Needless to say… SPOILERS BELOW!
I don’t know that this is going to be so much a review, as some random thoughts on The Hobbit: The Battle of Five Armies. I’ve seen it three times, loved it even more each subsequent time, and am planning to see it at least once more in theatres. The first time, I saw it with Hubby in the 3D IMAX format (we both fully enjoyed this final installment, for those of you wondering what the Hubby’s verdict was!) and other times, I saw it by myself in a regular theatre. Although I had some minor quibbles, for the most part, it really satisfied me. I do occasionally see movies that I love more than once in the theatre, but before I developed this PreoccupationWithArmitage, I’ve limited all of my Middle Earth movies to viewing once, and always on opening weekend, in theatres, then waiting for extended versions before viewing again. So… in no particular order, here are some of my thoughts:
First, the creatures in this movie were fantastic. From the dragon down to the rabbits, the creature designs and animations were pretty freaking cool. Some of the stand-outs for me:
Smaug strafing Lake-Town– I have never seen a depiction of a dragon attack that was done more beautifully and believeably. The creature design on Smaug was always fantastic- it seriously irritates and bothers me when I see a dragon concept that does not provide believable musculature and wing structure to sustain flight. This is an issue for the Hubby, as well. I’m happy to report that for the serious anatomical analysts in my household, not only did Smaug have credible anatomical features, but the animation- the undulations of flight, the wind shearing, just the quality of motion- were once again, phenomenal. I particularly loved the creature’s death throws, and the fall.
Rhosgobel Rabbits– The quality of the creatures, down to the little details- for instance, when the harness-racing rabbits came to a stop, I loved how they immediately started grooming, rolling in the grass, and doing other rabbity- behaviours.
Thranduil’s Elk- what a rack! That creature just defined nobility, and was almost as aloof and elegant as his rider.
Azog- was it just me, or did Azog almost look handsome in this movie? I mean, as orcs go… Lol. Before these movies I wouldn’t have thought a dwarf could be handsome, but how wrong was that? OK, so Azog isn’t exactly sex on a stick, but I found him rather aesthetically pleasing for an orc… he did have a certain symmetry to his features, as well as a rather better complexion than the average orc, making him handsome in the way that a really brawny pit bull is handsome. And wowzers- did anyone else find themselves
sort of weirdly appreciating his codpiece? approving of his new duds? That armor he sported for the Big Battle was a step up from the tattered rags he always wore in the earlier movies.
Bolg- Azog’s spawn has always been one of my favorite creature designs out of all of the Middle Earth films. Love the metal riveted in his skull, and the jagged metal protruding all over his torso, like an amalgamation of armor and flesh. It’s just a sick design! (Side note: my all time favorite creature design and portrayal is Sméagol-Gollum, though!)
Then, there were the characters. A few stood out above the rest:
Alfrid- seriously, what a piece of toad slime he was! I’m not familiar with the actor, Ryan Gage, but what an absolutely magnetic performance. Some combination of worm-like posture, crazy eyes and that wide, mobile, rotting mouth just made me shudder with loathing. Bravo! He also delivered wonderful comic relief, when so much of the movie was disturbing, and sad. This butt-ugly character trying to avoid battle by passing for a woman in that ridiculous mob-cap, and stuffing coins into his big bosom? Loved it.
Thranduil- Before now, Thranduil as a character was portrayed well, but not a stand-out for me. However, in BOFA, maybe his badass elk just impressed me and made me take notice, but damn! Lee Pace delivered. Thranduil was the ultimate embodiment of cold elven elegance in all his silver and white hauteur.
I really need my own cape, or even a robe would do, if it was made out of that beautiful silvery stuff. And my, but didn’t he look hot, when he smiled at Dain’s challenge on the brink of battle? (Speaking for a moment of Dain- loved that make-up design, with the boar fangs in the beard… another one PJ’s team knocked right out of the park- fabulous antithesis to Thranduil in every way!!) But back to Thranduil. He kicked some serious ass in battle, and was superb in the pre-battle scenes, as well. I loved his cool dismissal of Gandalf’s warnings, and the wry humor when he blandly asked Bard if he would really try to reason with a dwarf. I don’t know how it happened, but I fell a bit in love with Thranduil in this final film.
