeing this because I knew I was going to be disapointed. I was warned how far they strayed from Tolkien’s text and that it pretty much was the medieval equivalent of a Michael Bay film (since everyone realized in film one this was taking place in a “Physics-Free Zone” and PJ & Co. feel you can never have enough CGI). And of course, that fucking Turiel/Kili thing.
Let me tell you something, when you insert a female character for what you claim is to add “female energy,” you do NOT automatically put her in a romantic relationship. That is not “female empowerment,” that’s a Mills and Boon/Harlequin romance.
Anyhoo, I had to wait until I could unhook my brain enough to watch it, and as three hours of mindless entertainment, it was fine.
However, then I thought about it and watched it again.
First of all, my biggest complaint about this entire damn series is that fact that it became Thorin’s story rather than the titular character, who quite frankly was *perfectly* cast and played.
The book is called The Hobbit, not “The Dwarf.”
Hell, even these guys admit it:
(And I will skip over the points they make here, though I give props to Legolas running out of arrows after “The Magical Quiver of Inexhaustible Arrows” became such a fan in-joke of the first trilogy.)
And they are right (and it is *very* rare these guys take sins off the count), Martin elevates every scene he is in. It something people don’t really notice on Sherlock because they are fascinated with Cumberbatch, but Martin is carrying the emotional weight of that series and he in these films as well. He was a blessing to these films every time he was onscreen and it was a crime to take so much attention away from what is Bilbo’s story.
Now Armitage, who was openly cast to be the Aragorn-ish “heartthrob,” did carry his too large-part very well. (I am glad Boynes,Walsh and Jackson actually chose a good actor when they were looking for their “Broody McHotdwarf.”) In Battle of the Five Armies, I think Armitage pitched it just right on the believable side of madness. Not so crazy that it would not be believable that the Company would still follow his orders. But obviously acting out of character, or at least his jerk tendencies had gone into overdrive. He did not become a different person, he just became the dark version of that person.
That entire cast was first rate, sadly most of them were wasted. All that extra time, and most of the dwarves get almost no character development. Why did you bother casting all these fantastic actors if you weren’t going to use them?
And the relationship between Thorin and his nephews gets NO development. Hell, the non-book reading audience does not even find out they *are* his nephews until 2/3 of the way through the second film in what is almost a throw away line. And without that development, the impact of their deaths was minimized. Fili went out like a punk just to motivate Thorin into doing something strategically stupid.
He was ‘fridged.
Kili’s death was wasted on that stupid love story.
And I will admit, Lilly did make me cry in that “If this is love I do not want it, take it from me.” scene. The only time I cried through the entire thing. But it was a story that simply should not have been there. It wasted time that should have been given to existing characters and relationships.
I kept hearing from the actors that Thorin and Bilbo develop this great friendship…that never ended up on screen.
The problem, again, was the writing (and direction).
The closer the movie stayed to the text, the better it was. “Riddles in the Dark” was fantastic. Bilbo’s face off with Smaug? Brilliant.
The further away they got, the less the story made sense.
An example of this in LOTR series is when Boynes and Walsh departed the most from the book by having Faramir drag Frodo and Sam to Osgilliath. And then he lets them go to Mordor after watching Frodo try to hand the Ring over the a Nazgul…because Sam told a story.
Now in the book The Hobbit, Smaug never sees Bilbo, but assumes he is someone from Lake-town because Bilbo mentions “barrels” in their little game of wits. Smaug thinks someone from Lake-town is robbing him.
So Smaug goes and attacks Lake-town.
It makes sense.
In the film, Smaug knows it is the Dwarves. He sees them. They try to kill him (by one of the dumbest methods I have probably ever seen, seriously who really thought they were going to kill a FIRE BREATHING DRAGON by throwing a shallow pond of molten gold at it? And I will not talk about the fact that there is no way that gold melted that fast, etc. Again: Physics-Free Zone.)
So Smaug goes and attacks Lake-town.
Why would he do that when the little bastards that tried to kill him and steal his gold are in his mountain?
Now, points for Dain’s introduction, freaking brilliant.
Good morning. How are we all? I have a wee proposition, if you don’t mind giving me a few moments of your time. Would you consider JUST SODDING OFF! All ye, right now!
But then, you realize he had to have a damn teleporter to get there as fast as he did.
And if you think about the battle, the Dwarves manage to swing around in front of that MASSIVE elven army. Then the Elves go over the dwarves to drive into the Orcs. And instead of, y’know, mopping up the field, they just keep plowing through to Dale?
Well, Thranduil is a prick. I guess the Elves figured they’re just dwarves after all.
And just where did the were-worms go? Back to Arrakis?
