Thorin Oakenshield and the Dwarves of Erebor have reclaimed the vast wealth of their homeland, but now face the consequences of having unleashed the terrifying Dragon Smaug upon Lake-town. Meanwhile, Sauron, the Dark Lord, has sent forth legions of Orcs to attack the Lonely Mountain, and Bilbo Baggins finds himself fighting for his life as five great armies go to war. As darkness converges, the races of Dwarves, Elves, and Men must decide – unite or be destroyed.
We’ve come to it at last. The final battle for Middle Earth awaits in Peter Jackson’s last installment of The Hobbit: The Battle of the Five Armies. The film picks up immediately after the cliffhanger that was the ending of Desolation of Smaug as Smaug flies into Lake-town and tries to burn it all down. The bowman Bard (Luke Evans) has a few tricks up his sleeves and will try to take the dragon down. Smaug will obviously not go down without a fight.
Once the affairs of Lake-town are finished with the fellowship of Dwarves led by Thorin Okakenshield finally reclaim the kingdom of Erebor in the Lonely Mountain. The mountain is filled with untold riches and per Thorin’s agreement with the citizens of Lake-town he is to fork over some of the wealth in order for Lake-town to rebuild and prosper once more. It’s all easier said than done since Thorin has now backed out of his word and made things much more complicated.
Armies of Dwarves, Elves, Men, and Orcs will eventually converge and try to do away with each other. All this happens as Gandalf (Ian McKellan) is held prisoner at the fortress of Dol Guldur. There, with the assistance of the White Council they battle the forces of the Nazgul and Sauron himself. Now that everyone has seen that the Dark Lord is actually alive and rebuilding his strength they can go forth against his armies.
Bilbo Baggins (Martin Freeman) is still along for the ride with Thorin and the company of his Dwarves and acts as sort of a middleman to Thorin and his pig headiness. Bilbo also has secrets of his own. Unbeknownst to everyone he still carries The One Ring. Thranduil (Lee Pace) has a bigger role here as he leads his company of Elves into battle while Legolas (Orlando Bloom) and Tauriel (Evangeline Lilly) are off on their little side quest. To say that The Battle of the Five Armies isn’t rich with plots and sub-plots would be an understatement.
For me, there is no such thing as a bad or boring Hobbit film. I’ve been a fan of the films (LOTR franchise) for 15 years and think that they all hold up very well. I’m glad that Peter Jackson kept it alive and can understand why this trilogy is lighter in tone than the original LOTR ones. I’m not against him making The Hobbit a trilogy, because the more Middle Earth, the merrier. I can watch these tales over and over and never get bored.
I should point out that this Blu-ray set is the theatrical cut of the film and it runs for about 144 minutes – not too bad and it’s not a deal breaker. Please remember that the extended cut arrives later this year and I am hoping that it has tons more footage. Some of the editing was a bit choppy towards thee end, because several pivotal points in the books were not included, which lead me to believe that they will be restored in the EE version.
The visuals are still outstanding and I enjoyed the depictions of some of the characters and the settings. The theatrical version of Five Armies wraps up everything rather nice but it still feels sort of light. Maybe we’ll get a version similar to Return of the King? Who knows. For now I think folks should take this version and absorb it, because there are greater things to come later on this year.
Aspect Ratio: 2.40:1
Clarity/Detail: The Hobbit: The Battle of the Five Armies looks great on the Blu-ray format. It does have many stylistic signatures since it was made to look like the overall set films that came before it. The level of clarity is impeccable and so are the details.
Depth: New Zealand is a fantasy world come to life and the Blu-ray really brings out the depth to that wonderful country. The scenery is so rich you can scoop it up with a spoon. You will see how shockingly amazing everything looks on Blu-ray.
Black Levels: Black levels are flawless. I did not pick up on any crush or compression artifacts during the nigh time scene or scenes in darkly lit interiors/exteriors.
Color Reproduction: The color palette is big and bold – there are scenes of rich and colorful beauty here and there but some of it has been tweaked to match up with the palettes of the previous films. They’re not rainbow-brite-ish, if you get my meaning – only when they have to be.
Flesh Tones: Everyone looks fine and supple unless they’re sick or dying. Folks do look smoothed out a bit but it’s obviously done for aesthetic reasons.
Noise/Artifacts: None. This is a digital file and it is glorious.
Audio Format(s): English DTS-HD MA 7.1, French Dolby Digital 5.1, Spanish Dolby Digital 5.1, Portuguese Dolby Digital 5.1
Subtitles: English SDH, French, Spanish, Portuguese
Dynamics: The DTS lossless soundtrack is phenomenal. Middle Earth will definitely be brought to your home via your speaker set-up. It can be calm and soothing or pummel you the moment without warning but only when it needs to. That’s the way it should be.
Low Frequency Extension: The LFE channel enhanced every rumble, roar, fire blast, and all the destruction Middle Earth had to offer. The subwoofer pulled no punches and made no apologies.
Surround Sound Presentation: The rear channels came through with flying colors – You could hear Smaug fly by your head as he’s laying waste to Lake-town. It was incredible. Wait until you get to the actual battle of the Five Armies. #mindblown
Dialogue Reproduction: Dialogue is crystal clear.
The Hobbit: The Battle of the Five Armies contains a sampler of sorts in terms of special features. There’s a small featurette, and my favorite featurette on the Blu-ray, featuring second unit director-actor Andy Serkis, as he takes to the skies of New Zealand to film the many aerial shots and locales you see in the final film. Some of the footage captured has to be seen to be believed. It’s gorgeous. Other featurettes include a clip focusing on the extras of Lake-town, Orcs, Elves, Dwarves, and the various other inhabitants of Middle Earth. There’s another cool featurette that bookends the franchise. The first LOTR film began shooting 17 years ago and the featurette highlighting that event is the big goodbye since it’s all over. It’s a bittersweet clip. The extras wrap with Billy Boyd’s music video for “The Last Goodbye” and there’s a theatrical trailer for The Battle of the Five Armies and for The Desolation of Smaug Blu-ray release. All of the featurettes and programming are presented in high definition.
- Recruiting The Five Armies (HD) – See how each epic army was conceived and realized, with a focus on the characters that make them great.
- Completing Middle Earth (HD) – Rediscover the six-film saga from the vantage points of the characters, cast and filmmakers who spent 17 years bringing it to the screen.
- The Last Goodbye Music Video (HD) – Billy Boyd performs the song.
- New Zealand Home Of Middle Earth – Part 3 (HD) – Andy Serkis takes to the skies and shows you some breathtaking vistas captured for the filming of The Hobbit Trilogy.
- Theatrical Trailer (HD) – The theatrical trailer to The Hobbit: The Battle of the Five Armies is presented in highs definition.
- The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug Blu-ray Trailer (HD) – This is the promotional spot for the Extended Edition of The Desolation of Smaug on Blu-ray. It’s presented in high definition.
I have to be cautious when reviewing this version of Battle of the Five Armies knowing full well that the extended edition will arrive later this year. As it stands, this version looks and sounds terrific. The special features do wet the palette for more, and there will be more, but this set is more than enough to hold over even the most hardcore of fans. Prepare for battle, The Hobbit: The Battle of the Five Armies is recommended.
The Hobbit: The Battle of the Five Armies is released on Blu-ray & DVD March 24, 2015