Bilbo- Martin Freeman actually gives Richard Armitage a run for his money with the ability to communicate with his eyes. I think the chemistry between Thorin and Bilbo was always right on the money, and I just loved the acorn scene. Martin is also a master at subtle facial comedy. One of my favorite moments, and another moment of humor for me, was the scene with Gandalf (Ian McKellan, who also excels at subtle comedy) where Bilbo and Gandalf are sitting together after the battle, and Gandalf is tamping, tamping, tamping away on his pipe, really disrupting Bilbo’s morose moment! The best scene, though, was Thorin’s death scene. Bilbo’s despair, and every word and moan that he uttered, were so touching that I tear up even thinking about it. Watching Thorin die would be horribly hard no matter the circumstances, but the interaction between the two actors, feeding off the emotions of the other, was both the pinnacle of the film, and the lowest point for me.
Thorin- of course, there was Thorin. I think he deserves his own section, because I have to agree with others who have declared that this truly was Thorin’s movie, and Richard’s triumph. His portrayal of the Dragon Sickness eerily echoed The Ring sickness, and watching those transitions, those glimpses of warmth, honor and sanity transforming into what can only be described as madness, were riveting. So, more on Thorin later.
A few things I didn’t care for:
The Gandalf-Galadriel-Elrond-Sarumon-Wraiths-Sauron scene. I could have done without it. Then again, if Peter Jackson’s Middle Earth movies stand the test of time, and I predict they will- future generations, my children included, will likely watch in order, starting with The Hobbit and ending with LOTR, so the inclusion of these background scenes, which have been present throughout TH trilogy, are understandable from that perspective.
I also could have done without the entire Tauriel/Kili love affair. I didn’t hate it, but I didn’t love it, or think it added any substance to the trilogy. This is not to say that I didn’t like Tauriel- I did like her, and found her both aesthetically pleasing to look at, and quietly compelling as a character. I found the death scene with Kili moving, despite myself, and her exchange with Thranduil at the end was also to my liking.
There were a few things that didn’t make sense to me, but hopefully at least some of them will be explained and improved upon in the director’s cut. Where did Thorin’s company come by those battle mountain goats? What happened to Thorin’s battle armor? I mean, if he stripped down on the lake of gold, why weren’t we treated to that
no doubt amazing sight? But why would he, if he’d just resolved to join the battle? And for heaven’s sake, of all the helmets on the dwarves, why did Thorin have to have the truly butt-ugly one??? That’s quite an accomplishment, to make that chiseled and handsome face look round and almost pig-like. (Was that intentional? Because he was acting like a creep, hogging all the gold?) Thankfully, Thorin threw that stupid thing off before he emerged in all his gorgeous, albeit armor-less, glory, ready to lead the dwarves One Last Time.
Finally, and this is my biggest complaint with the film… why didn’t we get to see some kind of a funeral, or wake, in honor of Thorin Oakenshield? With the film only 2hr 35 min, when I was really expecting and anticipating closer to 3 hours, WTH were they thinking to have cut such an important and potentially amazing scene? I will say this- if it’s not in the extended edition, I will be floored.
Many have said that the Battle scene was too long. I didn’t find it so, and was riveted throughout. Again, every creature, from the boar that Dain was riding, to the bats bred for war, to the goliath ugly giant troll-things, were fantastic to watch. I particularly loved some of the moments of comedy in the battle, such as when one of those enormous goblin things charged the wall and knocked himself unconscious, and when Alfrid tossed the sword like a hot potato to Bard’s son. I also loved the choreography of the battle scenes. The elves leaping over the dwarves’ shield wall to meet the orc’s charge was pretty spectacular. Thorin’s charge from inside of the mountain out onto the battle field was a truly majestic, cinematic moment. And Thorin’s battle with Azog. Just, WOW.
