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Jan 082016

Part Seven ~ Life & Death on Ravenhill

In this part of my review, we follow Thorin as he makes his way up Ravenhill, where he intends to cut the ‘head from the snake’ but where he finds his destiny instead, as all the story narratives in The Hobbit Trilogy find conclusion.

In Part One of Mordor’s Review of The Hobbit: BFA, I gave a brief overview of the film. I touched on many areas of the film where I feel it succeeded and other areas was where I feel it failed. In Part Seven we ascend to the heights of Ravenhill where all the character narratives come together for final resolution. 

Please go HERE to our Hobbit: BFA Review for all nine parts of the Mordor Review!

Let’s begin Part Seven of our review of The Hobbit: The Battle of the Five Armies with the heroic charge of the dwarves from the Gate of Erebor on to the battlefield!

Charge of the light brigade!

We concluded Part Six of this review, with the moment that occurs in nearly all cinematic battles, when the music swells and it appears that the battle is lost as overwhelming forces besiege our heroes. The Battle of the Five Armies is no exception, as we see Gandalf, Thranduil, Dain, Bard and Bilbo pushed back into defensive positions as the massive armies of Dol Guldur take the field of battle. Dain and the Dwarves retreat to the Gate of Erebor, caught between the hammer and the anvil! Bard and the Elves are pushed back into the ruins of Dale and we witness some amazing shots of the Orc armies moving in for the final blow!

My favorite part of this sequence are the massive War Trolls that Azog sends to the front of the battle-line at the Gate of Erebor. Their iron helmets are especially evil looking and would be right at home on the Mountain Trolls of Mordor!

Suddenly, when all seems lost, the tide of the battle turns… we hear a horn blast from the walls of Erebor and see Bombur atop the rampart blowing a massive horn. I have to say this is very reminiscent of Gimli blowing the horn of Helm Hammerhand at the battle of Helms Deep and the charge of King Théoden, Aragorn and the Rohirrim from the Gate of the Hornburg. That scene from The Two Towers is one of the best battle charges in the history of film! Watch it below…

It doesn’t bother me in the least that the scene showing the Horn of Erebor and the Horn of Helm Hammerhand seem similar, because the written works of Tolkien are rife with passages, relationships and scenes that repeat or resemble one another throughout the histories of Middle-earth. Tolkien was a great lover of repeating themes in his work.

In The Hobbit book there is simple line that reads “…and from the Gate there came a trumpet call!” I believe Tolkien would have appreciated how Jackson unfolded this scene on film.

I expect it would be impossible for The Hobbit, much less any film to ‘out do’ the charge in the battle of Helms Deep from The Two Towers, but I believe Thorin’s charge from the Gate of Erebor holds it’s own in the history of cinema. After Bombur makes his trumpet call, a great golden bell smashes through the piled rock and the dwarves come pouring out!

As the company of dwarves charge into battle, the dwarven army commanded by Dain II rallies around him and they form a giant deadly wedge that drives into the forces of evil. This is classic Jackson at his best, with slow-mo shots of the charging dwarves, large scale long shots as the two sides clash, followed by a series of good close-up of scenes of the dwarves fighting, that gives the audience a feeling of being right in the middle of the action. You can tell this part of the battle was well thought out, because it has all of the right components to make it believable. It is always the close-up of shots of the heroes in any film, that helps sell the scene during a battle. 

If you look closely at the Helms Deep charge in the video above above, it is expertly edited with long shots of the CGI armies, inter-cut with beautiful close-up shots that really increase the believably factor of what you’re watching. PJ sells the charge of the dwarves in the same way… I only wish Howard Shore’s music was as powerful in this scene as the charge from The Two Towers. I think if he been onsite and directed the Orchestra personally during the recording both The Desolation of Smaug and The Battle of the Five Armies as he did with An Unexpected Journey, the last two films would have been better.

At this point in the battle, Bilbo become what I like to call the Reporter of the Action. He really doesn’t have a lot to do at this point in the film, so PJ gives him the job of reporting on the major events to clarify what the audience is seeing. With every sequence in this part of the battle, Bilbo looks out from the walls of Dale and reports on what’s happening. Here he tells Gandalf, that Thorin is rallying the Dwarves.

Dain and Thorin meet on the Battlefield and they hug it out while battle rages all around them. It’s nice of the Orcs not to bother them, while they’re exchanging pleasantries. Finally Dain says that this army is too big to defeat and passively asks Thorin if he has a plan! Thorin looks up at Ravenhill to Azog and says he plans to ‘Kill that piece of  filth!’ He then jumps on the back of a ram and drives into the midst of battle making for the hill!  We then see Dwalin, Fili and Kili also on rams riding with him.

