Sunday, April 27, 2014

Why So Many Battles . . .

You will perhaps have heard the announcement that the third Hobbit film will no longer be called There And Back Again, becoming instead The Battle of the Five Armies. The idea, of course, is that the previous title was not suited to the trilogy (versus the original plan for only two movies) because the group is already "there" when the third movie begins. But regardless of the giant mouthful that this new title seems to be, I find something else about it bothering me.

I'm bothered that the movie is named after a battle. Sometimes with The Lord of the Rings I wonder if my favorite of the three stories is The Fellowship of the Ring--because the fellowship is such a beautiful thing. And the book and movie are named after the fellowship. The third book (although Tolkien wasn't fond of this title since it gives away the ending) is named after Aragorn reclaiming the throne and renewing Gondor. That's also a positive thing. An Unexpected Journey is a neutral title. The Desolation of Smaug is a sad image, but then the point of that movie was to show corruption in many places and in many forms and to acknowledge it. So why must the last movie be named solely for the final battle instead of for something more hopeful?

You see, apart from the many things that I do or don't like in the Middle-earth movies, I do find them battle heavy. But I mostly ignore that fact because, well, they are movies. Movies tend to try to pack in action. If I don't want that, I can go read the books. But the fact that the title The Battle of the Five Armies promises nothing more than warfare bothers me. Sure, you could argue that the name itself of the battle is something hopeful--because different peoples come together to unite against a common foe in this one battle, hence the five different armies. But that's a subtlety.

I suppose, though, it must be strange coming up with a title for this movie. It has to be some sort of phrase that not only describes the plot but also sounds Tolkien. An Unexpected Journey comes out of the book. The Battle of the Five Armies is what Tolkien calls the final battle (although he doesn't put in the "the," so I wonder why the movie does). But I'm not a screenwriter, so I'm left wondering, couldn't they have come up with something better? Probably it doesn't ultimately matter much. But why, why so much focus on battles when Tolkien is so much more than that? The battle barely takes up five and a half pages for him.

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