Then in that last battle on Ravenhill, what happened to Dwalin? Seriously, he couldn’t fight his way to Thorin to help?
Thorin also wins “Smartest/Dumbest Fighter in the Film” award. Smart for over-weighting Azog’s side of the ice slab and simply stepping off. Dumbest for staying within arm’s reach of him as Azog is under the ice. Seriously, who did not see that coming?
They had the fantastic cast, they had the source material. The writing was just bad because Jackson, Walsh and Boynes have gotten too big for their britches and no one says “No” to them anymore.
So now we come to what really chafes my hide:
Say what you will about Tolkien’s characterization, his story pacing; the man could write beautiful words. He was a linguist after all, and he had studied ancient legends, sometimes in their native tongue, for all his life.
From LOTR, I can recite Eowen threatening the Witch King from memory.
“Begone foul dimmerlake, Lord of Carrion, Leave the dead in peace!”
“Come not between the Nazgûl and his prey or he will not slay thee in thy turn! He will bear thee away to the houses of lamentation, beyond all darkness, where thy flesh shall be devoured, and thy shriveled mind be left naked to the Lidless Eye.”
“Do what you will; but I will hinder it, if I may.”
“Hinder me? Thou fool. No living man may hinder me!”
The clear voice was like the ring of steel. “But no living man am I! You look upon a woman. Éowyn I am, Éomund’s daughter. You stand between me and my lord and kin. Begone, if you be not deathless! For living or dark undead, I will smite you if you touch him!”
Now that is one of the most eloquent, beautiful “If you touch my family I will fuck you up!” statements in all of literature.
What ended up on film? “I am no man!”
Seriously, I have to fast forward through that scene every time, and I am not the only one. It is so badly done it is just painful to watch.
And they did it yet again with Thorin’s last words.
Not *as* badly as what they did to Eowyn, but ….
BOYNES AND WALSH, WHAT THE FUCK IS YOUR PROBLEM!?!
Those words are iconic. They are the principal theme of the book encompassed in a beautiful short speech in utterly poignant and tragic moment.
And it is made the more tragic because Thorin has watched both his nephews die defending him, almost the last family he had. His sister is still alive (I think), but his his father is dead, his brother is dead, his nephews are dead. His line is done.
As far as the film Thorin knows, he doesn’t know what happened to Kili. As far as that Thorin knows, Kili could still be alive.
But book Thorin knows it is over, and it is over because of his own avarice and hubris.
“Farewell good Thief, I go to Halls of Waiting to sit beside my fathers until the world is renewed. Since I leave now all gold and silver, and go to where it is of little worth, I wish to part from you in friendship. I would take back and words and deeds at the gate.”
“Farewell King Under the Mountain. This is a bitter adventure, if it must end so. And no mountain of gold can amend it. Yet I am glad to have shared in your perils. It is more than any Baggins deserves.”
(And you may say that Bilbo is being overly generous here, as he was in the film, but when you are with someone who is dying, you just want them to go in peace, so you say whatever is going to make them happy. Seriously, death-bed recriminations…if you have a once of humanity it does not happen.)
“No! There is more good in you, child of the kindly West. Some courage and some wisdom, blended in measure. If more of us valued food and cheer and song above hoarded gold, it would be a merrier world. But sad or merry, I must leave it now. Farewell.”
Now, Boynes did not mess with this as badly as “I am no man” But why mess with it at all? Changing Bilbo’s I can see because he is, and Martin played him as, an “everyman” character. His lines could tone with the poetry a bit. And that was O.k..
Why? He said the pretty much the same thing, sorta, but they changed these words for no reason.
Armitage had the chops, he could have pulled it off. Why change such beautiful, iconic words?
Unless someone thought they were a better writer than Tolkien?
So seriously, Fuck you Boynes, Walsh or whoever re-wrote that monologue *just* to put “their own stamp on it.” *Just* because they thought they were a better writer than Tolkien. Fuck you.
Though I did like the “normalcy” Gandalf brought after the battle to Bilbo by cleaning out his pipe. “Life goes on.” That was a nice little scene.
So Battle of the Five Armies is o.k….so long as you don’t think about it too hard.
Because if you think about it too hard, you realize there were six armies, not five. Men in Dale, Elves all over the place, Dwarves on the plain, the Eagles, and two armies of Orcs from two points of origin.
I just hope the Extended Edition has more Beorn kicking ass, because that entrance was so awesome.
I will also say that Ryan Gage, who plays the “weasel” Alfred in The Hobbit, is currently cutting a very fine and surprisingly complex figure of Louis the XIII in The Musketeers. Many Musketeers fans consider him to be one of the highlights of the show.