The battle was won, but the aftermath still must be faced.
We are filled in on the heroics and despair that wove through the day. Our original party is down by three, though Thorin does get a chance to make amends with Bilbo and break free of the spell the dragon hoard cast over him. Fili and Kili fell defending Thorin, who would have fallen in battle if it wasn't for the fury of Beorn.
Beorn himself is probably the biggest factor in the tide of battle. The eagles were big, but Beorn is in many ways a force of nature himself.
With Thorin and the last of his line fallen, his cousin Dain becomes King Under the Mountain. Dain honors the deals made, and shovels out a 14th share of the hoard. Laketown ends up with more wealth than it knows what to do with, enough that it can't really even give it away. As was mentioned earlier, we're talking ridiculous amounts of wealth.
The forces of good have won a huge victory with the battle of the five armies, with the goblin and orc population decimated, and ways that have been long deemed hazardous once again passable without threat. However, even with everything that's been done, going significantly out of the way to avoid the Mirkwood is still safer. The realm of the wood elves is still tainted and dangerous.
Bilbo gifting the necklace of silver and pearls is a wonderful moment. At this point the Tookishness is fading, the pull of home and his Baggins side is growing. The repayment of debt is earnest, but there's definitely a level of boldness and playfulness here.
What I had completely forgetten about from all my readings of this book is that Gandalf and Bilbo spend months staying with Beorn. They arrive for Yule and leave with the spring. Not only that, but Beorn has opened his home to visitors and reveling, and someday there will be little Beornlings.
But this chapter is about the aftermath of war, and finally going home.
So picking this up in the film with Thorin, Fili, Kili, and Dwalin at the top of the cliff, because at the time it seemed like a good break. I should have waited about 2 more minutes for the actual scene break for it to come back to Thranduil.
The short version of the rest of the battle is that most of it is gratuitous gilding the lily (to the point where I don't feel that statement is redundant). It gives shiny spotlighted combat time to our various characters of note without really adding a whole lot of note. We've got an hour of film left for the last seventeen pages of the book (at least in my edition).
Thranduil comes a cross as having some sort of PTSD trigger where he's realizing quite how horrible war is. Yes, he's utterly an arrogant ass, and dear lord save me from that whole love speech when Tauriel attempts to block his withdrawal, but in his behavior and projecting I feel like there's more going on. There's a level of emotional shut off that really resonates with trauma reaction, and in this case he's worried about protecting his own. Actually, as much as I've bitched about the love story, I really like the closing scene between Thranduil and Tauriel. For once the emotion doesn't seem forced, and that moment of recognition between the two is probably the single most vulnerable moment that Thranduil shows. I'm considering that in many ways I have been selling Thranduil short, based on perhaps some unfortunate editing, poor dialog, and distracting plot points. There's definitely layers to his character that are hinted at but largely glossed over.
Bilbo volunteering to warn the dwarves on the cliff is a really pivotal moment for him as a character (preceded by some poor dialog). The tremendous growth he's gone through has been somewhat overshadowed in the film narrative, but at this point he's stepping away from Gandalf's guidance with with confidence and assurance. People who disregard Gandalf's guidance generally meet poor ends, or are forced into his suggested plan of action, but Bilbo has managed to grow the point of following his own action free of Gandalf's guidance.
As for everything taking place on the cliff...
|Of course it is|
Clearly it was felt necessary to highlight the company deaths beyond just falling in battle, as well as tie up various superfluous plot. Oh yeah, spoiler alert, folks die. The book has been out since 1937, deal with it.
Fili & Kili are supposed to perish fighting alongside Thorin, not stabbed and dropped from a cliff as a provocation or fighting to save an elf that would have been really awesome without the love story. Even with this handful split off from the main action, the battle does still continue here, and I suppose it's worth mentioning that I adore Graham McTavish as Dwalin. One small thing that makes me stupidly happy is Bilbo making a mark throwing stones. His skill with throwing rocks is a noted detail from the books.
I actually do like most of the fight between Thorin and Azog. While I think it's overly drawn out and Thorin really only has himself to blame for getting stabbed through the foot though, I do think the end of the fight and Thorin's death was well done. The final soliloquy on the cliff works, giving Thorin both his chance to make amends with Bilbo and a good death.
Jackson did put in a number of moments on the horror of war. We see them in Thranduil's irrationality, when Thorin looks over at the battle below, and the mourning of the dead. They're small, but they are there.
As for the elf action, it just doesn't work for me. Legolas is playing Exalted, everyone else is playing Dungeons & Dragons. The rules sets are so different it just utterly breaks the scene. Tauriel has some decent combat moments, but gets more knocked around than makes sense considering she's the person who trained Legolas.
The coming of the eagles and Beorn still stands as the true turning point in the battle. Radagast riding in with the eagles is completely unnecessary, but does fit (and hey, more Sylvester McCoy). I'm honestly disappointed in how little of Beorn we get here, the eagles may be Tolkien's big guns, but Beorn really is the wrecking crew in the battle.
I know a lot of people were annoyed at the set up for Lord of the Rings and mentioning Aragorn. I'm coming out as being completely OK with it. Lore-wise it's not unreasonable, same with age.
I can't really be upset that the journey home with Thranduil, then several months chilling with Beorn was cut. At this point we're looking at small details that cover months that don't really need filling out, and with the changes made to the film, these inclusions would no longer make sense.
At this point we've got about 20 minutes left, covering Bilbo's return to Hobbiton to a rather mixed reception.