The Hobbit: The Battle of the Five Armies

And so it ends.

I went to see The Battle of The Five Armies this past Saturday in 3D, a format I still feel unnecessary and gimmicky although I will admit to some pretty cool effects because of it (that snow!!). There’s no denying that The Hobbit trilogy has been inferior to The Lord of the Rings but it’s still been an entertaining film series and The Battle of the Five Armies was a solid finish, if a bit unsatisfying at times.

Spoiler Alert! I will be talking about what happens in this movie so if you haven’t seen it and/or haven’t read the book, you might want to hold off reading this until you have done one or both. Unless you just don’t care, in which case keep reading!

Here’s some of the good:

  • Smaug. Smaug Smaug Smaug. Is it too late to make a movie solely about him? A prequel or a movie from his perspective, something like that? Because that character is excellent. His design, his voice, just his absolutely magnificent self. And when he dies, well, I might have teared up a bit.
  • Defeating the Necromancer. Not actually in the book, this is part of the White Council storyline added from the appendices. It’s fantastic to see how powerful Galadriel is. And while I’ve seen some criticism (since the first Desolation of Smaug trailer actually) about how flirty Gandalf and Galadriel are, I disagree with that strongly. They are two of the most powerful beings in Middle-earth and are also good friends. I see no reason to think that their deep affection for each other has anything slightly romantic about it.
  • Bard and Thranduil. Luke Evans and Lee Pace were perfect choices. It’s no wonder that Bard became the leader of Laketown and it was nice to see the beginnings of those leadership qualities in Bain as well. And Thranduil was still his weirdly fabulous self but we got to see the Elvenking in action here rather than just the cautious recluse.
  • Bilbo. This probably should go without saying but Martin Freeman as Bilbo was an inspired choice.

There were several things about this movie that bothered me, like how little we saw of Bilbo, the confused battle scenes, and the open ending of most of the story lines.  By the end of the film there’s a lot left unexplained and I don’t know if this is because of bad storytelling, or perhaps that Peter Jackson didn’t want to make the same mistake he was accused of with Return of the King where there were about 10 endings (all good and necessary in my opinion though). I’m hoping we get the closure I’m wanting in the extended edition. For example, what happens to Tauriel? Does she go to the North with Legolas to look for the Dunedain? Is she still banished? Why did we only see Beorn and Radagast for just long enough to register that they were at the battle? Granted, Beorn’s change was pretty cool but then…we never see him again. Could Fili and Kili not have had a better ending? I don’t mean the manner in which they were killed, but the last we see of them is just laying where they fell. At least Thorin was given the respect of a show of grief when found by the other dwarves. And what of Bard and the other survivors of Laketown? At the end of the battle, they are just looking at the front gate of the Lonely Mountain. I’m really (really, really) hoping that these questions are answered with the material added to the extended edition but even then- the theatrical version shouldn’t be just a first draft for the “real” movie we see with the extended version.

For a better and more in-depth review, you can’t do better than Sorina Higgins’ for Christianity Today. And be sure to read her follow up post on what exactly is missing from the movie, some of which I’ve mentioned above.

What did y’all think?

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Advent Time!

ChristmasDecoration

Today is the first of December. Thanksgiving is over (hope it was lovely for all my American friends), the snow is falling on WordPress blogs, and yesterday was the first Sunday of this Advent Season. Which means that it is now socially acceptable to begin celebrating Christmas. Last year I wrote about my love of Advent Calenders after discovering a fantastic online Tolkien Advent calender with the chance to win a personalized Tolkien book collection. I just revisited that site today (tolkienchristmas.com) and it seems to be going again this year. Maybe. There are still clues to answer but no links to little Tolkien treasures like there were last year and I can find no mention of it on the hosting website (tolkien.co.uk). But…it won’t hurt to try right? The good news is that all the links from the calender last year still seem to be working so here’s the link to last year’s treat from today: an illustration by Jemima Catlin.

Father Christmas

Father Christmas

I also mentioned a series of posts on favorite Christmas carols written by Jubliare. Those are also still available to be read and you can begin here with O Magnum Mysterium. (Or read them all thoughtfully compiled here!)

christmascarol

And here’s something new for this year: an Advent Calender from Weta Workshop! (EDIT: I’m afraid that Weta link might be user specific. So if it doesn’t work for you, you can always try and pull it up through their Facebook page: https://www.facebook.com/WetaWorkshop) It too unlocks a door every night at midnight (New Zealand time) and offers a little treasure for us to enjoy each day until Christmas.

