Book v Film: The Hobbit – The Battle of the Five Armies

“Farewell, Master Burglar. Go back to your books, your fireplace. Plant your trees, watch them grow. If more of us valued home above gold, it would be a merrier world.”

Book:
Film:
Adaptation:

From the author of The Lord of The Rings trilogy, J. R. R. Tolkien, and the same crew behind their film adaptations, Peter Jackson and his writing team, The Battle of the Five Armies is the final instalment in a trilogy of films based on the classic fantasy novel, The Hobbit.

Picking up from The Desolation of Smaug, this final third follows on with the dwarves as they attempt to reclaim their homeland of Erebor, as the titular battle ensues on The Lonely Mountain, with the Goblins and the Wargs fighting against the Men of Lake-town, the Elves, the Dwarves and Eagles.

The following post is a review of the film adaptation in comparison to the book. You can read my review of the book on its own here.

Film Review:

Stretching The Hobbit into three films was a brave move from the beginning, but it’s only in this final film that you can see Jackson’s struggle. Whilst a battle of five whole armies may sound like a film worth of footage, not a lot actually happens in these final pages of the book. With the war itself being skipped over quite quickly in no more than 3 pages, the exhilarating adventure that The Hobbit is known for being is, unfortunately, pretty much over, as Tolkien begins to conclude the story quite rapidly from this point on. And this shows quite badly in this film.

You may be thinking that Peter Jackson is the man of epic battles and films that can run for 3 hours without flaw, so this should be no problem for him. Right? But alongside horribly bad CGI effects and lengthy fight scenes with numerous different Wargs who all look the same, The Battle of the Five Armies is nothing but a dragged out mess.

I quite liked the first two instalments of The Hobbit (and rated them both four-star films!), but this third instalment doesn’t come close. It’s almost an insult to compare it to The Lord of The Rings trilogy at this point because it just doesn’t have any of the great character chemistries, decent effects, beautiful settings, epic adventure, or light-hearted humour.

Differences From The Book:

With many changes throughout the three instalments, here’s a look at the major changes from the book to the film in this last chapter:

  • The film begins as Bilbo and the Dwarves watch from the Lonely Mountain as Smaug sets Laketown ablaze. In the book, Bilbo and the dwarves hide down a tunnel.
  • In the film, some dwarves are still at Laketown during Smaug’s attack, which is a change in the second adaptation since all of the dwarves are at The Lonely Mountain in the book.
  • In the book, Bard speaks to a talking bird, Trush. The dwarves are then told by another talking bird, Roäc, that Smaug is dead. There are no talking birds in any of the three films.
  • In the book, the elves march toward Lonely Mountain and intercepted by messengers from Bard. In the film, the people of the lake travel to Dale, and the elves meet them there.
  • Radagast is in this instalment, but he is only mentioned in the book.
  • In the book, Thorin shoots an arrow that hits and sticks in a shield. In the film, he shoots an arrow at the hooves of Thranduil’s horse.
  • When Bilbo goes down in the book, he puts on the ring. He does not, in the film.
  • In the book, Bilbo meets Bard by the fire with the Elf King. Gandalf then reveals himself after. In the film, Bilbo walks straight up to Bard and Gandalf.
  • Bilbo again uses the ring during most of the battle in the book but, in the film, he on only puts on the Ring when he is running after Thorin.
  • Bilbo is also wearing a helmet in the book, which is what stops him from being killed. In the film, he is hit on the head without injury.
  • In the book, Azog has been dead for 150 years, and is only talked about in history.
  • In the book, Bolg is killed by Beorn. In the film, Bolg is killed by Thorin.
  • Fili and Kili are killed defending Thorin in the book. In the film, they are killed while they are scouting for the goblins.
  • Legolas is in this instalment, but he is not in the book.
  • There are a few scenes missed out of the film at this point. First: Bard gives Bilbo two chests, one filled with gold and one filled with silver. Second: Bilbo gives a silver and pearl necklace to the elven king. And third: Bilbo, Gandalf, and Beorn travel around the north of Mirkwood and stay with Beorn for a while. before departing from Rivendell.
  • Bilbo is shown carrying a chest when he says goodbye to Gandalf in the film, but it is not shown that he and Gandalf dig up chest they found in the Troll cave. In the book, they split the treasure, placing it in bags on their horses.
  • When Gandalf visits Bilbo at the end of the film, Balin also joins them in the book.

Overall Verdict:

The first two instalments were also very different from the book, using characters we know from The Lord of The Rings trilogy that didn’t actually appear in The Hobbit, and additional plots to bulk the adaptations out with Jackson making extensive use of the appendices published in the back of The Return of the King, but it all felt necessary beforehand and filled the story out quite well. A lot of what happens in this film, however, is completely unnecessary and only ends the franchise on a sour note.

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