Banter: The Hobbit and the Battle for Tradition

So The Hobbit trilogy has ended, Peter Jackson has finally ended his Middle-Earth adventure, but unlike the first Lord of the Rings trilogy this one has ended… badly.

I loved the Lord of the Rings trilogy. A series of monstrous films made from acclaimed “unfilmable” tomes from JRR Tolkien, directed by a man who had no practice in making such massive epics, a man who made trashy gore movies, and on a shoe-string budget (at least for the scale of the project!) It became probably the best adaptation Hollywood will ever make.

But The Hobbit, as everyone has said, has been developed into a long… long… long overextended franchise spanning three films while only being based off a short children’s book that Tolkien wrote before Lord of the Rings, long before anyone asked him to write an epic. Yet when Peter Jackson returned, and due to Rings success, he wanted to make a charming children’s book into the same sort of epic battle trilogy.

You cannot do this, and the final chapter The Battle of the Five Armies proves that all the doubt during the first two films was true.

I read up on my Tolkien lore. Original Tolkien lore, written before the films were made, and I would like to share some of the glaring inconsistencies that bothered me so much as to makeThe Battle of the Five Armies (and by extension The Hobbit trilogy) the worst the franchise has to offer.
If you have read The Hobbit, you will know a lot of these already and hopefully agree with me, if you haven’t seen the films (or read the book) I will warn you that there are spoilers ahead!

Tauriel and Legolas

Tauriel annoys me, she annoys me a lot and not just because I have to keep checking the spelling of her name on IMDB, but because she is (unlike anything else in the entire film franchise) completely made up; she does not exist in the books, or the expanded lore. Why? Because we need an action girl, because Tolkien was writing books about war and high adventure in a time when men were at the forefront of such things.
Sure, I’m all for strong female characters, I could even accept them inventing someone to fill the role (I didn’t mind the changes to Arwen’s story in the Rings trilogy) but only if the character was actually relevant. Tauriel’s two narrative functions in the story are A: to be involved in a love triangle and B: need rescuing.

Top quality writing there guys. Shoehorn in a female role model only to reduce her to the worst stereotypes in Hollywood.

Legolas never featured in the original Hobbit story, why would he? Certainly Jackson had a thread of connectivity for Legolas, the character’s father The Elven King Thranduil was involved in The Hobbit story and the battles.
So when Legolas is shown in The Battle of the Five Armies killing the orc leader Bolg, you can rest assured he never did that, nor did he rescue the non-existent Tauriel.

Add to this the fact that these characters are effectively the same archetype, so having two of them is inherently unnecessary.

Azog and Thorin

Let’s put aside the ghastly CGI work that has befallen the orc characters for a moment and talk about them, because there’s great whopping errors here.
Azog is determined to be the worst of the worst in The Hobbit’s film interpretation; he hounds the dwarf company all the way to the gates of Erebor and even has a score to settle against dwarven prince Thorin. He leads the orc army in the Battle of the Five Armies, and even seems to reside in the evil, abandoned fortress of Dol Guldur.

Azog died 150 years before the events of The Hobbit.
He was killed in the Battle of Azanulbizar (the same battle showing him paradoxically victorious inThe Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey) by none other than Dain Ironfoot, he being the dwarf played by Billy Connelly in Battle of the Five Armies film. Dain had been seeking revenge on Azog for slaying the Dwarf King Thror in events prior.

Still with me?

In short: Thorin never killed Azog, Azog never featured in the story.

Bolg and Beorn

Now Bolg, the handsome chap with the metal in his body. Bolg is Azog’s son, and was the sole leader of the orcs during the Battle of the Five Armies. Perhaps seeking vengeance for Azog’s death.
Perhaps just for kicks.

Bolg was not killed by Legolas, as shown in the film, since Legolas wasn’t there. In the book, Bolg in fact was killed by Beorn, the shape-shifting wildman who was in the second film The Desolation of Smaug. Beorn is shown air-dropping into the battle via Eagles in the third film… but little else after that.