1stAdvent

Does anyone else have any links to other Advent Calenders? I would love to know about them! (Even if they are only pictures of physical ones!)

Russian Medievalist Tolkien

Another art post! I love finding stuff like this. One of the Russian versions of Lord of the Rings was illustrated by Sergey Yuhimov (or Sergei Iukhimov). Looking more like something I studied in my Art History classes in college, I would love to see an English version with these illustrations.

Gandalf arriving at Hobbiton

Gandalf arriving at Hobbiton

Bilbo and Frodo's Birthday- A Long Expected Party

Bilbo and Frodo’s Birthday- A Long Expected Party

Frodo and Sam meeting the Elves on their way to Rivendell

Frodo and Sam meeting the Elves on their way to Rivendell

Frodo rescuing his friends in the barrow

Frodo rescuing his friends in the barrow

Sam and Frodo meeting Aragorn at the Prancing Pony

Sam and Frodo meeting Aragorn at the Prancing Pony

The Council of Elrond (I think?)

The Council of Elrond (I think?)

The Bridge of Khazad-dum

The Bridge of Khazad-dum

Caras Galadhon, home to  Celeborn and Galadriel

Caras Galadhon, home to Celeborn and Galadriel

The Argonath

The Argonath

The death of Boromir

The death of Boromir

Frodo, Sam and Gollum in the Dead Marshes

Frodo, Sam and Gollum in the Dead Marshes

Gandalf and the healing of Theoden (Eowyn in the back!)

Gandalf and the healing of Theoden (Eowyn in the back!)

Merry and Pippin at Treebeard's House

Merry and Pippin at Treebeard’s House

Frodo, Sam and Gollum in Ithilien

Frodo, Sam and Gollum in Ithilien

The Ents destroy Isengard

The Ents destroy Isengard

The Siege of Gondor and Grond

The Siege of Gondor and Grond

"I am no man!"

“I am no man!”

Frodo and Sam enter Mordor

Frodo and Sam enter Mordor

The Healing Houses of Gondor

The Healing Houses of Gondor

 

"Here, at the end of all things..." *sniff*

“Here, at the end of all things…”
*sniff*

The crowning of Aragorn

The crowning of Aragorn

Oh man. There are so many more pictures I would have liked to add. Be sure to visit this blog, this article, and this page (in Russian, but all you really need to do is look at the pictures right?) for even more of Yuhimov’s Lord of the Rings illustrations.

A New Tolkien

Oof. How time does pass. As it’s been a while since I last posted, today will be a 2 post day! Hooray!

If you’re a Tolkien fan, you’ve probably heard this news already. For those who haven’t, we’ll be getting a new translation of Beowulf in May! From what I understand, this will be a translation Tolkien did in 1926 that for some reason has never been published. It sounds like there will be some extra goodies like essays and (perhaps??) a new Tolkien story as well.

Here’s the article from The Guardian on the release.

And here’s an article from TheOneRing fan site.

Exciting news!

Gender and Tolkien

Tauriel

Tolkien has a bad reputation for gender diversity but (and I say this as a female with strong feminist tendencies) I don’t care. I don’t think I’ve written a post before like I’m about to, but with the introduction of Tauriel in the recent Hobbit movie and my discovery of this article, I felt I should take advantage of my platform here.

But first, read this article: One Weird Old Trick to Undermine the Patriarchy. Go on, go read it. It’s short. I can wait.

Done? Good. Let’s continue.

First, let me just say that I have no issue with switching genders of main characters if your kid wants it. It’s a bit untraditional but if it works, then ok. Stories can and do change.

So now, can we just talk about that picture for a minute? Insert my hands thrown up and a long drawn out wail of “whhhhhhyyyyy” right here. We’re switching genders of the main character! So yes please, let’s take that frumpy middle-aged hobbit who loves nothing better than sitting comfortably and eating and change him into a cute young hobbittess with a spunky haircut, a figure to die for, and a look that clearly says she’s up for anything. We’re staying completely true to the story here!

And then there’s this: “Bilbo, it turns out, makes a terrific heroine. She’s tough, resourceful, humble, funny, and uses her wits to make off with a spectacular piece of jewelry.” A PIECE OF JEWELRY?? Michelle Nijhuis is trying to make the point that gender isn’t an issue so she turns the quest to reclaim Erebor, the dwarven homeland, into some petty journey where girl Bilbo ends up with some pretty jewelry. If we’re trying to point out the gender of the main character doesn’t matter, maybe we should be avoiding blatantly feminine stereotypes? Just a thought. Not to mention that the Arkenstone isn’t even jewelry. (EDIT: Just realized Nijhuis might be referring to the One Ring here and not the Arkenstone- comment about female stereotypes still stands.)

