It must be the month of Mowvember because the Rated-R (yes you read that right) Extended Edition of the third film in hopefully the final trilogy is upon us. You know what one I’m talking about. The Hobbit The Battle of the Five Armies is the film both fans of The Hobbit franchise have been anxiously waiting for and the moviegoers that do not care too much about the saga and just want it to finally come to an end. However, to me it’s so much more. Whether you read the books or not, I haven’t, The Hobbit The Battle of the Five Armies is nothing more than the Revenge of the Sith of the Lord of the Rings series. I think y’all know what I mean when I say that. No matter how you slice it the events of this film we’re here to discuss today had to fit together like bookends to the trilogy that came before it. When it comes to movies like this that can be both a blessing and a curse. However, this one is a two-hour action romp (plus an additional 20 minutes longer now) complete with Legolas jumping power, and when you are talking these films that’s nothing but a good thing. Read on…
So officially you can bill this as Peter Jackson’s sixth, and I think final, film in the epic fantasy world of Lord of the Rings, making it also the third and final film adaptation of The Hobbit by J.R.R. Tolkien and various other appendices. The Hobbit The Battle of the Five Armies was both directed and written by him with a little help from friends Fran Walsh, Philippa Boyens and Guillermo del Toro. The flick stars the usual set of faces by now, Ian Mckellen, Martin Freeman, Richard Armitage, Orlando Bloom, Cate Blanchett, Ian Holm, Christopher Lee, Hugo Weaving, Evangeline Lilly, Lee Pace, Luke Evans, Benedict Cumberbatch and more. I was getting exhausted listing everyone, but I think that at least covers all the major players. Last but not least, Howard Shore returns here to fulfill the duties of providing a marvelous score.
So our story opens up immediately following the events of the second film where the treacherous dragon Smaug (Cumberbatch) lays waste to Lake Town. For me, these destructive scenes, despite all the talking the dragon does, were easily the best moments of the film here. We’ll get to all the army action in a minute, but for those first fifteen tense minutes or so I was completely engrossed in the mayhem even though I was pretty sure it was going to be short-lived. I was right! I’m not spoiling anything here. You knew this film wasn’t going to be 2+ hours of a talking dragon again, didn’t you? Of course you did!
We are then transported to a courageous rescue attempt by some familiar faces from the Lord of the Rings films to free our favorite wizard, Gandalf (McKellen), from the evil Necromancer, whose name will not be mentioned in this review. Pending the result of these actions taken, we fast forward back to what’s happening with the dwarves, namely Thorin Oakenshield (Armitage), in their reclaimed home in the Lonely Mountain. Thorin has fallen under a condition referred to here as “dragon sickness.” This means he has become crazed from the golden riches stockpiled in the Lonely Mountain. Think of Ebenezer Scrooge ten-fold before the events in The Christmas Carol.
Meanwhile, there’s something the war-torn people of Lake Town seek as well as the elves that are both found within the now heavily barricaded Lonely Mountain. The only problem is King Thorin, still suffering from the unshakable bonds of dragon sickness, is unwilling to re-pay his previously agreed upon debts to the people of Lake Town and of course he wants nothing to do with letting the elves in either. The stupid thing here is the fact that it’s only a company of 13 dwarves against a whole army of elves, not to mention all the people of Lake Town who were still capable of fighting. Did I forget to mention the armies of marching Orcs and all the various monsters they bring with them? Needless to say, it’s not looking good for the 13 dwarves.
So what’s hobbit Bilbo Baggins (Freeman) supposed to do about it all? Well, he better do something or else there’s going to be one big battle happening. Oh wait! That’s kind of the point of this whole movie, right? I mean that’s the film’s title. So yes, all spoilers aside, there’s eventually a huge battle to be had that in typical Lord of the Rings fashion I guess you can coin it as epic in its own right.
First things first, The Hobbit The Battle of the Five Armies moves very fast for a Lord of the Rings film. However, that’s a blessing to me! My only complaint is it didn’t feel like a cohesive stand alone entry, but I digress. We should be happy we finally get a lot of action in the Hobbit series. We sat through enough slow moments in the first two entries. I still think this whole Hobbit series could have been and should have only been two films and that’s it, but like Thorin I suffer personally in real life from dragon sickness so I can understand the studios desire to make as much money as possible by milking this franchise for everything it conceivably could.