And that brings me back to Thorin Oakenshield. What can I even say? It was a phenomenal performance. I’d like to think that, had I not seen North and South last April, and developed my thorough PreoccupationWithArmitage through that route, I would have come away from BOFA with the same driving fascination on the strength his performance of Thorin in this film. (I’m so thankful it didn’t happen that way, or I would have missed The Crucible, and would have yet to have made so many new connections and friendships that have so enriched my life these past months!)
I absolutely adored the voice of Richard Armitage as Thorin. It was deliciously low and raspy. The way he said “Gold”- spoken like a breathless lover… the transformation of his voice to that Smaug-like quality, hoarse with Dragon Sickness and twisted, obsessive passion… the softness in his voice, when he had moments of lucidity with Bilbo… and how his voice broke, when he was speaking with Dwalin. Even the agonized sounds he made when he watched Fili executed, and when Azog delivered the mortal wound- I could rhapsodize on for hours on the voice alone.
And that countenance. In a cast of exceptional actors, Thorin wasn’t the only one whose facial expressions spoke volumes, but I was nonetheless captivated. I know now that Armitage excels at emoting with not only his face, but every part of his body- I’ve seen it live, and I’ve seen it in film after film. It still wowed me. I absolutely adored that transformation of Thorin’s face during the acorn scene… when he first sees the acorn, his eyes almost well up, and he stares at Bilbo with a sense of wonder. We see “Our-Thorin”… that kindness, that warmth, that glimpse of sanity returned… only to have that beautiful face transform and the mask of Sick-Thorin drop over his features when the arrival of the Lake-Town survivors is announced. Another magnificent facial transformation: Thorin’s face when he realizes that Bilbo stole the Arkenstone. Disbelief, pain flickering, tears welling again, then insane fury. The Dwalin-Thorin scene, when Dwalin (performed flawlessly by Graham McTavish) tries to tell him, “You are lesser now than you have ever been”… they were both amazing in that scene. Dwalin’s sorrow and despair, Thorin’s wild swings from incapacitating fragility to lashing out in madness. But perhaps the masterclass of facial acting was in the scene all by himself, on the lake of gold. With no other actors to feed off of, this was Richard Armitage in Thorin’s head, wrestling demons, beautiful, lost and alone.
The Noble Thorin… Walking backlit out of the gold cavern- so hot and incredibly majestic, the warrior finally returns. I had chills, and tears in my eyes, when he asked if they will follow him, one last time. The fight with Azog on ice and rocks- I don’t know about you, but I have never seen Thorin look so hot.
(Can’t go wrong with RA in black leather!) Richard displayed a stunning athleticism in the fight sequence… arching, ducking, swaying for balance- so limber. Rolling around, up/down, balancing, slipping as the ice bobbed around.
They totally used that hair to good effect– when Thorin’s hair would flip up over his head and to the side, it reminded me of Hawkeye in Last of the Mohicans. But back to the battle scene with Azog… I absolutely loved that priceless face (perhaps the only moment of humor delivered on Thorin’s part) when Thorin tossed the huge block of rock on the chain to Azog, then nimbly skipped back. How I wish it had ended there!
But, no. Damn it, Thorin! How could you be so damnably mesmerized as to let that monster floating underfoot fool you!? The first time I watched it, I just about shouted “Watch Out!” (Thankfully, it only happened in my horrified head.) I did appreciate the battle’s conclusion, in a love-hate sort of way, when Thorin willingly sacrificed his life to defeat his mortal enemy- you can see the decision happen on his face, and it was fitting.
And finally, the Death Scene. Thorin’s final scene. As I said, it was the best scene, and the worst. The tears were streaming down my face. The Hubby squeezed my hand. I usually think of cinematography as it relates to the scenery and the geographical features of the setting, but here, there was also amazing cinematography in this very personal, up-close footage. Every time the camera angle was low, and showed the profile of the fallen king, it almost made me gasp. At the beauty of this man. I mean dwarf. Tears.
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Wow- so that was a lot longer than I intended. I guess it’s a testament to how much I really did appreciate the movie. Richard should have had an Academy Award Nomination for this film. And then he should have won it.