**Possible Spoilers for The Battle of the Five Armies**
Every single Peter Jackson Middle Earth film so far has has opened with an extensive prologue. When The Fellowship of the Ring entered theaters way back in 2001, an unfathomable amount of pressure rested on those precious opening minutes. If the audience could digest thousands of years of backstory and comprehend it, then the risky $300+ million adaptation just might work. If that opening prologue didn’t make sense, literally billions of dollars in potential revenue were at stake. Unsurprisingly the prologue concerning Sauron and the history of the ring was one of the very last sections of the film to be completed before the premiere. It worked and it’s success guaranteed a future for the two finished Middle Earth trilogies we have come this December.
It seems only natural that the sixth entry, The Hobbit: The Battle of the Five Armies, would uphold this hallowed tradition. Fellowship had the Battle of Dagorlad. The Two Towers featured Gandalf’s freefall battle with the Balrog. Return of the King showed us Smeagol’s transformation into Gollum. An Unexpected Journey showcased Smaug’s destruction of Dale and Erebor. And The Desolation of Smaug took us back to Gandalf’s initial meeting with Thorin in Bree.
So what lies in store for the sixth and final visit to Middle Earth? Will there be one last prologue to continue the pattern? If so, what would it concern?
The following is pure speculation. These ideas are probably wrong. One or two of these I may have read somewhere else on some dark corner of the internet, but hopefully I have added my own spin on it. These possible prologues may only exist in my head, but let’s not let that fact get in the way of having a little fun anyway. Soon all shall be revealed, but for now we may imagine what is in store on December 17.
The Witch-King Recruits Smaug
Back in the first Hobbit film, Radagast encounters the Witch-King of Angmar in Dol Guldur at some unspecified point in the past. In the second film, Radagast and Gandalf investigate the High Fells and discover that all nine Nazgul have mysteriously disappeared from their tombs. During the conversation between Bilbo and Smaug, new details come to light that cause us to question whether Bilbo is really the dragon’s first visitor since he took Erebor. Not only does Smaug seem perfectly knowledgeable about Thorin Oakenshield and his quest, but he also clearly knows something about the One Ring and Sauron’s army in Dol Guldur.
Smaug: “A darkness is coming. It will spread to every corner of the land.”
Cut to Gandalf imprisoned in Dol Guldur.
Clearly there is some kind of collaboration between Sauron and Smaug going on. At the very least Smaug can sense the power of the ring, but more likely is that Sauron is actively recruiting the dragon to wreak havoc on the free people of the North. In An Unexpected Journey, the White Council covers this possibility:
Galadriel: The dragon has long been on your mind.
Gandalf: This is true, my lady. Smaug owes allegiance to no one, but if he should side with the enemy, a dragon could be used to terrible effect.
Understanding the high likelihood of such a dark alliance, it would be faintly possible that the prologue for The Battle of the Five Armies could feature Sauron’s initial attempt to sway Smaug over to his side. We already know that the Witch-King is out there somewhere doing Sauron’s bidding. Especially with his seeming ability to dematerialize and pass through solid objects, the Witch-King would be the perfect agent to penetrate the sealed walls of Erebor.
After showing their sinister dealings in the dark, the prologue could cut right back to the dragon as he razes Lake-town into ash and embers. This would get us right back into the action of the non-stop thriller that will be The Battle of the Five Armies.
Gandalf Finds Thrain
We were teased in trailers for both AUJ and DOS a scene in Dol Guldur where a wandering Gandalf encounters a raving mad Thrain jumping down upon him from above. This is clearly the moment where Gandalf aquires the map and key he presents to Thorin at Bag End. Now that Thorin has unleashed the dragon, might not the next prologue be a natural place to explore the origins of this quest with Thorin’s long lost father?
This heir of Durin, despite some lunatic ramblings, could perhaps shed some more light on why he was being held in Dol Guldur and how the massive gold treasury of Erebor factors into Sauron’s plans. If Thrain was thwarted in his attempts and tortured by the Dark Lord himself, maybe he holds some crucial piece of knowledge that motivates Gandalf to undertake this endeavor in the first place. The Bree prologue in DOS did the same thing showing the initial meeting between Gandalf and Thorin establishing a precedent for such Hobbit prologues.
But on second thought, this might be a little too similar to what we have already seen and it is unlikely that Peter Jackson will give us another Gandalf-getting-ready-for-the-quest prologue. More likely this scene will show up in the DOS Extended Edition come November.
Galadriel Rescues Gandalf
We’ve seen in the initial teaser trailer for The Battle of the Five Armies a glimpse of Galadriel walking barefoot through some rocky place and kissing a fallen Galdalf on the head. In AUJ, Galadriel promised to show up if Gandalf ever needed her. And in DOS Gandalf sends Radagast to go bring her back to Dol Guldur with reinforcements.