Why wasn’t Bolg the sole leader for the orcs? You probably know Jackson’s reasoning. And why not keep Beorn killing him? Beorn being the defender of the woodland realm as in the text its says:

“He came alone, and in bear’s shape; and he seemed to have grown almost to giant-size in his wrath.”

He even recovers the dying prince Thorin!

Galadriel, Elrond, the Necromancer, Gandalf, the Ringwraiths and a lot of nonsense

I honestly found myself surprised at how much venom I have built up over this particular scene. I guess it is because I felt this subplot with The Necromancer was the reason for The Hobbit to be expanded into three films and yet… this is all we get? A pointless stand off between undying Ringwraiths (who correctly did inhabit Dol Guldur at first) and a host of fan-service returning characters: Saruman, Galadriel and Elrond… all who obviously don’t die.

The sheer lack of threat in this scenario is mind-boggling and does very little to give us more than what was already told earlier.
Gandalf’s capture is false (so the trio’s rescue was not required) though he did single-handedly discover that The Necromancer was in fact Sauron. Dol Guldur was not “dealt with” until the War of the Ring much later. There’s no evidence that the three other extremely powerful characters were involved at all…

Smaug’s Demise

The film’s interpretation of this scene greatly frustrated me, mostly because it lacked harmony with the film trilogy’s own made-up concepts and lacked the book’s poetry and simplicity.

See the picture above? That is close to what happens in the book. Bard is regarded as one of the best bowmen in the land, hence his title: Bard the Bowman. Bard faces off alone against the terrible dragon and with all his arrows spent he has one last attempt with his oldest and most worn arrow, his black arrow. With the aid of a thrush that had overheard Bilbo and Smaug’s conversation in Erebor (don’t you snigger, the thrush even featured in the first film An Unexpected Journey!) he knew of the dragon’s weak spot and that faithful arrow found its mark and ended Smaug.

“Arrow! Black Arrow! I have saved you to the last. You have never failed me and always I have recovered you. I had you from my father and he from of old. If ever you came from the forges of the true king under the mountain, go now and speed well!”

Poetry.

However.
In the second film, The Desolation of Smaug, it establishes Black Arrows as giant iron arrows designed specifically to pierce dragon hide… Okay… We see the last remaining Black Arrow upon the roof of The Master of Laketown’s house, loaded into some sort of catapult… Okay…

The lead up to Smaug’s final scene in The Battle of the Five Armies we have Bard initially firing his arrows at Smaug, accurate to the book, we even have him fire a blackened, withered old arrow last, but it fails also.
But then his son appears with the huge iron arrow. Smaug destroys Bard’s bow, tearing it in half. So Bard, surreally, stakes both ends of his bow into the solid wooden beams of a bell tower so that the string stretches between them, he then rests the huge iron Black Arrow on his own son’s shoulder to aim at the approaching Smaug.

What…
What??

To me that change, and so early in the third film too, proves everything wrong with this project of Peter Jackon’s, the idea of pulling a children’s book into a eight hour epic. Why did that have to be so hilariously stupefying to see? Why couldn’t Bard simply be a damn good archer? Why have the black arrow reinvented as some Dragon-Slaying Arrows when Smaug has a weakness to exploit already!?

Honestly these are only some of the huge errors that feature, especially if you consider the entire trilogy! I’ve not spoken about how the barrel scenario in the book was turned from a quiet, stealthy and shadowy escape into a lengthy daytime cartoon action sequence befitting of a rollercoaster resort in The Desolation of Smaug.
Or how the Rock Giants in An Unexpected Journey was a huge action sequence that risked the lives of the entire cast, whereas in the book it is literally just a passing statement:

“When he peeped out in the lightning flashes, he saw that across the valley the stone-giants were out, and were hurling rocks at one another for a game.”

Sounds like the producers of the films were making a game out of it all! A game with my patience!

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