In The Battle of Five Armies, Thorin's cousin Dáin leads a charge of dwarfs against some orcs to defend the lonely mountain. Why does he leave half of his host behind just watching the fight? (I mean, there is seriously no reason to leave them there since the elves and dwarfs put aside their original conflict.)

For context, here’s a picture (imgur source):

enter image description here

  • @alexwlchan Thanks for the edit :D – Gorse Bendak Jan 17 '15 at 14:23
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    So... you're on a battle field where armies just keep showing up, and you want to commit them all based on a circumstance that is obviously not stable? I strongly dispute the idea that 'there is seriously no reason to leave them'... at best there is no current reason in a situation that is likely to change. – Lighthart Jan 17 '15 at 17:24
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    How did you got the idea that everything in this movie makes sense? – Mithoron Jan 17 '15 at 21:29
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    Need a better picture. It could make perfect sense to leave archers back and march in with infantry for example. – geewhiz Jan 17 '15 at 22:39
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    He may also have been thinking ahead. The Elves and Dwarves put aside their conflict for the moment but, let's be honest, it's just Orcs-how hard can it be? When all is said and done, he still has an army of Elves and men to contend with and a Dwarvish kingdom to defend. – geewhiz Jan 17 '15 at 22:52

Wikipedia describes the strategy in a little more detail. Dáin sent a cadre of his skirmishers into the centre of the battlefield (along with some elf troops to support them) in order to bait the orc army into attacking en masse. When their enemy's troops were fully committed, the plan was to draw back their skirmishers, enabling the troops waiting on the side of the valley (the troops you noticed seemingly waiting in reserve) to encircle the Orcs, pinning them down with elven archers from their left flank and hitting them in the right flank with Dwarf foot troops.

The Dwarves and Lake-men formed up on one spur and the Elves on the other, while a light rear-guard lined up across the mouth of the valley to lure the Goblins between the two other armies, and thus envelop them. Bilbo Baggins hid himself with his ring, hoping to avoid the battle.

My apologies for the crude battle map.

maps of the battle

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    The description on wikipedia that you linked to appears to be about the book, and this question is about the movie. You mention elf troops supporting them, but in the movie, didn't Thranduil explicitly refuse to provide direct support to the dwarves? – KSmarts Feb 19 '15 at 17:03
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    @KSmarts - Actually the film is relatively similar to the book. In the film, the elves are apparently reluctant to commit troops to the assault but they don't leave the field. They also send skirmishers to join the dwarves (the guys in gold that jump over the dwarves). This flashiness seems almost deliberately calculated to cause the enemy to over-extend. – Valorum Feb 19 '15 at 17:46
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    I get that you're talking about this one specific part, but you just said "the film is relatively similar to the book" about the Hobbit. I cannot accept that. – KSmarts Feb 19 '15 at 18:24
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    @KSmarts - You'll have to wait for the DVD commentary to get more info from the filmmakers. My impression is that the battle stragey follows the book quite closely; Skirmishers to the centre in front of the gate and a pincer movement from 'spurs'. – Valorum Feb 19 '15 at 18:30

Dain leaves half of his army to defend the gate of the mountain temple. Later in the film, when thorin comes to his senses, you see the other half of the iron dwarves lined up against the fortress rallying to their king.

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  • They were not anywhere near the gate of Erebor though. – amflare Jan 10 '18 at 18:48

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