If you like long battle scenes, you won’t be disappointed here because you won’t be burdened with pretty much anything else. Sure there’s a couple speeches and dramatic moments here and there, not to mention some comedic ones too, but for the most part this entry is darker and action packed for all parties involved. So in that respect, The Hobbit The Battle of the Five Armies is definitely the most entertaining installment because of its brisker pace. However, that trait alone doesn’t make it a perfect film. In fact, despite this quicker pace I mention, it still earned the same film score from me as the first two glacier-melting films did. Boo!
I can’t believe as being a hardcore lover of action films that I’m going to say this, but the battle scenes were too long here. They grew tiresome and a bit repetitious, not to mention the inconsequential romances throughout too. It just felt like everything here was just a placeholder so this book would fit nicely between The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug and The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring, much like Revenge of the Sith did in the Star Wars saga, but unlike the latter which used a brisk pace to nicely wrap things up our Hobbit film here seemed to drudge along making sure you did not forget how we got here and back again to The Fellowship. It just all felt too forced to me. The performances were all fine, but by the film’s ending I just didn’t care anymore. I also have some serious problems with the film’s storytelling here too, but to go into those would be divulging spoilers and that’s just not my style.
So despite my nitpicking up above, if you saw the first two Hobbit films, then by all means make sure you check out The Hobbit The Battle of the Five Armies too. It just makes sense to do so. It will at least make you feel complete. The Hobbit The Battle of the Five Armies goes out in epic style (in both terms of action and homage), and that’s all that matters. You already know what you’re getting into here and are probably just wondering what the heck is all on this Extended Edition. Never fear! Brian White is here! C’mon! Let’s cover all of your curiosities in much more detail down below.
Before we march onto discussing the Blu-ray presentation and all the nine hours worth of extras I wanted to let the LOTR experts chime in and give you some insight on all the new footage you will find in this Extended Edition of The Hobbit: The Battle of the Five Armies. For those interested, check out the following two links: TheOneRing.net and A Tolkienist’s Perspective.
DISCLAIMER: The below A/V sections are a culmination of notes taken from Gerard Iribe’s Blu-ray review of the theatrical presentation over here and my viewing experience while watching this Extended Edition on our brand new X-Box One Forza 6 Limited Edition console.
- Encoding: AVC/MPEG-4
- Resolution: 1080p
- 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. From set design to the fabrics that adorn the actors’ outfits, everything is razor sharp and detailed throughout. The onscreen characters and set realistically pop with the utmost clarity that the Blu-ray format can possibly provide. Every wig hair is definitely accounted for here. Haha.
- 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. The depth of field is absolutely amazing from the moment the feature begins from inside the jail cells to the Lake-town that Smaug nearly decimates with fire, not to mention that expansive battlefield of never-ending Orcs attacking the mountainside.
- Black Levels: Black levels are deep, inky and 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. THere’s nothing to complain about here. This one looks glorious, one of Blu-ray’s finest presentations ever in my opinion.
- 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-HD MA lossless soundtrack is phenomenal. Middle Earth will definitely be brought to life in your home via your speaker set-up. It can be calm and soothing or pummel you the next moment without warning, but only when it needs to. That’s the way it should be. Howard Shore’s swirling score simply razzles and dazzles here throughout. It’s like John Williams to Star Wars, I simply could not imagine this franchise without this score.
- 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 for the destruction it laid upon you. I’m not joking. My dogs wanted nothing to do with my living room while watching this one. Smaug’s breath only (and I’m not even talking fireball spitting yet) rumbles the LFE channel stronger than most films ever do throughout an entire presentation. This may be one of the finest presentations I heard on Blu-ray thus far this calendar year.
- 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. Chaos, destruction and decimation never sounded so good in my opinion. This one is top notch. Just wait until you get to the actual battle of the Five Armies. #mindblown
- Dialogue Reproduction: Dialogue is crystal clear and intelligible throughout the feature.