We then cut to Bilbo, who reports to Gandalf once more, that Thorin is riding up to Ravenhill. Bilbo ask him why and Gandalf delivers one of his best lines in the film… ‘To cut off the head off the snake!’ he ends with a deadly looking smile on his face. However, we then cut to Azog, who is also watching Thorin and his best warrior climb the mountainside to Ravenhill… he too has an evil and knowing look upon his face!

Questions that need answering…

Here we come to one of my biggest complaints about The Hobbit: The Battle of the Five Armies theatrical version of the film. It’s the story threads that get lost in the shuffle. What happens to Bard in the city? Thranduil and the Elves and Dain on the battlefield? After this point we see nearly nothing of the main battle before the Gate of Erebor. In Dale, Bard gathers the remaining men for a last stand. We also see the women of Dale gathering together to fight with their men! During this sequence we see nothing of the large Elven army, where are they? Lastly, we never see the Orc army marching from Gundabad, until the last few seconds of the Battle on Ravenhill. I think it would have increased the sense of coming danger to have seen this massive army moving toward the mountain. Just one or two large scale establishing shots would have done the trick.

Bard gathers the remaining men of Lake-town for a last charge. I don’t know about you, but if you look closely at this image of Bard, it looks to me like Luke Evens is wearing his vampire teeth from Dracula Untold! LOL! Maybe a little Hobbit Easter egg by the folks at Weta?

Unfortunately in the theatrical version of The Battle of the Five Armies this final charge looks good, but it just doesn’t go anywhere. It seems to be another piece of the story that is left hanging. When we finally return to Bard it’s merely to confront Alfrid, who has gold stuffed in his blouse… really? Hmmm…

Finally, Bilbo receives his last bit of information to impart on the audience, before he himself become embroiled in the events on Ravenhill. Legolas and Tauriel enter the Ruins of Dale, telling Bilbo and Gandalf that yet another army is marching towards the mountain from Gundabad, led by Bolg. Bilbo looks frightened and dismayed asking which way is North. Gandalf also looks alarmed and paints to Ravenhill! Bilbo cries out that Thorin must be warned and that Fili and Kili are with him. Tauriel looks stricken.

We then cut to a scene showing Thranduil looking upon the dead eleven warriors, we see the black blood of orcs spattered upon his face. You can see the horror of loosing so many immortal lives to death and destruction. He turn to one of his Lieutenants and commands him to gather their forces and leave the city. Gandalf rushes up and tells him of the coming army from Gundabad and that they must warn Thorin. With his most disdainful tone the elven King tells Gandalf… “By all means warn him, I have spent enough elvish blood defending this accursed land! NO MORE”

Gandalf pleads with him to help, but he is already gone. Now… you have to ask yourself, why Gandalf went chasing after Thranduil, when Legolas and Tauriel where standing right beside him with a horse ready to ride up to Ravenhill? Hmmm… oh well.

Bilbo then gets his moment of bravery, as he tells Gandalf he’s going up to Ravenhill to warn them! Gandalf tells him he won’t allow it… that he’ll be seen and killed. Bilbo looks up at him and says… “I’m not asking you to allow it Gandalf!” You can see the wonder and admiration in Gandalf’s eyes. Bilbo then slips off on his own and puts on the Ring.

Finally we have a confrontation between Tauriel, King Thranduil and Legolas. Tauriel orders her King to stop, telling him he cannot run away this time, that if he does the dwarves will die. We then get a glimpse into the mindset of King Thranduil, when he tells her that, yes they will die… eventually, because they are mortal. Tauriel threatens him with her bow and Thranduil cuts it in half as Legolas springs to her defense, telling his father … ‘If you harm her, you will have to kill me!’

This sets the stage for Legolas’s choice to leave his fathers Kingdom and will eventually lead him to become a member of The Fellowship of the Ring. Legolas and Tauriel then make their way to Ravenhill and all the players are now in place.

Life and death on Ravenhill

The story then shifts for the most part to the final confrontations on Ravenhill. I want to begin by saying that this location is beautify rendered in conception, design and construction, both practically and digitally. The snow, ice, mist and rock make for a dramatic backdrop in which to watch our heroes and their antagonists engage in the final confrontations of the trilogy. The art direction for these scenes alone, are some of the best in all six of Jackson’s Middle-earth films. Definitely Oscar worthy design!

When Thorin, Dwalin, Fili and Kili reach the top of the hill they kill off the Uruks form Dol Guldur who challenge them. However, after killing them off, they find that the stone ramparts of Raven Hill are empty. It looks as though Azog has fled. Thorin sends in Kili and Fili to find out what he’s up to. As they make their way across the frozen lake, a hundred Goblin mercenaries attack Thorin and Dwalin… but they dispatch them easily. It’s good to see that the Goblins of the Misty Mountains get at least a few scenes of their own in this film!

