The Hobbit: The Battle of the Five Armies is a war zone, and Peter Jackson's got the battle plans to prove it.
Peter Jackson is no stranger to epic battle scenes. This is the man who directed the massive Battle of Helm's Deep in The Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers and the even more massive Battle of the Pelennor Fields in The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King. He's shown us Ents assaulting Isengard, Aragorn leading a charge at the Black Gate and a close-quarters battle with goblins in the depths of Moria. Now, with his final Middle-earth film looming, he's got one more epic battle to show us: the Battle of the Five Armies.
The battle -- in which armies of dwarves, elves, men, orcs and eagles will clash at the foot of Lonely Mountain over the lost dwarven treasure of Erebor recently reclaimed by Thorin Oakenshield and his company -- is set to take up the last 45 minutes or of The Hobbit: The Battle of the Five Armies. That means a lot of post-production work for Jackson and his team as they put the finishing touches on effects shot after effects shot, but it's also meant lots of careful planning. Before setting out to film the battle, Jackson had to determine just how big it would be in relation to the landscape.
“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?’ ” Jackson said. “ ‘Are they going to fill up the valley or look like a speck?’ Then we could start drawing the arrows on the schematics.”
To help visualize the battle, Jackson drew some maps of his own that show where the forces are coming from and where they fall in the whole scheme. Check it out:
Because the battle is so long, Jackson also had to be careful about how it's paced. Sure, 45 minutes of nonstop orc-slaying sounds fun in theory, but it can also drag on if you don't keep it focused on something familiar, something we actually care about. So Jackson made a little battleground rule.
“We have a rule that we’re not allowed to go more than two or three shots of anonymous people fighting without cutting back to our principal characters,” he said. “Otherwise the audience just ends up with battle fatigue.”
As you might have noticed in the drawing above, the battle will indeed feature the return of the massive eagles of Middle-earth, including the never-before-seen Lord of the Eagles. Jackson was careful to emphasize, though, that the creatures are just another part of the battle this time, and not the plot element that will save the day. And yeah, he knows you've thought about them carrying Frodo all the way to Mordor.
“Tolkien uses eagles in a way that can be kind of awkward because they tend to show up out of the blue and change things pretty quickly,” says the director. “So here they’re just part of the plan, not the saviors. I mean, I do realize that if the eagles had just been able to bring Frodo to Mount Doom in Lord of the Rings and let him drop the ring in, those movies would have been much shorter.”
In less than two months, we'll see the Battle of the Five Armies unfold on the big screen, and then Jackson's Middle-earth movie journey will (most likely) be done. For some viewers, the Hobbit trilogy has been great fun, for others it's been a slog, but however you feel about the saga ending, it's clear Jackson's ready to go out with a bang.
The Hobbit: The Battle of the Five Armies arrives Dec. 17.