Today and the rest of this week I am participating in The Battle of the Five Blogs about the new Hobbit movie. It’s not really a battle, of course: merely a chance to share ideas in a kind of Round Robin of blogging. Here are the other bloggers:
(Please don’t point out that makes SIX blogs. I’m an English teacher; I don’t need to know how to count.)
Since I have already written my official review of The Hobbit: The Battle of the Five Armies for Christianity Today Movies, this is not a review. It’s a list as long as Bilbo’s contract: a list of Items of Unfinished Business. As I wrote in my review:
There are many pieces of unfinished business, many story-threads left unraveled, and many questions left unanswered. There are important objects whose location is unknown, characters whose fates are uncertain, and political decisions unmade when the credits role.
So today’s post is a series of UNSPOILERS, which is especially relevant if today happens to be your Unbirthday. (It’s my Unbirthday, too. Wow, what a coincidence!) Here are lots of Unpresents for your Unbirthday: all the things that don’t happen in the film.
If you haven’t seen the movie yet, you might not want to read this list of Unspoilers, because (at the very least) it will leave you wondering what does happen in the movie! But I will also be quite free with discussing what happens, in order to make my points about omissions, so you should probably save this until you see it.
I’ll start with the biggest omissions, the really startling questions left unanswered, and then I’ll move to less important issues.
1. The Arkenstone. Where is the Arkenstone?! Who has it? What becomes of it? A huge amount of screen time goes into building the importance of the Arkenstone in all three films, emphasizing that no dwarf can be King Under the Mountain without the King’s jewel, the Heart of the Mountain. Then the Battle of Three Armies is largely over possession of the Arkenstone. And yet, with all this buildup, the Stone is simply not mentioned after the battle. Does Bard still have it tucked inside his raggedy coat? Was it lost in the course of battle? Is it buried with Thorin? Did Thranduil take it? Does the new King Under the Mountain take it? Oh, wait….2. Who is King Under the Mountain? There is no discussion of who is to be king after the deaths of Thorin, Fili, and Kili. Sure, it doesn’t take a genius to guess that it will be Dain, Thorin’s cousin, but nobody mentions that fact. If I hadn’t read the book, I might think that perhaps Balin was the best choice, as there are hints that he is related to Thorin, he is the oldest and wisest, and we have come to appreciate his kindness and good decisions throughout the trilogy. I think movie-Balin would be a good king—better than hot-headed, rude, irrational Dain.
3. And, related to that point, there is No closure on the deaths of the dwarves. There is no funeral. We do not see Thorin, Fili, and Kili laid out and arrayed for burial in honor. We do not see the Arkenstone on Thorin’s breast. There is no ritual, no ceremony, for saying goodbye to these characters we have lived with for some many years now. They are shuffled off, unwept, unthanked. Off stage.
4. Following on the mysterious fate of the Arkenstone is the question: Does Thranduil get his jewels? In the theatrical release of The Desolation of Smaug, we learned that Thranduil also has jewels he desires inside the mountain: white jewels of starlight. In the extended edition of An Unexpected Journey, we saw him approach Thror in anticipation of receiving those very jewels. A dwarf held a small casket out to him, revealing sparkling white-and-silver jewelry lying on a deep bed of unset diamonds. He reached out his hand, and the dwarf snapped the lid shut. We got a sense that this withholding of the jewels had something to do with Thranduil’s refusal to help the dwarves when they were fleeing from Smaug. And now in the theatrical release of The Battle of the Five Armies, we learn that these jewels are heirlooms of Thranduil’s house. It’s all very confused.
This brings up a big issue I need to discuss here: the differences and relationship between the Theatrical Release and the Extended Editions. I’m perfectly well aware that lots of these missing moments may be in the Extended Edition. But ideally, the three-movie theatrical release series will make one internally-consistent story, while the three-movie extended edition series will make another internally-consistent story. But that is not the case here. There are things mentioned in Battle that reference scenes that were only in the extended edition of Journey and Smaug. This is unfair. There will be an enormous number of audience members who have not yet seen the extended editions; after all, Smaug was only released in November. Of course, this particular movie series has the added complication that the whole story needs to make perfect sense to people who have read the book and people who haven’t read the book: so they have set themselves the task of making two whole movie series for four sets of audiences! A challenge indeed. So to come back to the discussion of what’s left out of this final film: There were points brought up in the extended editions of the first two that are not resolved here, and I feel justified in complaining about them, since there were also points brought up in the extended editions that were addressed in the theater this week! Whew. But before we get to those, a few more big points:
5. What is the relationship among elves, dwarves, and men at the end of the film? We don’t know whether Thranduil is going to leave and go back to his isolation policy in his forest realm, or work as an ally with his dwarf and human neighbors, or continue in antagonism against the dwarves. We don’t know what the transactions will be between Erebor and Dale. We don’t know how Bard will interact with the new King Under the Mountain, whoever he is.
6. And a final thought on Thranduil: What was with his dragon-mauled face? Remember in Desolation of Smaug when he was talking to Thorin, saying he too had suffered from the great worms, and his face suddenly went all ugly with the skin gone and horrific scarring marred his strange pale beauty? Didn’t you think that would be explained? Don’t hold your breath: it isn’t.
Now moving on to smaller annoying absences. The most obvious was:
7. Gandalf and Bilbo’s return journey. It is simply cut out, so visibly that I’d say this is candidate number one for inclusion in the extended edition. I’d wager we will get a stop-off in Rivendell and another at the troll’s hoard in the spring on dvd.
8. Similarly, the extended edition will probably answer: Where is Elrond? and Is Galadriel OK? We don’t see them after Galadriel’s “queen, not dark but beautiful and terrible as the dawn! Tempestuous as the sea, and stronger than the foundations of the earth” act at Dol Guldur.
9. There are other characters who drop out, inexplicably. What happens to Tauriel? Why isn’t she in LOTR if she survives this one? (yeah, sorry everyone who was expecting a Romeo & Juliet; she doesn’t die with Kili. I was quite shocked by that.) There’s very little Radagast and Beorn in this film; what happens to them? Why aren’t they in the LOTR-movie world?
Now, two final points from the previous extended editions:
10. What about the last dwarf ring? Remember it was mentioned a few times in Desolation of Smaug? Well, it never turns up. It probably will on the dvd. Ditto with:
11. Thorin never finds out that his father was still alive. I’ll bet there will be a brief Gandalf-and-Thorin tete-a-tete later on, although I don’t know when that could be shoehorned in.
So there you have it. Those are the items I noticed were missing from The Hobbit: The Battle of the Five Armies. What else did you wait for and walk away missing?