Bilbo reaches the top of Ravenhill and removes the Ring, warning Thorin of the vast army, that will soon surround the hill and cut off any escape. We cut to see Fili and Kili in the tower, we hear the sounds of uruks surrounding them. Thorin realizes that this is a trap and sends Dwalin in to retrieve Fili and Kili, but he is too late. We hear a menacing drum beats coming from the tower above them, the drums remind me of the ones in Moria, before the coming of the Balrog! We know that something very bad is about to happen.

The death of Fili

It is unfortunate that in the story of The Hobbit, no one of significance dies until the very end of the book. This is only amplified in the films, which reserves all of the pathos for the last 30 minuets of the movie trilogy. The Lord of the Ring Trilogy on the other hand, had major death scene in each of the films, which lend a gravitas the the was missing in the first two film of The Hobbit trilogy. Then… the three major deaths are all lumped together in a very short space of time. it is unfortunate form a narrative perspective, but it is what Peter Jackson had to work with. How he dealt each of these deaths, was for the most part handled well… with a few exceptions.

When the dying begins… Peter Jackson does not disappoint. The moment we have dreaded and anticipated throughout a the entire three films has now come upon us… Fili has been captured and taken by Azog. A chill runs through everyone watching. Bilbo, Thorin and Dwalin look on in horror as Azog appears above then holding Fili like a rag-doll over the abyss below.

What follows is heart rending. Azog tells Thorin… ‘Here ends your filthy bloodline!’ Then Azog drives his sword though Fili’s chest and tosses him like so much trash onto the stones below.Kili is standing at the mouth of the tunnel and watches as Fili lands at his feet. DEAD. His expression of shock and grief are plain on his face. Thorin takes a few moments  to realizes the full depth of what Azog has just done. As he looks up at him Azog taunts Thorin with a malicious smile.Consider the full impact of this moment… Azog killed his Grandfather Thrór, who is the son of Durin I… Azog and Sauron imprisoned and killed his father Thráin… and now Azog has killed his nephew and son of his sister.

As the audience watches, we know that no one will now walk away unscathed in this film.

Kili’s grief turns to rage as he turns and races up the side of the tower, intent on killing Azog. Thorin screams releases his grief and calls out Fili’s name, drawing his sword, racing for the tower. Dwalin, perhaps anticipating what is coming, calls to Thorin and then follows him to the tower.  Bilbo pulls Sting out of his belt, a look of bewildered horror on his face.

Kili races for the top of the tower, relieving an uruk of his head on the way. The hill itself is a large complex of ruins and stone buildings with multiple stairways to the top of the tower.

Ravenhill is a maze of broken towers and ruined stairways. You get the feeling looking at these ruins that Smaug must have landed here in his attack on the mountain and did a little dragon dance on the broken rock and stone. Ravenhill as seen in tis film, was once a large complex of stone towers and buildings on a large outcrop of rock, with a frozen river running through the middle.

Here is a photo of the Weta Workshops scale model of the site, that shows only the smaller half of the set. The model gives you an idea of just how big the location really is. 

We cut to Thorin running up one of the stairs and see Azog racing for his intended target from a darkened tunnel. You get the distinct feeling in this moment as you look at Azog’s face, that all of this… assembling the massive orc armies… the trolls… ogres… wargs… all of it, even the great battle itself, was all done  just so Azog that Defiler could get to Thorin Oakenshield and wreck his own personal vengeance for the loss of his arm. Sauron may have had his own master plans for the mountain, but Azog in doing the bidding of the Dark Lord was driven mainly by his own motive… and that was to get his hands on Thorin Oakenshield and destroy the line of Durin forever. An act of pure and unadulterated vengeance. As Thorin climbs up after Kili, Azog launches himself out of the darkened tunnel, intent on killing him. He looks ferocious and bent on evil as he swings his mighty mace trying to crush Thorin’s head!

The battle on Ravenhill now take 3 different tracks… We begin with the narrative of Bilbo and Dwalin fighting the first wave of Uruks from Mount Gundabad, followed by the the battle between Bolg, Kili, Tauriel and Legolas and finally the fight we have been waiting to see throughout the entire Hobbit trilogy… the final confrontation between Azog and Thorin!

I will discuss each of these battle separately, though the film cuts back and forth between them as the story progresses.

Bilbo and the Gundabad Berserkers

Bilbo finds himself in the wrong place, at the wrong time. He reaches one of the plateaus on Ravenhill just as the vanguard of Uruks army from Gundabad reaches the top of Ravenhill him from the opposite side. His sharp hobbit ears hear something coming just as the vampire bats come shrieking over the hill. Bilbo is nearly topped over by the giant bats, but just as he recovers, he hear the tramping or iron-shod feet coming over the hill as Bolg and the Uruk Berserkers tumble down almost on top of him.

