Why I Am Loathe To See The Battle Of Five Armies


*Editors Note: The Following is an Open Letter directed towards Peter Jackson, Director of both the Lord Of The Rings Trilogy and The Hobbit Trilogy. The views expressed in this post may not necessarily reflect the views of TCN as a whole, please be advised.* 


Dear Sir Jackson:

I am fully aware you have not been knighted by the Queen, yet it feels improper to this avid fan to address the Peter Jackson with only a simple “Mr.” I pray you will overlook my rudeness, as you have been truly immortalized in the eyes of the world.

It is amidst a fierce struggle that I write to you, as I truly revere revere your work on the Lord of the Rings trilogy and the successive successive first two movies of the Hobbit trilogy. You have made your mark on fantasy films forever. You brought worlds to life we lay-nerds have only seen in our dreams.

But I have a problem, Sir Jackson. This third installment of your Hobbit trilogy—the title you have picked is all wrong. The Battle of Five Armies: I cringe when I read it or hear it. It rings so very cheap, so very Hollywood. Consequently, you made your reasons known, and the world responded with acceptance.

I have thoroughly enjoyed your previous movies because they’ve stiff-armed everything expected of Hollywood blockbusters. And their success was unmeasured. Changing the name of the already familiarly-named There and Back Again feels like you’ve given in to the pressure.

I know it’s silly to get hung up on a movie title, but even as much as I am a fan of yours, I am more a fan of J.R.R. I cannot help but be offended (as a writer, a reader, and a viewer) that you have taken it upon yourself to alter a classic phrase he wrote into one that not only means less to the fans, but to the story.

True, it’s been several months since you announced this change. I’m sure it is copyrighted, signed, sealed, and delivered. The premiere on December 17th will bear this name and every ticket bought will be stamped with The Battle of Five Armies. There is nothing I can do but have my ruffled feathers. And those are certainly what I’ve got, Mr. Jackson.

There and Back Again. Even though I first picked up (and made short work of) the book after watching your An Unexpected Journey, those four words instantly give me an overwhelming sense of nostalgia. Every emotion that washed over me as I read J.R.R. Tolkien’s beautiful story revisits me. Every scent of home, adventure, terror, rage, curiosity, cowardice, war, relief, and other feelings I couldn’t possibly put a name to, are all there in that one phrase. I hope it’s the same for those who first read it long ago.

This is why I can’t condone your changing of this title. I can’t accept it. You’ve managed to bring J.R.R. into every one of his books you brought to the screen. It doesn’t feel like he is dead and buried; he lives on through those films. His (and your) fans rejoiced when the Hobbit trilogy was announced—the great Tolkien would live again.

But The Battle of Five Armies? There is no of Tolkien there. No remembrance of where we as an audience have been and are returning to. Those beautiful feelings we’ve known and been reminded of: poof. We are no longer companions in this journey—we are only distant strangers observing a battle we are not invested in.

As a writer, Mr. Jackson, I am absolutely sure you understand a title is everything. It can definitively make or break your story. The title determines whether your readers or your audience will be intrigued enough to follow your narrative. This title is empty. This title is joyless and uninformative. If I were unfamiliar with the Hobbit, I would not be interested in seeing this movie—The Battle of Five Armies means nothing at all to me.

While I could not be kept away from seeing this conclusion of the series, I will not be able to help being constantly bothered by the name you have chosen for it. I know I will be present and I am positive I will cry, as I always do. Indeed, the story and how it is told has always been more important than the name, and I do hope you have been as true to it as you can. But I feel you may have crippled yourself among loyal Tolkien fans by slapping a bland label on a story they love because you believed it “sounded better” or “made more sense”.

There and Back Again means everything to me. I am surprised it doesn’t mean the same to you, as well.

In all respect,

Rachel Atchley