The Hobbit: The Battle of the Five Armies Extended Edition is a whopping 3-disc Blu-ray set. The Blu-ray set also includes a digital version of the movie on Digital HD with UltraViolet. The ten plus hours of new special features boasts an audio commentary with Peter Jackson, the film’s director/producer/screenwriter, and Philippa Boyens, co-producer/screenwriter, as well as The Appendices spread across two Blu-ray discs, a multi-part documentary focusing on various aspects of the film and the Trilogy. So without further ado, as I know it’s the whole reason you’re really here (you could care less about what I think about the film), I present to you the nine plus hours worth of extras and what Blu-ray discs they all can be found on. Let’s get started as we have a lot to ground to cover with our little Hobbit feet.
The Extended Edition (2:44:03) of the film is housed on this disc as well as the below extras:
- Commentary – Here we have the coveted audio commentary track with Peter Jackson, Director/Producer/Screenwriter and Philippa Boyens, Co-Producer/Screenwriter. For fans of the film or franchise, this is recommended viewing. You know that!
- New Zealand: Home of Middle-earth – Part 3 (HD, 6:07) – The cast and crew introduce the pic film 3 locations of New Zealand, transformed by the filmmakers into what we all know and love as Middle-earth.
The Appendices Parts XI andXII showcase a chronological history of the filming of The Battle of the Five Armies, documenting the work done on set chronologically through the three shooting blocks and in the world of its digital effects. And here they are spread amongst the following two Blu-ray discs.
The Appendices Part 11: The Gathering Storm – The Chronicles of The Hobbit – Part 3
Learn what it was really like to be on set with stories from the cast and crew as they share their most essential, memorable and entertaining moments from production, and see stunts and effects in action as they’re filmed.
All of the content on the first Blu-ray bonus disc is basically a behind-the-scenes documentary of the filming that comes in the form of the following 11 parts (minus the Opening) with the option to Play All (4:52:49):
- Opening (3:46) Ian McKellen and the cast chat about the emotional goodbyes and the spectacular of it all. They even discuss how an elf loses a fight for the first time in this film. They also say you can’t work with Peter Jackson if you have no stamina. However, the battle of the five armies is the real star of this quick featurette. Or should I say the organized chaos of it all?
- In the Dungeons of the Necromancer (30:08, HD) – This extra explores the friendship of Ian McKellen and Cate Blanchett on set, Gandalf’s dummy, Benedict Cumberbatch, the crew’s thoughts on Dol Guldur and producer’s Zane Weiner’s “Wacky Wheel of Wonders.”
- Fire and Water (30:02, HD) – This is one of my favorite scenes. During the historic attack on Lake-town Peter Jackson puts Luke Evans on rooftops. This extra also showcases the black arrow, Weta and the CG dragon Smaug as well as it snowing in Wellington for the first time in 40 years.
- Under the Shadow of the Mountain (18:03, HD) – Here we get to see a conundrum involving the remote Rock and Pillar Range that is only accessible to the cast and crew via helicopter. So what happens clouds and unexpected fog rolls in? Inquiring minds want to know!
- In the Wake of the Dragon (27:28, HD) – Here’s what happens when the locals get a bit too enthusiastic while filming at Lake Pukaki, Ryan Cage has a wardrobe malfunction and Luke Evans earns his first Victoria’s Cross.
- The Gathering of the Clouds (20:10, HD) – This one is all about the various time crunches that all the departments face as well the dwarf actors playing a practical joke on William Kircher (fun and jokes), Lee Pace’s horse and Peter’s “gold” epiphany in Erebor.
- Many Partings (30:02, HD) – After 266 days of filming, principal photography wraps. Bilbo’s farewell leaves the Dwarf actors in tears, Peter Jackson gives everyone a special gift and much more.
- The Clouds Burst (29:49, HD) – A lot goes down in this one as 2013 pickups in Dale begin, Luke Evans gets his Orcs mixed up, Evangeline Lilly and Orlando Bloom mount a horse (pretty funny), senior citizens show up, a fire breaks out and more.
- A Last Desperate Stand (30:12, HD) – In this segment Peter Jackson surprises Orlando on his last shot, Evangeline Lilly almost gets knocked out by an Orc, Richard Armitage shoots the scene he’s been waiting for and Gandalf shoots his last scene or should I say Ian McKellen.
- Out from the Gate (30:10, HD) – In these pick-ups the Dwarf actors charge out of Erebor, Bitfur and Bomber speak, Weta Workshop creates a Dwarf “hot rod” and sadly Martin Freeman says goodbye to Middle-earth.