These Gundabad Berserkers are some of my favorite uruks in the trilogy. The are of the ‘pale-orc’ variety with white glowing eyes and an ape like shape that is large and menacing. Bolg commands the uruks to…’Kill them all!’ One of the large beserkers raises his scimitar intending to slice Bilbo in half. Just in the nick of time, Dwalin comes to the rescue, killing several of the massive uruks. Bilbo then show his talent for throwing stones, as he takes down several of the orcs coming over the hill. Then Bolg comes round the side of a wall and take out Bilbo with the handle of his mace, sending him hard against the rocks, where he falls unconscious. Much like in the book, Bilbo’s part in the Battle of the Five Armies comes to an abrupt end. We don’t see any more of Dwalin, until the end.

Bolg the beast battles against Kili, Legolas and Tauriel

Just as the war bats fly over Ravenhill, Legolas and Tauriel reach it’s summit. From their vantage point they can see the bats flying over hill and descending on the battle below. In classic Legolas fashion, he grabs hold of the feet of one of the giant vampire bats as is taken high over Ravenhill. Tauriel sees Kili besieged by uruks and runs to his aid.

We then see Tauriel in a cool scene, where she is racing through one of the shadowy tunnels in the maze of towers. It is dark and frightening, as she encounter some of the coolest looking orcs in the movie. They appear to be Uruks of Dol Guldur without their helmets. They have jet black skin and they have red evil looking eyes! Tauriel takes them out one at a time. The only complaint I have with this scene is that we get no no clear images of the Uruks. The lack of clear characters, because of the kinetic moment of  the camera, lets us get only quick impression of what the orc look like. The was an even worse problem during the fight scenes in The the Lord of the Rings trilogy, but it was offset by moments when the camera would linger on the faces of the orcs so the we could get a clear image of what they look like. I wish there had been a moment in the action here, when at least one of the orcs and stopped for a close up, before being dispatched. I think this often overly kinetic motion is what makes us less invested in the characters… we barley get a chance to see the orcs they are fighting.

We then cut to another shot of Legolas flying over the action, as Bolg yells for the orcs to attack and the berserkers come streaming over the ice field. Despite the fact that Legolas in hanging from the legs of a giant bat, this is a pretty nice looking shot above Ravenhill!

Next we see Legolas hanging upside down from the grip of a bat. How he gets in this position is not clear? (We find out in The Hobbit: BFA EE!) After putting an arrow in it’s head, Legolas drops down on top of one of towers. I want to mention here, that even though they are a completely CGI creations seen only in perpetual motion, they will make a great addition to out Servants of Shadow section here in Mordor. now the The Hobbit films are complete, I will need to make a major overhaul of both the Servants of Shadow and the Dark Domains sections to include many of these new creature and places. Though I may have to put op a Mordor Poll and let you vote on whether or not the Were-worms should be included! LOL!

I’m also planning to split up the Servants of Shadow, pulling out all of the Dark Beasts and placing them in their own section called the Mordor Beastiary! This will include the Spiders, Wargs. Mumakil, Crebain, etc… leaving more room in the Servants of Shadow section for all the species of Orcs and Hero Uruks…


After landing on the tower, which stands above the ice lake, Legolas helps Thorin who is being overwhelmed by the orc berserkers. From his vantage on the tower, Legolas shoots a slew of arrows that all find a mark… but more on that later.

We then cut to Tauriel listening for the ring and clash of swords. She calls out to Kili, who hears and comes running. Just in this moment Bolg comes thundering out of another ruined tunnel and attacks Tauriel, throwing her up against the rocks. Bolg remembers this Elven wench and surely wants to wreck revenge against her for alerting his enemies about the march of the armies from Gundabad. He holds her up by the neck and you can see how gigantic he is as he lifts her up off the ground and tries to strangle her. 

She screams and kicks off Bolg’s upper thigh, but can’t get out of his grip, as he flings her once more against the rocks. Tauriel lay there stunned as Bolg rounds on her and lifts his mace, ready to crush the life out of her. However, Fili having heard her screams jumps down from above and attacks Bolg with all his might. He just misses sinking his sword into Blog’s head. Kili is also flung down against the steps, but then launches himself into the attack again. You can clearly see that Fili is outmatched by the giant Uruk, who is twice his height and three times his weight. His only hope in this fight, was to take Bolg by surprise and he missed his chance. Bolg grabs him like up and prepares to drive the handle of his mace into Kili’s heart.

The death of Kili…

Tauriel takes one last stab at Bolg jumping up on his back and pulling at the stake about to be driven into Kili. Bolg easily casts her off once more and before she can recover, Bolg drives the stake into Kili’s chest. To me this was the most emotional scene in the entire trilogy. The somewhat awkward relationship between Tauriel and Kili,  pays off in this moment. It plays out in their eyes. both filled with a deep well of emotions. Evangeline Lilly’s makes the most of this moment in the film and it’s her reaction to the death of Kili, that makes this such a strong and emotional scene. Much stronger then Bilbo’s reaction to the death of Thorin, in my opinion.

