Three Scenes from The Battle of the Five Armies (That Exist Only in my Mind)

A title card that reads 'The Hobbit: The Battle of the Five Armies'.

Lament! The final instalment of The Hobbit trilogy is upon us. Thus undoubtedly ends Peter Jackson’s blockbusting Middle Earth saga, as Christopher Tolkien has made quite clear his opinion of the film adaptations of his father’s work.

As if he’s already given up courting the Tolkien estate’s good opinion, Jackson’s final offering takes Middle Earth to new heights of corny action flick cliché. While …the Five Armies has silliness and slo-mo in spades, it sadly lacks emotional resonance. This is a sorry state of affairs for the concluding episode of a saga previously so rich in fan-favourite moments.

Here’s three scenes I would have liked to have seen in The Hobbit: The Battle of the Five Armies. Beware: here be spoilers.

1. The Dwarves and the gold

Thorin stands in front of a heap of gold, looking moody.

While it bigged up Thorin’s gold-induced corruption, Jackson’s film neglected to address the interesting moral complexity surrounding the matter of the Dwarves and the treasure hoard under Erebor. Tolkien’s Dwarves are racially inclined toward an unhealthy preoccupation with treasure very much akin to the same gold-lust exhibited by his dragons. The hoard beneath the Lonely Mountain drove Thorin’s grandfather Thror into an obsessive sump; in …the Five Armies we see Thorin begin to suffer the same sickness.

However, the treasure below Erebor is the rightful inheritance of all the Dwarves in Thorin’s company – in fact all the Dwarves driven from the mountain by Smaug and their descendants. The history and culture of a people resides in large part in its art and artifacts. In a very real sense, Smaug stole not only the home and the wealth of the Dwarves of Erebor but their history and identity.

The quest on which Thorin’s company is engaged is that of the generationally dispossessed attempting to reclaim their homeland. I would have enjoyed a short scene in which, for example, Balin gives Ori, the youngest dwarf, a potted history of a given Dwarf-wrought item. It would have not only reminded the audience of the entire reason they’re there but gone some way to addressing what it means for second-generation refugees to finally return to a home they’ve never known.

2. Kili and Tauriel fighting back-to-back

Tauriel weeps over an unseen body.

The much-discussed romance plot between the Elf captain Tauriel and Kíli, Thorin’s younger nephew, comes to a mangled end in …the Five Armies as Kíli, canonically doomed, is killed, leaving Tauriel weeping over his body.

When the Elven-king Thranduil tells her that she’s in pain because her love was real, the viewer can’t help but recall that Tauriel and Kíli have actually only ever had one onscreen conversation. Most of their interaction consists of sustained moody looks. The foisting upon the moment grief which is evidentially unfounded has the effect of cheapening the death of one of the trilogy’s main characters.

We all know that love at first sight is a lazy narrative device. The plot leaves them little time for getting to know one another, but a believable alternative would be an intense, endorphin-fuelled, battle-forged connection. A scene in which Tauriel and Kíli battle Orcs back-to-back, fighting co-operatively, instantly attuned to one another’s battle rhythms: that would have presented at least a slightly more convincing picture of love than the mystical instant bond for which we see no foundation.

3. The funeral scene

The twelve Dwarves, excluding Thorin, stand looking grim.

The battle is over, and Erebor is won for the Dwarf people, but at a heavy cost. Thorin and his nephews Fíli and Kíli are dead, as are scores of Elves, Dwarves and Men. This is the perfect time for the film to twist the grief-knife. In my experience, nothing jerks tears more effectively than a general mourning scene.

In the raw moments following victory, a laying out of the dead gives the audience space to process, and remaining characters to react affectingly. It’s also a chance to tie up loose ends. What happened to Tauriel? To Radagast? To the Arkenstone? A funeral, for instance, gives us the opportunity to find out.

Sidebar: personally, I would chew off my left arm to see Dís, Thorin’s sister and Fíli and Kíli’s mother, arrive at the Lonely Mountain to see her brother and her sons interred in the Hall of Kings. Too heartbreaking? Possibly.

Knowing that it’s likely to be our last visit to Middle Earth through the silver screen for a very long time, The Battle of the Five Armies can hardly fail to disappoint. As a recreation of the great battle scenes of the Lord of the Rings trilogy, its apparent disinterest in its characters and their relationships means it falls flat. What Jackson, Walsh and Boyens seems to have forgotten in the intervening years is that it was caring about exactly that that invested us in those scenes. Without a focus on the characters we’ve been following all this way, there are no stakes.

As for me, I have my headcanons, though they are cold comfort.

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