- The Last Stage (34:05, HD) – This featurette houses the final day of pick-ups and sees Peter Jackson blogging on Facebook, Armitage’s last performance, the heartfelt, but quirky wrap ceremony and more.
- Credits (4:03)
The Appendices Part 12: Here At Journey’s End
Plan alongside the filmmakers as they create one of the most epic complex cinematic battles ever filmed. Watch how makeup, hair, prosthetics, costumes and weapons come together to form new characters, and explore key realms. Then bid the filmmakers as they bid an emotional farewell to Middle-earth.
This Blu-ray disc offers us the following four mini-documentaries with all its subcategory glory and a Play All (5:00:14) option:
- Beneath the Thunder: Forging A Battle of Five Armies (1:30:00, HD)- Chronicles the creation of Peter’s final battle in Middle-earth. This following three segments showcases the designing of armies and military strategies and the advances in digital filmmaking to make it all come to life.
- A Master Plan Long in the Making (30:18, HD)
- On the Front Lines of a Virtual Battlefield (30:08, HD)
- Turning the Tide (29:49, HD)
- The People and Denizens of Middle-Earth (1:28:08, HD) – The following three segments all focus on the design, casting and creation of three major characters that embody the Woodland Elves and the Dwarves of the Iron Hills.
- Tauriel: Daughter of the Forest (27:55, HD)
- Thranduil: The King of Wood and Stone (30:17, HD)
- Dáin Ironfoot: Lord of the Iron Hills (30:16, HD)
- Realms of the Third Age: From the City of Dale to the Halls of Erebor (1:30:28, HD)- The next three segments all follow the completion of the creative journey bring Middle-earth to life according to the Art Department and Weta Digital. So in saying that, we are treated to three of The Hobbit Trilogy‘s most important locations.
- Dale: The City of Men (30:18, HD)
- Dol Guldur: The Hill of Sorcery (30:14, HD)
- Erebor: The Lonely Mountain (30:16, HD)
- Farewell, Friends! (32:56, HD) – This farewell video features various cast members and crew from all the Rings films looking back at what the experience of being involved in and making all six films has meant to them. The interviews are also accompanied with behind the scenes footage too.
- Bonus Features – Last but not least there are five little bonus features to be found here as discussed below.
- Butt-Numb-a-Thon 2011 Greeting (11:43, HD) – Peter Jackson, Ian McKellen, Orlando Bloom and many others surprise fellow AICN Austinite Harry Knowles for his birthday with a video message from on set. Eric Vespe of AICN organized this! Can you do this for me next time too, Eric?! This may be one of my favorite extras as it hits home for me here as a transplant in Austin, TX.
- “Rivers of Gold” Music Video(4:32, HD) – Jed “Nori” Trophy performs the original song “Rivers of Gold” in this music video, which features the Dwarves of the Company of Thorin.
- The Real Adam Brown (5:25, HD) – Here we have a candid one-on-one conversation with actor Adam Brown who portrays Ori.
- Andrew Lesnie Remembered (5:47, HD) – Here we have an emotional commemorative video for the late cinematographer, the man behind all The Lord of the Rings and The Hobbit films.
- Credits (5:09, HD) – This one is equally emotional as the Lesnie Remembered featurette because this one opens with more words of thanks and remembrance to now both the late Christopher Lee and Andrew Lesnie.
The adventures of Bilbo Baggins come to an epic conclusion (thank goodness) when The Hobbit: The Battle of the Five Armies from Academy Award-winning filmmaker Peter Jackson, is released as an Extended Edition on Blu-ray and DVD from Warner Bros. Home Entertainment Group on November 17th. The Digital HD edition of this cut was previously released this past October 20th. The extended cut of the final film in The Hobbit Trilogy includes 20 minutes of extra footage and more than 10 hours of bonus features (yea) that will finally complete every Hobbit fan’s collection (I know mine is now complete). I think it goes without saying, this Blu-ray is edition is the one to own. Say what you want about the movie, but I don’t need to elaborate on how amazing this 3-disc set is. Just look up above. The proof is in the pudding. So whatcha waiting for? Pre-order today!
Own the Extended Edition November 17th