I also find it interesting that Nijhuis adds “Perhaps most importantly, she never makes an issue of her gender—and neither does anyone else.” Except for us, that is. By writing the article, with the underlying idea that having a male hero is somehow detrimental to young female minds, WE are making an issue of gender. I find the idea incredibly patronizing that unless there is a female character, my enjoyment of the story will somehow be less.

I’ll be the first to tell you that women in our society, young, old, and in between, have serious image issues. But I don’t think that books with predominantly male characters are to blame.  Instead of teaching our children (boys and girls) that they can use their gifts to overcome adversity and find clever solutions to tricky problems, we’re hung up on trying to convince them that girls can be tough too! And go on adventures! Even though they’re girls! Maybe we should be more focused on the fact that the majority of Disney movies and young adult novels, while having female protagonists, almost always have the female ending up in a relationship (this relationship is generally a main plot line). This is why Brave was so refreshing, because there was no love story for our heroine- except with her mother. And maybe we should be more concerned about the fact that women are praised more for their youth and beauty than anything else, whatever they are trying to do (I direct your attention to the picture accompanying the article once more).

So am I upset that the writer of this article changed the sex of Bilbo? No. Do I resent the creation of Tauriel in the movie? Absolutely not. I’m a firm believer that women can be just as competent and entertaining characters as any man. Don’t believe me? Try reading The Rook by Daniel O’Malley. Or The Golden Compass by Phillip Pullman. Or Guardian of the Dead by Karen Healey. (True, there’s a love story in that one, but I’ve never read a more realistic character than Ellie. And the love story line is secondary to the plot.) It’s when we insist on making a point of saying “oh, this is a man, why can’t it be a woman?” or “oh good, a woman, that’s better” that I start to fume.

So here’s my suggestion: Instead of villainizing Tolkien (or any author) for writing books with mostly male characters, or instead of trying to make poor one-for-one substitutions of men for women, let’s encourage girls to write their own stories. Stories where women can be more than token characters, there just to make a point about gender. Or…not. Because that’s the thing: if gender doesn’t matter, then gender doesn’t matter. A good character is a good character regardless of their anatomy.

I’d love to hear your thoughts on the article!

Have a Very Merry (Tolkien) Christmas

Father Christmas

Father Christmas

We are now solidly in the Advent season, a time of joy and celebration for the birth of our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ! If you’re looking for some lovely carols to listen to, Jubilare is doing a series this month with some of her favorites. Start here!

I’ve had very few in my lifetime but I have always been enthralled by Advent calendars, even the cheap cardboard ones with the poor quality foil-wrapped chocolate pieces inside. The joy of looking forward to a new gift each day while getting closer and closer to Christmas? You would have to be a pre-reformed Scrooge not to love that!

Bah. Humbug.

Bah. Humbug.

But, alas, most Advent calenders are expressly made for children (unless you’re buying the Starbucks one, (maybe check your local store?) which I strongly suggest you keep far, far away from children). Do not despair though, dear reader! For I come to you today with a calender for Tolkien fans. Simply go here to sign up and begin your first clue: tolkienchristmas.com. In theory, this advent calender is meant as a contest to win some personalized Tolkien books. But the real joy here is that every day you answer a simple question with a link to a special Tolkien related item. Perhaps an illustration, or a map, or, like today, a link to a rare recording of Tolkien reading a chapter from The Hobbit (“Riddles in the Dark”!). You might want to save each link as you get them, as it seems very hard to find them again once you have answered the question or closed the page. Have no fear, though! With my internet prowess, I have managed to bring you the links to each previous day!

Day 1

Day 2

Day 3

Day 4

Day 5

Day 6

Day 7

Day 8

Day 9

Day 10

Day 11

Day 12

Day 13

Day 14

Day 15

Day 16

Day 17

Day 18

Day 19

Day 20 (Final day!)

I will try to keep these updated as the month progresses; it would be a shame to lose these treasures.

Also in Tolkien news: The Hobbit: Desolation of Smaug opens on Friday! I haven’t read any full reviews yet but the general consensus seems to be that it is good and better than the first one. However, as one fan pointed out, so was Attack of the Clones.