I had thoughts of writing, in place of this, a more colourful rant on the nature of online discussion of films and the rapid growth of a negative tone when it comes to certain productions within the realm of science fiction, fantasy and comic book/graphic novel adaptations, matched by the constantly read hypocrite creed of “I guess I’ll see it anyway”. I’ve seen a lot of that in the last week in regards The Battle of the Five Armies, and it can’t help but grate. In the end, I realised that such a piece would have been more angry and vindictive than I would have liked, and would only have granted an undue amount of attention to the sort of film commenter I have come to despise greatly. That, and it’s fair to say that my admiration for Peter Jackson and his filmmaking might be skewing my perception just a tad.
So, instead, I will offer some brief thoughts on the recent trailer for The Hobbit: The Battle of the Five Armies and leave it at that. Potential spoilers follow, I guess. The book has been around for quite a while.
-Act One, Smaug attacks Lake-town. Act Two, the clouds gather between the Dwarves, Elves and Men. Act Three, the titular battle.
-Obviously it looks very grim, which has some of the purists in a tizzy (as if they needed an excuse at this point). It is all going to be about the destruction of Lake-town in fire and the subsequent bloody battle involving six armies (the eagles count, damn it!) after all, so a grim tone fits a visual adaptation (and the times). The Battle of the Five Armies was a grim enough part of the original text anyway, given the character deaths that occurred there, Jackson is just running with it.
-And further, I fully accept his reasoning that the tone of his Hobbit trilogy is slowly altering itself to greater match up with the tone of The Fellowship of the Ring’s adaptation of 2001. That makes perfect sense for this medium.
-We can also feel fairly confident that Thorin, Fili and Kili are all still going to buy it during that battle. I suppose I never doubted that Jackson would pull the trigger, the real question is whether the likes of Tauriel, or other Dwarves, will join them.
-In fact, Bilbo’s opening monologue, and that shot with the piercing light behind him, look like they take place after the battle, with Bilbo in mourning. The bar of light is a direct visual link to Balin’s Tomb after all. The whiff of death is in the air.
-The use of Billy Boyd’s “Edge of Night” from The Return of the King surprised me a bit, if only because I thought they might use music from the new trilogy. But it’s a good song that fits the tone, and the trailer editors know their business.
-Bard’s greater role in the story looks like it will continue apace, with the elves even showing him greater respect. I suspect that scene of the honour guard forming might be from nearer the conclusion, as he becomes the new King of Esgaroth reborn.
-Not much on Smaug’s assault on Lake Town. That can be a good sign or a bad sign. I suspect good, given the work done on the dragon for the film that had his name.
-Thought his flame effects here looked a little on the cheap side though. Something to be fixed for theatres.
-“Defining chapter of the Middle-Earth saga”? What? How? Read like meaningless aggrandisement to me, rather like Man of Steel being by “visionary director Zach Snyder”.
-It’s par for the course, but we’ll get action scenes straight out of Jackson’s imagination, with shots of what looked like dwarves engaging with wargs on a frozen surface with a chariot (possibly Iron Hills soldiers?). Presumably Azog’s orcs aren’t going to just hide away until the final battle, so this scene could be at any point.
-The Dol Guldar plotline will probably get its most screentime in The Battle of The Five Armies, with Galadriel back in the thick of things and Thranduil waving a sword about in what looks like the old fortress. I’m looking forward to the White Council taking Sauron on.
-No sign of Beorn as far as I could see. There was enough set-up for him in Desolation that I would expect him to turn up to take Azog down directly.
-Sure will be a lot of reaction shots. A lot of looking at things in the distance, usually away from the action.
-Gonna have to work hard to make Bard distinct from Aragorn. It can be done, but there are a few hero shots here that could be Viggo Mortenson.
-“Will you follow me….one last time?” Two things about that line. First, I’m struck by how unenthusiastic the company looks in the shot that accompanies this, as if they’ve turned on Thorin and are unwilling to be his subordinates heading into, presumably, the Battle of the Five Armies. Secondly, this line lands particularly well in my opinion, because this is likely to be the last Middle-Earth film for a while.
-Slightly unrelated, but as Scott Mendelson of Forbes points out, The Battle of the Five Armies is the third film for a saga that was filmed and budgeted for two films. As such, it might be the most financially successful film in the studios’ history, likely to generate $900 million in income against relatively paltry production costs in editing and some reshoots.
I’m as optimistic as ever, being someone who very much liked the first two (I have to continually remind myself that most film goers and critics share that opinion). There’s a good story in this trailer, even if a large part of this film will invariably involve large scale action sequences (will be interesting to see the running time).
More trailers to come of course, and the heaving apparatus of promotion to get into gear. Looking forward to it.