It's nearly time to start suiting up for battle, as Thorin's band of dwarves (along with Bilbo) fight for the contents of the Lonely Mountain in The Hobbit: The Battle of the Five Armies. Before that can happen, however, there's still the small matter of a rampaging dragon to deal with, as the last film ended with Smaug looking extremely annoyed and heading out to exact revenge on Laketown.
The ending of The Hobbit: Desolation of Smaug came as something of a surprise, since prior to the film's release it was generally assumed that the middle chapter of Peter Jackson's trilogy would wrap up the battle with Smaug and leave the final film free to cover the squabble over the dragon's gold. With a running time of around two and a half hours, though, The Hobbit: The Battle of the Five Armies will probably find time to cover both plot threads.
Epic battles were a major feature of Jackson's Lord of the Rings trilogy, so it was always safe to assume that The Battle of the Five Armies wouldn't mimic J.R.R. Tolkien's book by having the actual battle happen almost entirely off screen. Speaking in an interview with Yahoo, however, Jackson estimated that the battle will only take up about 20-25 minutes of the running time, and that there'll be more to it than just a bunch of action shots.
"One of the things we did with the Battle of the Five Armies in particular, and in designing the script and the narrative, is that we made sure that the story that we're telling in this third movie, that the story is continuing through the battle. So in other words, you don't get the story to a point where everyone's suddenly, 'Oh, stop, we're going to launch into a huge battle now,' and then the battle's over and you do a denouement in the end... We kind of pushed the story where the battle kind of interrupts the story, it gets in the way of the story, but the story kind of punches its way through the battle."
For a sneak peek at the battle (and the various armies), check out these new images and posters for The Hobbit: The Battle of the Five Armies, courtesy of Empire.
The scale of the battles in the Lord of the Rings trilogy, fleshed out as it was by thousands of CGI warriors, may have wowed audiences a decade ago, but that doesn't mean that those same battle scenes would have the same effect if released in theaters today. Jackson explained that the same tricks he used back then wouldn't work twice, and he had to design the Battle of the Five Armies based on what he had learned from directing the first Middle-earth trilogy.
"People are jaded now with digital shots. Entire cities get destroyed and you can do anything else, and ultimately, it's lost its fascination really, the CG, massive, big battle shots... We discovered a rule, basically, on 'Two Towers' on Helm's Deep... You kind of lost interest in it if you went more than three, four shots at the maximum without picking up on where one of your principal characters was in the battle... We actually have a lot of conflict happening between characters, we have people in different places that are needing to get to each other."
The Hobbit: The Battle of the Five Armies has a pretty crowded cast, with almost all of the characters that Bilbo encountered over the previous two movies coming together in one place. But which characters will come out of the battle alive, and which army will emerge victorious?
The Hobbit: The Battle of the Five Armies arrives in theaters on December 17th, 2014.