Review by C.J. Bunce
A wealth of concept art for The Hobbit can be found in the fifth volume of Weta’s Chronicles series: The Hobbit: The Battle of the Five Armies Art & Design. Writer and Weta artist and designer Daniel Falconer again delivers a stunning hardcover account of the behind-the-scenes artistry that forged the last of Peter Jackson’s Middle-earth series.
Including much more pencil sketchwork and inspirations for the cities of The Hobbit than prior volumes, this edition showcases many designs that made it into the final film but also many that did not. It’s those pieces that did not make it to the final cut of the film that form a rare treasure trove here. As costume designer Bob Buck writes in he book, “The designs that were never realized are as important as the ones that were, being part of the process and representing the elimination or germination of an idea that grew into the visuals as seen on the screen.” Buck provides valuable insight into the ideas behind many of the costumes in the film along with many other Weta designers and special effects artists, including concept art director John Howe.
Highlights of this volume give a detailed look at concept sketchs and paintings from Weta Digital, 3Foot7, and Weta Workshop of Galadriel’s Maxfield Parrish-esque costume design development from her descent into Dol Guldur, and the ghostly dead Ringwraith kings and the Necromancer, who at many times appeared as if he could have been designed by Bernie Wrightson or Frank Frazetta. Costume designs featured include the elegant Thranduil, Elven soldiers, Bard, an unused but brilliant set of armor for Stephen Fry’s mayor of Lake-town, and every angle and type of Dwarf you could imagine. Not surprisingly, it is the culture and artistry of Dwarves that fill the bulk of the pages here.
Detailed full-color photographs of prop artwork include Dwarf weapons and personal effects, Radagast’s staff and bird’s nest, the vast weaponry of Lake-town and Dale, sketches of goblets of Erebor, the Arkenstone, the sleek Elven swords and knives, and our final look at Bilbo and Bag End.
In contrast to prior movies of Middle-earth is The Five Armies’ extensive use of CGI effects over three-dimensional model work. The Orc and key battles scenes are examples of this.
As with each prior volume of Chronicles, this work includes a special insert–this time a removable printed art plate by Weta Workshop Concept Artist Gus Hunter of the Necromancer in flames. And consistent with each uniquely designed volume, this edition has a finely textured cover with gilt trim, sporting a sharp Dwarven armor theme.