Is this scene from the trailer showing the rescue of Gandalf from Sauron’s prison where he ended up at the end of the last movie? And if so, could that not make a suitable prologue for the third film?
I’m not sure how long it is going to take for the titular battle of five different armies to get started but it might make sense for the timeline to be sped up a little to get things moving after the burning of Lake-town. Gandalf needs to get rescued and get over to the battle pretty quickly. While this prologue is unlikely, this scene is not in the book and thus there’s no real way to tell when it will take place. The opening few minutes might be as good a place as any.
Goblins and Orcs
After Gandalf was defeated by Sauron toward the ends of the second film, we see him hanging in a cage watching as an army of orcs march out to war. Presumably led by Azog himself, they are already on their way to Erebor even before Smaug faces off against Bard.
However in the book it was not the orcs of Dol Guldur that marched out to battle but the angry goblins of the Misty Mountains coming to avenge their fallen king. Since the third film is all about the build up to war and then the climatic battle itself, it makes good sense to stick with that theme in the prologue. One possible prologue could involve Azog’s army encountering the vengeful goblins and joining together as one even bigger force. Showing such a massive double-flanked army would heighten the tension for the rest of the film even as the main characters are busy dealing with other seemingly more pertinent issues surrounding the aftermath of Smaug.
Sauron Resurrects Azog
The Hobbit films give us the perplexing predicament of giving us a Necromancer who can summon the spirits of the dead, but who is actually revealed to be the disembodied formerly defeated Sauron himself. This kind of does away with the whole Necromancer idea altogether if it weren’t for the newly emancipated Ringwraiths running around somewhere. One way this could be ameliorated is by giving more weight to the whole necromancy concept in the third prologue.
According to Tolkien, Azog the Defiler died of his wounds long ago at the Battle of Azanulbizar. However in the movie version, lo and behold there is he walking around waving his metal claw hand around like he never died.
This discrepancy could easily be mended by a short prologue opening on the aftermath of the battle outside the gates of Moria. Imagine as the camera zooms past the seas of bodies and bloodstained rocks penetrating into the black night of the mountain. There in the eerie darkness lies the lifeless corpse of Azog.
Suddenly a howling wind, a piercing shriek, fills the cavern walls. A flickering shadow spreads across the floor to the feet of the fallen orc chieftain. A whispering voice begins to chant in Black Speech. Azog’s toes begin to wiggle one by one. A shiver goes down his body. His heart begins to thump loudly. With a bloodcurdling scream, the Defiler sits up.
Azog blinks and recoils in fear. He scrambles to his feet, his back to the wall. He does not know who is with him in the dim underground tombs of Moria. A soulless voice speaks to him in the gravelly language of Mordor, “Bow to me.” Azog bends his knees and feebly spits out a reply, “Yes, master.”
Desolation of Smaug ended with many characters’ fates hanging in the balance. It is very possible that the third film may take some time to rewind a few minutes and show what is happening with the rest of the cast before leaping back into all the fire and death stuff. A multi-character prologue could show the result of this chase right before the dragon arrives.
When we last saw them, Legolas was chasing Bolg on horseback as the ugly white orc fled town. Perhaps he catches up before Smaug even arrives, who knows?
The dwarves back in Lake-town presumably all survive for the upcoming battle so we could see how they get away from the impending doom ahead of time along with Bard’s children. Tauriel can perform some more heroics to save more non-elves. Perhaps we can see Bain breaking his dad out of prison and handing him the black arrow, but this is seeming less and less likely even as I write this.
Back in Erebor, Bilbo and Thorin can watch in horror for a few moments more as they prepare to see wanton destruction befall an innocent populace as a direct result of their actions. The Master of Lake-town and Alfrid can scream in horror as they realize what they’ve done by helping the dwarves.
Ok in all honesty, there probably won’t be time for all this. Smaug really seems to mean business at the end of the second film and I doubt he will waste any time so that people can work out their issues. Since the other five prologues take place a significant time before the opening title, I sincerely doubt that there would be time for such a needless delay.
This is probably the opening that most people expect for The Battle of the Five Armies: no prologue and getting straight back into the action. The second Hobbit film was the first in the entire Middle Earth film series to end on a straight up cliffhanger. Such an ending may seem to rule out the possibility of seeing an extended prologue like we’ve seen before.
However I feel this is unlikely for three reasons.
First, such a committed tradition spanning five movies is not so easily discarded. You can’t just Gimli it with an axe because Smaug happens to be coming over for second breakfast. Although it might make sense on one level to skip it this time around, there are too many hypothetical scenarios (like the ones I’ve listed above) to pass up this opportunity to showcase more tender moments from the long established annals of Middle Earth.