Watching her face as it turns from a look of horror… to a gut wrenching sorrow… and finally a slowing building rage that explodes as Bolg turns and grins at her in savage triumph. She hurls herself at him attacking with a savage fury. No weapon, no plan, just a balls out rage as she grabs hold of his throat. Bolg tries to fling her off into the abyss below them, but Tauriel hangs on and swinging around gains purchase on the rock wall and then hurls herself off sending them both plummeting off the edge.

This scene is a wonderful bit of cinema, that Jackson should be commended for… unfortunately all the good gained in this emotional and realistic scene is lost in the next…

Legolas and the death of Bolg

From a narrative point of view, I can understand why Jackson inserted this scene. We have just witnessed the emotional death of Kili, to move on directly to the death of Thorin and Azog, would be too much. There needs to be a break between these two important moments in the film. That was solved by inserting the dramatic fight between Bolg and Legolas. However, considering the gravity of these deaths, the scene with Legolas and Bolg feels cartoony and over-the-top in comparison. I’m not going to devout a scene by scene interpretation of this fight scene. For my money the scene could have been cut in half without all of the acrobatic CGI theatrics. For the most part this scene works, however the are two moment when it goes too far and ruins the effect.

The fall of the tower across the abyss, forming the bridge on which Bolg and Legolas fight is a physical impossibility, If a tower like this fell. it would collapses under it own weight, not to mention probably killing Tauriel in the process. When I saw this, it looked phony and took me completely out of the story.

Secondly, the crazy collapsing stepping stones that Legolas jumps across when the tower finally collapses, looks decidedly fake and takes us into the realm of a video game. I believe if these two parts of the battle had been removed from the film, it would have made for a much more realistic fight.

This amping-up of super hero theatrics on the part of Legolas is simply inappropriate in Tolkien’s Middle-earth. The killing of the Oliphant in The Return of the King was almost too much, and many would argue that it was, but it seemed more anchored in reality than any of the death defying Legolas antics in The Hobbit trilogy. I have the same issues with the Barrel Chase in The Desolation of Smaug and it’s only made worse in this fight with Bolg. For me it ruins the authenticity and emotional resonance of Kili’s death scene.

There are moments in this set of scenes I did enjoy… the killing of Bolg was a ‘Hero Orc death’ worthy of his status in the story, I just wish this entire sequence had been simpler and looked less like a video game. I did enjoy seeing the large chunk of rock from the stone bridge land on Bolg after he hits the ground at the bottom of the frozen waterfall… a nice touch.

Now on to the main event… Azog vs Thorin.

Azog & Thorin go at it from the moment they meet upon Ravenhill, fighting one another as they parry & thrust, and finally tumbling down the hillside.  They fight like warriors, who know they have everything on the line, because it’s not only the bloodline of Durin at stake, it is also the blood line of Azog the Defiler and his progeny at risk.

There are several good scenes of intense fighting that cut back and forth between this and the other battles. The blows continue until they reach the ice pool between the two half if Ravenhill. Once more I want to comment the folks working on the art direction for these scenes… it a gorgeous backdrop for the fighting.

When they reach the ice covered pool, Azog calls on the Berserkers of Gundabad to finish off Thorin, as they charge down the hill and across the frozen water towards him. It’s only the arrows of Legolas standing on the tower above, that save Thorin from certain death.

Thorin takes on the remaining Berserkers, dispatching the giant uruks one at a time. A blow from the large evil Uruk we saw earlier attacking Bilbo, comes down on Thorin sending him sliding across the ice right to the edge of the frozen water fall. We can see the battle of Erebor still raging in the valley below him and Legolas fighting Bolg on the fallen Tower across the gap just below the top of the waterfall. At one point in the fighting the Bolg stands over Legolas ready to crush him with his spiked mace. Right in that moment, Thorin kills the Uruk with his knife. The orc then falls off the edge of the ice sheet and lands on the tower below, sending Bolg under a heap of stones and saving the surprised elf.

However, another very evil looking uruk comes up to Thorin, who’s knife just went over the edge embedded in the neck of the last orc. Legolas stands and sees Thorin hanging over the edge of the ice sheet, with no weapon and the large Gundabad Berserker standing over him. Thorin has no way to defend himself.

This is just the final instance in a rather humorous trading of heroics, in which Thorin and Legolas save one another. Considering how much they dislike each other, they spend a great deal of time saving one another from certain death. It’s a running joke that goes back to the barrel chase in The Desolation of Smaug.

Legolas seeing that Thorin will die, he throws Thorin’s sword, which was taken from him in Mirkwood and drives it right into the heart of the Uruk Berserker! As this evil Uruk falls to his death, Thorin reaches out and grabs the hilt of the  sword saving it from falling to the battle plain below. Which is a good thing, because he’s gonna need it.

