I admit it. I might not be the most qualified person to review The Hobbit: The Battle of the Five Armies, but I do love a good story wrapped in the fabric of a good film! After the first two Hobbit installments, The Battle of the Five Armies finishes the trilogy in a very satisfying manner, and still holds its own as an independent work. Aside from the greater story epic of the trilogy,The Battle of the Five Armies addressed three deeply human struggles that we’ve likely all faced at one time or another. (Beware: Spoilers ahead.)
First and foremost, the film addresses the love of money in Thorin’s storyline (the main character in this installment). What the film calls “dragon sickness,” we call greed. In business, we call it capitalism. And in middle class circles, we call it “keeping up with the Joneses.” But it all boils down to what Jesus called the love of money. From the outset, we learn that Thorin has become obsessed with guarding his new treasure and finding the arkenstone. Throughout the story, he makes bad choice after bad choice until he is literally swallowed up by the gold in a vision. It is this moment of “death” that awakens him from his stupor. Fortunately for him, he hasn’t lost everything yet. Unfortunately for us, we usually have.
It often takes losing our families and friends to wake us up, with numerous examples of people who climb the ladder of success only to find no one is left to share it with. We’ve seen it, heard it, watched it, and maybe even done it. But this is not an American problem; it’s an age-old humanity problem, present in every class, culture, and generation. Jesus warned us about it, saying, “No one can serve two masters. Either you will hate the one and love the other, or you will be devoted to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve both God and money.” In Thorin’s case, it obviously wasn’t an issue of serving God or money, but it WAS an issue of loyalty, loyalty to his family, friends and the entire race of dwarves. (Note: Bilbo represents the opposite. He is loyal to Thorin by hiding the arkenstone, which would worsen his condition, and giving it to the elves to prevent war.) The love of money and success always comes down to loyalty, and the web gets even more confusing when we think we’re doing it “for our families.”
Second, the story addresses the nature of true love. Thranduil, the elven king, doubts the love between Tauriel and Kili. Maybe he wants her to return the affections of his son, Legolas, or maybe he is offended by her love for a dwarf, but either way he tries to crush that relationship early in The Desolation of Smaug. In The Battle of the Five Armies, he sees their relationship escalating and lectures her on the painful nature of true love, citing his own marriage and the loss of his wife. He assumes her affections for Kili are immature and misguided. Later, when he decides to abandon the battle against the orcs (thus abandoning the dwarves), Tauriel confronts him. He challenges her angrily about her love for Kili, “Are you ready to die for it?” Apparently she is. Fortunately, she is saved by Legolas, but she then goes against Thranduil’s command, is banished from the elf realm, and decides to spend her remaining time finding and helping Kili, alongside Legolas.
Legolas also represents a commentary on the true nature of love. While Tauriel and Kili’s story line addresses one’s willingness to die for the person they love, Legolas’ story line represents the willingness to do what is best for the other person. Time and again, Legolas shows his love for Tauriel by helping her, rescuing her, and defying his father the king, even though she loves another person. And though he does not get the “prize” of Tauriel in the end, he never seems regretful of the choice to love her and do what is right and best. Ultimately, love is more than romance; it is deep, abiding friendship that protects and guards at all cost. And similar to Thorin’s struggle, love comes down to loyalty—loyalty to the other person, not yourself. This, in fact, is the kind of love that is distinguished in the New Testament. The Bible uses three of the four Greek words for love, phileo (friendship love, between equals), eros (romantic love), and agape (sacrificial love). Agape was used to describe God’s love for mankind, the kind of love that does what’s best for the other person, regardless of personal sacrifice or even personal gain. Like Legolas, God loves people without any promise of His affection being returned.
Lastly, the film addresses the very human problem of racial conflict. From a broad perspective, the five armies represent five warring races, four of which (humans, elves, dwarves, and the animals/eagles) must learn to work together if they will defeat the fifth (orcs). Each race has its own agenda in the story and defends its own people, but when they all face a common enemy, they unite under a single agenda: survival. But the story doesn’t stop there, because unity and crushing racism isn’t just about survival.
Bringing it down to a micro-story level, the relationship between Tauriel and Kili shows that acceptance between races is also about love. With the elves and dwarves at odds for generations over who would possess those precious white jewels, each race had built up a culture of hatred toward the other. What’s worse, they had practically lost sight of why, since Smaug had the jewels most of the time anyway. Nevertheless, the hatred was rekindled when Thorin (dwarf) denied Thranduil (elven king) those precious jewels at the mountain. But Tauriel and Legolas (elves) showed a different side of racism in their treatment of Kili (dwarf), one that proved love could exist between races. For Tauriel, it was romantic love for Kili, and for Legolas, it was respect and honor for a person of good character. Both Tauriel and Legolas refused to leave the dwarves in their hour of need because of their love and respect for Kili.
Like these characters, Jesus also loved people of different races, people his culture told him to hate. Samaritans were notoriously hated by Jews, but Jesus ministered to the Samaritan woman at the well and told a parable in which the Samaritan was the hero. Ultimately, Christ saw, and still sees today, no difference between the races (or genders or ages) when it comes to caring about people. He is the ultimate example of someone who sees each soul as valuable and chooses to love.
The Hobbit: The Battle of the Five Armies had a lot to say about our culture, but moreso about our human nature. These really are not modern problems, but have existed since sin entered the world. And like the problem of sin itself, God has offered each of us a solution for these struggles. Through Christ, He offered a solution to sin. Through His Holy Spirit, He offers a solution to our earthly problems, changing us from the inside out. The Holy Spirit helps us navigate through the lies and find the truths that will help us defeat the love of money and racism, and to embrace true love in our lives.