The second reason is that this trilogy, for better or worse, has to deal with the issue of padding. We are dealing with two films that were split into three at the eleventh hour. Since that three movie decision was made back in summer 2012, there has been plenty of man-hours devoted to writing and filming additional scenes that weren’t originally planned back under the the two film treatment. Adding, not removing, a prologue would be a simple and relatively easy way to extend the running time and provide additional thematic clarity to a significantly elongated narrative.
The third reason is that the first two films have left us with so many dangling threads that it feels far too implausible that a prologue wouldn’t be used to answer at least a question or two. Really, there are questions that need answering. I don’t think we can make it another movie without answering every single question on this list:
- Why is Azog still alive when Bolg could have been perfectly serviceable? What is so special about the Defiler that he was needed to brought back to life to replace his son at the final battle?
- What is the deal with Dol Guldur? We’ve been teased it for two films but we still haven’t seen why it was so necessary to this particular adaptation of The Hobbit? And if Sauron wanted to keep it a secret, why did he breed giant easy-to-notice spiders there?
- What is the White Council up to? When are Galadriel, Elrond, and Saruman going to get involved in this whole spider infestation issue and the endless intrigue surrounding Dol Guldur?
- Where are the Ringwraiths? If we saw their empty tombs in the High Fells that means they are out doing something. What is the thing they are doing? Do they do anything besides conspicuously fumble their swords and leave them behind at the slightest provocation? Why does Sauron rely on the one-handed Azog instead of his chiefest lieutenants all of whom have two useable hands? Are the nine servants of evil not yet strong enough to take physical form like Sauron is? And do they ever get tired of being invincible unkillable ghosts whose only weakness is getting stabbed in the face by women?
- What is so special about Thrain that he needed to be teased in two movie trailers yet also cruelly withheld from us twice in a row for some sinister purpose that lies veiled in the shadows? Why was the White Council talking about Thrain’s ring of power in the extended edition and is that how Sauron is regaining his former strength? Does Sauron collect rings like how some people collect Magic cards?
- Speaking of rings of power, the elves were not corrupted by their rings like men and dwarves. Are we finally going to see Galadriel, Elrond, and Gandalf each wield their rings in a battle against Sauron? That would be the coolest thing ever.
- What is going on between Legolas and Tauriel? Did they used to date? Did they break up when Thranduil found out? Is there a good reason Legolas is still single in Lord of the Rings?
- Speaking of wood-elves, where is Thranduil’s moose? Can we please see him ride it into battle? Can somehow get some more details about the traditional use of war moose?
- Does Smaug have a good singing voice? I feel like he would. That baritone is just perfect for some kind of Hobbity song.
- What is Bilbo planning to do with the Arkenstone? He has it, right? Did anyone see him pick it up? He has to have it. There’s no way he doesn’t have it. I couldn’t quite see but he must have it, right?
- Is Legolas going to give Thorin his sword back? It’s so not cool for him to be killing orcs with the funnest sword that he lifted just so he could have it. Is anyone going to mention to Legolas that the handle of Orcrist is made from a dragon tooth and obviously belongs to Thorin for personal dragon reasons?
- Are the new characters like Tauriel, Alfrid, and Bard’s daughters who were invented for the movie, going to meet an untimely end? I feel like their chances are not good.
- Since Bilbo blacks out in the book during the final battle, will we not actually see the battle on screen and instead just hear people talking about the battle when Bilbo finally wakes up? Just thinking from a purist perspective, that would be logical, right?
- Are black arrows really that hard to make? They look kind of just like regular arrows but maybe bigger. There will be a perfectly good explanation for why people didn’t feel like making more after an actual dragon showed up, no?
- Also, why is Thorin such a jerk? I really liked him in the first movie. It seemed like he reconciled with Bilbo after the whole eagle rescue but now he’s back to trying to kill Bilbo. Is dragon sickness contagious? Should I be concerned here?
- Why did the Misty Mountain song disappear from the second movie? I know it was a bit overplayed in the first movie but can we have it back now? We’re sorry for complaining, Peter. One more time, for old times?
- Why are there no guardrails in Middle Earth? Don’t people ever fall off these walkways? Is there really no governmental agencies around to inspect bridges to make sure that children and drunks don’t accidentally plummet to their death? I know this is a faux history of a fantastical medieval European civilization and things were often brutally grimdark, but surely they still had guardrails. Are these magic guardrails that we can’t see because of a spell of concealment? I just find it hard to believe that elven architectural aesthetics trumps safety every time. We’re talking about saving lives here.