The Third Hobbit Is Now Subtitled The Battle Of The Five Armies

But the box set may go back to There And Back Again


J.R.R. Tolkien's The Hobbit has seen many ups and downs in its journey to the screen. It's changed director, gone from two films to three, and now sees the third film retitled from There And Back again, the book's subtitle, to The Hobbit: The Battle Of The Five Armies.

There were rumours last week that the film's title might change, with Into The Fire then said to be the likely moniker. But (and we totally called this on last week's podcast) the filmmakers have gone with the name of the climactic clash in Tolkien's book. Well, close to it; strictly, in the book, it's called The Battle Of Five Armies with no additional definite article. Here's what Jackson had to say about the change.

"Our journey to make The Hobbit Trilogy has been in some ways like Bilbo's own, with hidden paths revealing their secrets to us as we've gone along. “There and Back Again” felt like the right name for the second of a two film telling of the quest to reclaim Erebor, when Bilbo’s arrival there, and departure, were both contained within the second film. But with three movies, it suddenly felt misplaced—after all, Bilbo has already arrived “there” in the "Desolation of Smaug".

When we did the premiere trip late last year, I had a quiet conversation with the studio about the idea of revisiting the title. We decided to keep an open mind until a cut of the film was ready to look at. We reached that point last week, and after viewing the movie, we all agreed there is now one title that feels completely appropriate.

And so: "The Hobbit: The Battle of the Five Armies" it is.

As Professor Tolkien intended, “There and Back Again” encompasses Bilbo’s entire adventure, so don’t be surprised if you see it used on a future box-set of all three movies."

You can read the full statement here, but several things become clear from this. First of all, it's a decision that Jackson can explain thematically rather than being a business decision or similar, so all you cynics should pipe down. Secondly, there is now a cut of the film! Thirdly, we should expect some large-scale action this time around to justify that title, so brace yourselves for major fight scenes.

Spoilers for non-readers follow!

The Battle Of The Five Armies, of course, sees Goblins and Wargs (one army, supported by scary bats) face off against dwarves, elves, men and giant eagles (four much smaller armies) in a quest to gain control of Erebor (the Lonely Mountain) and Smaug's treasures within. In the book, Bilbo spends much of the conflict unconscious; we wonder whether that will still be the case onscreen? One change this time should see the Orcs being led by the still-very-much loose Necromancer (Benedict Cumberbatch), making them even more formidable.

Spoilers end

The three films are now united in having titles almost but not quite taken from the text of the book. The first, An Unexpected Journey, echoed the book's first chapter title, An Unexpected Party. The second film, The Desolation Of Smaug, comes from a description of the area around Erebor as "the Desolation of the Dragon" (in fairness, those exact words are used on Tolkien's map). And now the third is inspired by the Battle Of Five Armies (no extra 'the'). Purists will have to hold out for that box set Jackson mentioned.

The Hobbit: The Battle Of The Five Armies will hit cinemas on December 12, 2014, starring, as ever, Martin Freeman, Benedict Cumberbatch (presumably as both Necromancer and Smaug), Richard Armitage, Orlando Bloom, Lee Pace, Evangeline Lily, Aidan Turner, James Nesbitt and many more.[[Poll1112]]