Here, I want to point out something exceptionally cool about this Uruk Berserker, I’m almost sure you missed it! If you look closely at the Orc’s breast plate below (click on the image to get a better look) you will see something amazing!

His breast plate is fashioned to look like the face of the Balrog of Moria, which to the orcs must be considered a dark deity. His arms form the Balrog’s horns. Now consider this for a moment, this demon of the ancient world is none other than Durin’s Bane who forced the dwarves from their greatest kingdom in Middle-earth… Khazad-dûm! With Fili dead, the direct line of Durin I by first born, would be lost if Thorin dies… and to have this image of Durin’s Bane (who killed Durin IV) watch as Thorin Oakenshield dies… well it’s symbolic significance it priceless. When Orcirst is thrown by Legolas, it goes right through the chest of the evil Uruk… and right through the forehead of the Balrog armor! Brilliant!

I would love to hear the story behind the design of this particular Uruk and his armor! Perfect!

Now we come to it at last… the final battle between Azog and Thorin.

As Thorin gets to his feet and stares with awe at the sword once more in his hand… Orcrist, Elven sword from Gondolin… also known as Biter… hated and feared by all orc-kind. He then looks past the sword to the other side of the frozen lake, there stands Azog the Defiler… waiting. This is a beautifully composed shot. With sword drawn and extended, Thorin walks toward Azog in a scene that is intentionally reminiscent of the Battle of the Pines at the end of An Unexpected Journey.

This is this moment we have been waiting to see on screen since we first saw Thorin banishing his oaken shield and staving off the attack of the pale orc pf Gundabad in the Battle of Azanulbizar at the West Gate of Khazad-dûm!! The final face-off between Orc and Dwarf!

As Thorin moves toward his enemy, we get a close up shot of Azog’s face, we hear a brazen horn blast and over the crest of the mountain behind Azog, comes the army of Gundabad. This is a great shot, I only wish there has been more buildup to the appearance of this second army of uruks from Gundabad. The threat of their coming would have been enhanced with a few large scale establishing shots of this massive army marching  towards the Lonely Mountain from the north.

Azog believes the battle is now won… and the only thing left to do is kill Thorin!

Azog delivers a chilling smile of triumph as he hears the heavy sound of the marching uruks coming from behind. Thorin looks as if he does not care… the only thing he wants now is to kill Azog and watch his black blood fill the frozen pool. Suddenly, Azog roars and launches himself toward Thorin, dragging the massive stone and chain behind him.

He swings it round and Thorin dodges the deadly flail. Again and again Thorin just misses being hit by the massive stone, which lands upon the ice, cracking and smashing it into a circle of ice free from the ice around it. Thorin gets in several good cuts with Orcrist as Azog tries over and over to crush him with the stone. Finally, they are standing on what has become a floating island of ice that flounders precariously beneath them. Azog swings the flail once more and it sticks in the ice between them. Unable to pull it out, he swings his blade, but is unable to reach Throin.

The Eagles are coming… the tide of battle turns.

Then Azog pauses… a stunned look upon his face and we see the Eagles coming from behind Thorin. This is a wonderful turn-a-bout as Azog is now the one who looks on in bewilderment and fear.  The Eagles fly overhead, we can see Radagast and Beorn attacking the Uruks Armies of Gundabad, tearing their ordered lines to shreds. Beorn has him moment to shine, as he jumps down and transforms into a mighty and deadly bear, chewing his way through the fleeing orcs. We see more of the eagles attacking the war bats, driving the orcs upon the battlefield at the gate of Erebor to their death. The tide of the battle has turned at last and now it’s the forces of evil who are now on the run.

Though this is a satisfying moment in the film, it’s doesn’t give Beorn the moment of triumph I was hoping for. It’s pretty cool to see him dropping down from the air, as he transitions into bear form, but for my money it doesn’t improve on the lackluster transformation we saw from bear to man in the second film. I suppose something has to give when transitioning from book to film, but a lot of fans had high hopes for Beorn, that simply were not fulfilled in this trilogy.

Azog tuns back around to face Thorin… a look of shock upon his face. How could all his plans & stratagems fall to pieces so easily? But before he can react, Thorin pulls one of the coolest moves in the history of movie fights between good and evil. He reaches down and pulls the stone from the ice, tossing it to Azog, who catches it  like a fool. His look of surprise is priceless, matched only by Thorin’s expression. He then jumps back off the ice, letting gravity do it’s work as Azog begins to slip and slide off the upturned island of ice, finally slipping completely beneath the water and disappearing. A wonderful cinematic moment!

