Segunda, 01 Dezembro 2014 08:00

Peter Jackson’s Last Battle in Middle-earth

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Bilbo Baggins (Martin Freeman) faces dark days in ‘The Hobbit: The Battle of the Five Armies.’ Photo credit” Warner Bros, via the New Zealand Herald.

The idea that greatness comes from small things is an ongoing theme in Tolkien’s writings, and director Peter Jackson has often picked up on that theme in his film adaptations for both The Lord of the Rings and The Hobbit. The Oscar-winning director may be taking that notion to another level in The Hobbit: The Battle of the Five Armies. Although the titular battle occupies 10 pages in Tolkien’s book, the same battle reportedly lasts 45 minutes in the final installment of The Hobbit films.

Long before the cameras rolled, Jackson and his creative team had to plan out the climactic battle. As Jackson explained to Entertainment Weekly, “Before we could loose the first arrow, we had to design the landscape itself and figure out, ‘Okay, if we have 10,000 orcs, how much room are they going to take up? …Are they going to fill up the valley or look like a speck?’ Then we could start drawing the arrows on the schematics.”

Peter Jackson’s plans for the titular battle in ‘The Hobbit: The Battle of the Five Armies.’ Photo credit: Art Department/Warner Bros, via Entertainment Weekly.

Tolkien’s descriptions of the battle provided the strategic blueprint for the film’s battle. The director told film critic Dominic Corry of the New Zealand Herald, “Tolkien described the battle in its strategic terms quite well and we’re sort of reasonably following his blueprint… Dale is a city outside of Erebor and it’s a strategic location in the battle. It’s almost like one of those situations where the forces that control Dale will control the battle. So the fighting’s sort of fiercest in this city.”

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Elven King Thranduil (Lee Pace) leads his army in the Battle of Five Armies. Photo credit: Warner Bros, via the New Zealand Herald.

Even though the battle is on a huge scale, perhaps larger than any other Middle-earth battle, Jackson is keenly aware of the need to balance the spectacle with the heart of the story — its characters.

“When we were doing the battles of Helm’s Deep and Minas Tirith, when we are actually in the cutting room editing a battle together, you don’t want to go for more than two or three shots without seeing one of your lead characters. Once you’re just watching extras, or stunt people or CGI fighting, fighting, fighting … Two or three of those shots, you really feel like you need to go back to the story.

“And the characters also have to be driving the story. So just having Gandalf or Bard or whatever fighting, that’s okay to a point, but it doesn’t carry plot. So what we do try and do is to have our storylines of the film carrying on through the middle of the battle, because at least then you are still following the story even though there’s suddenly a battle raging around, there’s still characters on a journey, and relationships and conflicts.”

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Thorin Oakenshield (Richard Armitage) in a quieter moment in the midst of the epic battle in ‘The Hobbit: The Battle of the Five Armies.” Photo credit: Warner Bros, via Richard Armitage.

Actor Martin Freeman (Bilbo Baggins) told Corry that he thinks that, in the midst of the grand spectacle of battle, the film’s viewers need to connect to the story through moments that are on a human–or hobbit–scale.

“The battle is the size of London, it just goes on forever, involving hundreds of thousands of combatants. But the fun bit for me is when you see it’s the human or hobbit moments within that you make a connection with.

“It’s what I always think Peter is good at. He will cut away from a huge action scene to actually see what the human cost of something is, so that you’re actually relating to a character as opposed to just a guy doing fighting.”

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Bard (Luke Evans) and the men of Lake-town confront orcs in ‘The Hobbit” The Battle of the Five Armies.” Photo credit: Warner Bros, Empireonline.com, via theonering.net.

But there will be no lack of spectacle, with Jackson and colleagues drawing not only from The Hobbit but also from Tolkien’s larger body of work. Weta Workshop’s Richard Taylor told Corry what audiences might expect: “Huge battle trolls, massive warmongering creatures. Insane levels of military-bred creatures… This is a journey movie that culminates in an epic battle of significant proportions, possibly one of the bigger battles ever seen on screen. It will be the most complex battle scene on screen, and I would imagine because Tolkien wrote of such a unique piece of military stratagem.”

As fans gather in London for the world premiere of The Hobbit: The Battle of the Five Armieson December 1 2014, all of us who have made the journey to Middle-earth with Peter Jackson and company anticipate this last stage in our journey together. It is a bittersweet time, but we will take these final steps together. One last time.

You can read Entertainment Weekly’s story here, and Dominic Corry’s article in the New Zealand Herald here.

‘The Hobbit: The Battle of the Five Armies’ Trailer

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image Author: Valdis Valdís is a classic nerd, with many geeky interests, but her life-long love of Tolkien rules them all. She was completely hooked the first time that she read The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings at age 8. Since then, she has read the books at least once a year, and delves into Middle-earth at every opportunity with a fervor that would make any dwarf proud. She also deeply loves Peter Jackson’s films, and defends them staunchly when need arises. When reality forces her out of Middle-earth, Valdís is a university professor, a wife, mother of two daughters, and servant to two cats.

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