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Battle of the Five Armies trailer – first reactions

It’s been worth the wait. Although we’ve have had a teaser trailer for some months now, today Warner Bros. finally revealed to fans their vision of the Middle-earth duo-trilogy (hexalogy)? Their vision is one of epic proportions blasting through any cuteness and trivialities to present a grim, dangerous, emotionally-complex and eye-watering spectacular Middle-earth.

Unlike previous trailers, this does not focus on the baddies. This focuses on the turmoil amongst the forces of good: Thorin’s greed; Thranduil’s revenge; Gandalf’s guilt; Galadriel’s sorrow; Kíli’s anger; Bard’s frustration; Saruman’s deceit; Bilbo’s defiance. Of course there are lots of fight scenes but the message is “This is about the characters, not the battle!”: despite the name, this will not be 3 hours filled with gratuitous and pointless fight scenes. This is a very complex finale with the kind of complicated character interplay that Jackson has been criticised for lacking in the past. Sadly, one storyline that looks set to continue is Tauriel’s love of Kíli, although rest-assured that there will be a grisly end to at least one of them!

Aside from the difficult characters, what else have we learnt? Bats – featured prominently – could be one of the five armies, and they seem to originate from a rust-coloured fortress that is not too dissimilar from Minas Morgul in its design. It wouldn’t be surprising if this is the Witch-king’s hide-out. Ice features prominently and it’s unclear whether this icy location is Dale, Erebor, or somewhere else; of course, those familiar with the chronology are well aware that this battle should take place in winter so Jackson has, again, proved his bookish attention-to-detail.

One particularly interesting clip is the orc army entering a series of tunnels. In the Extended Edition of The Desolation of Smaug, Thráin explicitly tells Gandalf that Smaug and Sauron were in league; has Smaug created a series of tunnels for the orcs to use? Finally, those of us hoping for an Avengers-style attack on Dol Guldur with the White Council versus Sauron won’t be disappointed; Saruman’s treason is also teased.

The trailer is also noteworthy for the things that are left out. A cursory glance at both Bolg and Azog shows the paucity of baddies in this trailer. But there’s also no Beorn. We don’t see or hear of the Arkenstone. It takes a beady eye to spot that the large catapults half-way through the trailer are, in fact, fired by dwarves; but there is no dwarf-army on show and certainly no mention of Dáin. For a trilogy that’s all about reclaiming treasure from a dragon, it is also curious that Smaug does not feature at all in the trailer: presumably he will be dispensed with fairly early on in the third film.

Other good spots? There are some strange baby-trolls floating around. One of the Nine figures that surround Gandalf and Galadriel could be Peter Jackson. Thranduil’s warmoose is still going strong. And there was a satisfying development in the last shot of Bilbo – before he puts on the Ring we see his mithril shirt. Jackson is determined to tie up any loose ends. He needs to. This is the final roll of the dice. And, for us, this too is the last time we will see Middle-earth in film… at least for foreseeable future.

Trailer transcript

Thorin walks through Erebor; cuts to Bilbo talking to Thorin.
Bilbo: Thorin, you gave a promise.
Shot of Lake-town burning; cuts to Bard talking to Thorin through the barracde.
Bard: You brought upon them only ruin and death.
Shots of Thorin, the dwarves, and the barracade.
Bilbo: You’ve won the Mountain, is that not enough?
Shots of a large dwarf statue crumbling, Thorin looking out over Dale, the dwarves at the barracades, Thranduil and Bard riding through the elven troops.
Thorin: Now, we defend it.
Thranduil: I came to reclaim something of mine.
Overhead shot of orc army; Bilbo looking concerned; orc army enter a string of large brightly-lit tunnels.
Gandalf (V/O): This was the last move in a master-plan. A plan long in the making.
A swarm of bats circle a rust-coloured fortress.
Legolas: The bats are bred for one purpose: for war.
Gandalf lying on the floor in Dol Guldur, with Galadriel over him, surrounded by nine figures. Galadriel kisses Gandalf’s head. Elrond appears and draws sword.
Saruman: Leave Sauron to me.
The Eye, then the figure of Sauron (in flame) appears.
Bilbo climbs down a rope and runs away from Erebor.
Dwalin: Bilbo was right: you cannot see what you have become.
Thorin walking through Erebor holding his stomach.
Thorin: Everything I did, I did for them.
Thorin and Kíli embrace by touching heads.
Huge elven army outside Erebor, then focus on their shields. Thranduil talks to Gandalf.
Thranduil: You started this. You will forgive me if I finish it.
Elven army release arrows. Dwarven army release giant catapults.
Thorin and dwarves look out from Erebor at a figure riding away on a horse. Gandalf with people of Lake-town behind him. Bilbo talking.
Bilbo: When faced with death, what can anyone do?
Rust-coloured fortress; trolls and orcs; scattered people of Lake-town; Kíli shouts at Thorin.
Kíli: I will not hide while others fight our battles for us.
Lake-town in flames; Bard nearly falls off a roof; Alfrid and Master try to get away. Kíli gives talisman to Tauriel. Bats descends on icy location. Thranduil slashes in front of Tauriel. Orcs run at screen. Someone looks out over icy location.
Baby-troll runs towards camera; orcs fight dwarves in icy location.
Bilbo and dwarves look out over Dale and burning Lake-town; Bard defiantly climbing room; Tauriel crying; Thorin in Erebor amongst gold; orc throws Tauriel against wall; Gandalf.
Gandalf:You have but one question to answer: how shall this day end?
Legolas fighting Bolg. Lake-town. Azog fighting a dwarf. Orcs and men clash. Bard rides a cart into a baby-troll.
Bilbo (wearing mithril shirt) puts on Ring.

About the Author: Shaun Gunner
Shaun is the Chair of The Tolkien Society. First elected in 2013, Shaun has overseen the Society's expansion from 600 to 3,500 members. Shaun regularly speaks about adaptations of Tolkien's works and the future of Tolkien scholarship whilst passionately believing the Society needs to reach out to new audiences. In his spare time he can be found playing video games and Lego, or on Twitter. He chaired another charity, Mankind, and is a local councillor.