Now I must say, this scene for me hearkens back to a classic Hammer Horror moment that I’m sure inspired Peter Jackson. This is without doubt another Peter Jackson’s homage to Christopher Lee’s Dracula from the 1966 film Dracula, Prince of Darkness. The ending of the film shows Sir Christopher Lee falling into a hole in the ice, in much the same way that Azog does. It is a wonderful bit of movie trivia and the I’m surprised no one else has pointed it out. You can see a capture from the film below and if you go HERE you can watch the sequence in it entirety. Kudos to Jackson for this wonderful homage!

Of course we know that the fate of Azog could not end here, there is still unfinished business. Thorin bends down to pick up Orcrist and he sees something moving under the ice. It is Azog, silently floating just under the surface, Thorin looks on with a look of satisfaction on his face… but his moment of gloating comes too soon. As Azog floats under the ice, eyes finally close and we assume he is dead, but then they fly open and we get the classic horror movie moment, when you think the monster is dead and then he jumps up for one last scare!

Azog drives his sword up through Thorin’s foot… OUCH! He then preforms a superhero ninja move as he somehow launches himself up through 3 inches of thick ice from beneath a freezing lake… hmmm, OK. Here is another example of the filmmakers choosing fantasy over reality. There is just no way it could be physically possible for Azog to jump up through the ice and land on his feet. Only a CGI character could do this… not a living, breathing orc. Sigh…oh well.

To my way of thinking, this scene would have been much better served, if Azog had driven his sword up through the ice as Thorin bent down to retrieve his sword. Stabbing up ward and delivering a killing blow. Then Azog could have closed his eyes and slipped away under the ice to his death. Much more poetic and realistic perhaps, but I suppose less exciting… sigh.

As we know, that’s not what happens. Azog jumps out of the water and lands atop Thorin, driving his sword arm down upon him. However, Thorin stops the blow just inches from his chest by crossing the Azog’s blade with Orcrist… but it’s a losing battle. Azog has his full weight on the blade and Thorin knows he can’t stop him from driving the blade into heart. Thorin then makes the warrior’s choice. He knows he’s a dead man, so while he still has the strength, he pulls out Orcrist, letting Azog sink his blade into his chest, but his action deflects Azog’s sword just enough to keep it from going into his heart and killing him instantly. Thorin has taken a death blow and he knows it… but now he can drive his own blade deep into Azog’s upper chest. Thorin jumps up on top of him and sinks Orcrist deep in the Azog’s heart for a final killing blow.

He stares down at Azog, who now understands that he has lost everything, as his life slips away. He dies in total defeat.

Thorin struggles to his feet and staggers over to the edge of the ice fall, looking down on the battle below… the burning city of Dale… and his beloved Erebor. He looks down on all that he loves and has now lost forever. Richard Armitage plays this moment perfectly. It’s a beautiful and fitting scene, for such a grand finale.

Bilbo awakens and delivers his famous line from the book… “The Eagles are coming!”

The final act between Bilbo and Thorin…

He looks down on the ice and see’s Thorin collapse. He runs down to help him and they share a final moment before his death. Richard Armitage makes the most of this scene, but in my opinion Martin Freeman drops the ball. I can’t think of another actor that could have been more perfect for the role of Bilbo Baggins! And yet…

In scenes that required humor, loyalty, friendship and bravery, he nails them perfectly, but when it comes to playing this final scene of grief… he’s just not there… at least in this film. Crying on film is a true art form. Elijah Wood, Sean Astin, Viggo Mortensen… they can all pull off a great crying scene. Elijah Wood especially, can deliver the most realistic tears of anyone I have ever seen on film. However, this is simply not a talent that Martin Freeman has in his bag of actor tricks.

I don’t mean to be harsh, but whatever he was trying to do on the day of filming this scene of terrible grief, just didn’t work, and for me it nearly ruins the final scene of the trilogy. However, there are moments in this scene the really work and the acting of Richard Armitage was absolutely perfect, it just falls apart when it’s time for Bilbo to express his grief at the death of his friend.It just doesn’t feel authentic to me.

So for me this critical closing scene of the trilogy, featuring Thorin and Bilbo’s big moment on screen was a mixed bag… which I suppose in many ways sums up my sentiments about the entire trilogy.

In Part Eight of Mordor’s Hobbit: BFA Review ~ There and Back Again, ties up all the loose ends as we come to the close of Bilbo’s grand adventure. We follow his return to The Shire and his home in Bag End. However, just as Gandalf predicted, he’s not the same Hobbit who left his home without a handkerchief only a year ago!

Please go HERE to our Hobbit: BFA Review for all nine parts of the Mordor Review!

 January 8, 2016  Posted by at 6:59 pm
  • CT

    Another excellent, well thought out review…..with a lot of great screen caps thrown in for good measure. It’s fitting that you started the review with the final assault of Erebor. It was a great looking scene and I loved the look and design of the war trolls leading the charge. Imagine my surprise when they all dropped in a matter of seconds……There really isn’t much else to say about the overall battle as you’re pretty well covered everything. That said, I do feel the additional battle footage of the extended version greatly improved the final battle giving it an intensity and sense of urgency I felt was sorely missing in the theatrical release. As for the Bolg/Legolas and Azog/Thorin fights……I felt they almost bordered on comical. It’s a shame PJ depended on so much over the top CGI during these fight scenes, and it’s a shame someone on his staff didn’t come up with your idea for the death’s of Azog and Thorin as it is about 100X more realistic than Azog, wearing about a hundred pounds of armor, smashing through 4″ thick ice like a Polaris missile.

    My other great regret from BOTFA was the lack of airtime for Beorn and Dain. They were such interesting characters and I think PJ really dropped the ball with these two.I had hoped we would see a lot more of them in the extended version, but honestly, the additional airtime they received, while better than nothing, was still underwhelming to say the least.

    Oh, and that was a great find with the Berseker in Balrog armor…..I don’t know if I ever would have caught that. Nor would I have clued in to your Dracula/Azog analogy. That is pure genius and I would love to know if that was PJ’s intent. Well done, RL!

  • TroyTroodon

    Mordor Beastiary, eh? Sounds promising. BTW, for the new Dark Servents, could it include vampires like Thuringwethil?

  • Stay tuned… I’ll be posting about this today!

  • Thanks…this review was a tough one to do, the battle of Ravenhill has so many moving parts! LOL, ‘Polaris missle’… I wish I had throught of that analogy! Prefect!

  • Roberto Took

    I do think that the other actors you mentioned had better crying scenes, but I think his grief is just as believable without tears. Martin Freeman has so many expressions that always fit the way Bilbo feels, often many things at once.

  • Roberto Took

    This seems like a great way of organizing them

  • I have looked at this scene a lot… and I see what you mean, i expect it is more a matter of person opinion on this one. I will concede that the scene at the very end, when Bilbo tells the auctioneer that Thorin was his friend, he shows what feels more like genuine grief to me… but I will get into that in Part Eight of the review! 🙂

  • Yes… there will be vampires!

  • CT

    I have to go with Roberto on this one, RL. As one married to a psych nurse with over 25 years experience, my wife would tell you grief is a very personal thing and everyone copes with it and reacts, in their own way.

  • I do get that… and i thought about that also. It does make sense, because Bilbo is unable to say the word ‘friend’ when talking about Thorin to Balin… he gets all choked up, until he returns home and is able to say it aloud. Perhaps in the moment of Thorin’s death he is in shock… i don’t mean to focus on crying so much as expressing something real in the moment… I just don’t feel it.

  • jascur

    Great job with the review, as always, RL. I finally saw this movie when it came out on the EE back in Nov (yes, I waited a whole year since I didn’t see it in the theaters.) and thoroughly enjoyed it. Also just finished reading the Weta prod. book BotFA: Art of War which I also highly recommend. Need to re-watch the movie again though — since it was the last film, with so many moving parts and storytelling ends to tie up, the critical part of my brain was ‘white-knuckling’ it the whole way through (sort of like a parent watching their kid do a gymnastics routine at the finals “Wait, is PJ going to stick the landing? Ok, whew, he did!)

  • jascur

    I just finished watching the EE production diaries, and for what its worth, it seems PJ was quite moved by MF’s performance in this scene, chocking up a bit and remarking ‘That’s quite sweet’ while watching from the monitor. In my opinion, I think its consistent with MF’s take on Bilbo as a whole, which is much more emotional complicated and subtly nuanced than how Bilbo is sometimes portrayed in the books (where he ‘bursts into tears’ after Thorin’s death.) Anyway, this scene to me is really about RT having his moment as Thorin. The scene after it with Bilbo and Gandalf sitting in sorrowful silence is really the one where MF and IM get to shine and best showcases their acting talents. A real classic, IMHO.

  • jascur

    I cannot wait to fully explore this when it is complete! : )

  • Roberto Took

    On that subject of Bilbo’s portrayal in the books there is also his nervous fit/shriek instead of simply fainting as he does in AUJ.

  • Random Musings

    My two cents:
    1) I truly can’t understand why everyone questions how Legolas is able to walk up falling masonry, however no one questions him walking on top of snow in FOTR?
    2) Great spot RL regarding the face in the armour! I’d never have spotted that!
    3) Even after watching the EE I’ve still got Beorn withdrawal symptoms. I still believe that having him kill Azog’s white warg (in the appendices there is pre-viz of him killing a large troll) would’ve been a satisfying ending for both characters giving him the screen time that he deserves.
    Failing that they simply should’ve had him carry Thorin off the battlefield (again according to the appendices it was in the script and would’ve appeared in the scene post Thorin’s death when Bilbo and Gandalf sit in silence). All wasted opportunities if you ask me.