HTS Moderator , Reviewer
Title: The Hobbit: The Battle of Five Armies Extended Cut
HTS Overall Score:86
Peter Jackson’s final installment into “The Hobbit” franchise very obviously proves the old saying “more isn’t always better”. It was understandable to have an award winning series like “The Lord of the Rings”, which is over 1200 pages of material, turned into a trilogy of VERY extended movies. It was an epic series of novels that was just FILLED to the brim with material that couldn’t be put into the movie without turning it into a 900 hour movie. Color people surprised when the 400 page “The Hobbit” was announced to be turned into not one movie, not two movies, but a full blown trilogy. “An Unexpected Journey” was quite fun, and certainly is very entertaining, but it shows some filler as Jackson tried so hard to make it into a movie just as epic as his previous three. “Desolation of Smaug” did much of the same thing, but Peter Jackson added in a lot of stuff that wasn’t in the book to fill out the runtime, but still manages to make a fun movie. Now with “The Battle of Five Armies” Jackson goes all out with the film, cutting character development and turning in a few pages of a novel into a 2.5 hour epic. An epic which has over half of the run time devoted to ONE SINGLE BATTLE.
We left off last time with Smaug (Benedict Cumbmerbatch as the voice) heading off to Lake Town to unleash his unholy vengeance on the poor city folks due to the dwarves stealing his plunder. “Battle of Five Armies” picks up right there with Smaug going full bore for Lake Town. Destroying much of the city, Smaug turns it into a desolate pile of ash, and is only stopped by Bard (Luke Evans) and his famed dragon killing “black arrows”. With everything they hold dear destroyed, the people of Lake Town, now led by Bard after the death of their magistrate (Stephen Fry), trudge up the mountain towards Smaug’s plunder heap in an effort to get enough gold to start a new life. There they encounter the Elf lord Thranduil (Lee Pace) who is also looking for long lost Elven artifacts in the mountains. Low and behold they find out that Thorin (Richard Armitage) and his band of dwarves are still alive and kicking. The only bad thing is that Thorin is suffering from dragon sickness. His greed and avarice so powerful that he is willing to throw away the bargain he struck with the city of Lake Town only days before. Now his insatiable rage has overpowered his sense and the lust for war is born.
Meanwhile, back in the forbidden fortress, Gandalf and Radagast are held prisoner by the dark lord’s Orc minions. Rescued in the nick of time by Galadriel (Kate Blanchet), Sauruman (Christopher Lee) and Elrond himself (Hugo Weaing), the powers of Middle Earth once again vanguish Sauron (who strangely was only HINTED at in the novel, vs. being fully revealed here as a bridge to “The Lord of the Rings”). It’s a bit rough and feels poorly edited, but this sequence was pure fantasy by Peter Jackson, used as a jumping off point to kind of bridge the happenings of “The Hobbit” to the rise of Sauron in “The Lord of the Rings”. It almost feels shoehorned in, as it really serves no purpose in THIS movie, other than to explain why Gandalf (Ian McKellen) doesn’t show up till the battle in front of the mountain begins.
All of this happens within the first hour of the film, initiating the famed battle of five armies, with the Dwarves and their Dwarven reinforcements on one side, and the Humans and Elves on the other. This battle is short lived as they are rudely interrupted by a legion of Orcs helmed by Azog the Defiler (Manu Bennett) himself. Dwarves, Humans and Elves have to put aside their differences and come together to fend off the enormous Orc army, but soon realize they are outnumbered. To make matters worse, another Orc army is marching in from the north to flank the outnumbered heroes. Realizing they have nothing left to lose. Thorin, Kili, Fili and Bwalin head up the mountains on war goats (yes you read that correctly, war goats), in an effort to cut the head off the snake and silence Azog once and for all.
As I mentioned in the opening of the review. “The Battle of Five Armies” proves that more isn’t always better. The majority of the movie is spent in a giant hour and half battle that doesn’t stop once. The movie itself feels like it’s on speed, as it doesn’t just start. It explodes into action and pretty much stays in high gear the entire time. By this time in the novel we’re just wrapping up the majority of the book and ready to finish it off with the battle. Peter Jackson forgoes character development here, as the film barely even touches on the characters themselves. It almost feels as if they are in the background the entire time. Besides Thorin’s stint with Dragon sickness, we really just see them roaring and hitting things with axes and swords (which isn’t always a bad thing). The movie just blurs buy as it spends over 90 minutes of its run time constantly whacking and hitting things. Once the niceties of the broken treaties is over with you just have to sit back and accept that we’re watching a Michael Bay level of spectacle.
Now don’t get me wrong. The spectacle is a LOT of fun. Every bit of the battle reeks of Peter Jackson’s love of Middle Earth, with the little details and fight scenes beautifully choreographed. I did notice that he REALLY went overboard on the CGI this time around. There were times I was pulled out of the story watching a CGI rider that was JUST fake enough to have my eyes drawn to it, or the ridiculousness of having Billy Connolly’s character, Dain, be COMPLETELY CGI for no apparent reason. I have to say that Peter Jackson seems to have lost sight of the original book. “The Hobbit” was fun adventure story, much in the line of Rudyard Kipling’s books. Books meant for boys to have fun with instead of being as dark and dreary as “The Lord of the Rings”. His lack of understanding comes through very obviously as you can tell he loves Middle Earth, but his love of the source material leads him to drastically change the outcome. It works in some ways, but in other ways it’s very saddening.
Now the main reason you’re reading this review is to find out whether the extended scenes and the extras are worth it. Well, let me rest your fears on the extras part. We all know Peter Jackson skimps on the extras for the theatrical cuts, and the goodies enclosed in this set are worth the wait. 2 full discs of extras with commentaries, cast and crew, behind the scenes, the whole works. It’s the special edition of special editions. Now as for the added material. I’m not of the persuasion that they really add anything to the movie. “An Unexpected Journey” was a wee bit better than the theatrical while “Desolation of Smaug” was an even wash. Even though there is an extra 20 minutes of extra footage in “The Battle of the 5 Armies” it really doesn’t add or detract from the overall story. There’s a cool bit of added footage for the battle between the wring wraiths and the cadre of wizards at Dol Guldur, but the rest of the footage is almost all just added blood and battle scenes during the actual battel. There’s some blood and a few more severed heads making it rated R (which was a big controversy with it being the ONLY R-rated Middle Earth film). Unfortunately making it rated R did nothing besides alienate a few audience members with a couple of decapitations? The extra battle scenes served no other purpose but for Peter Jackson to play with the special effects that he’s obviously become so enamored with. Now, at the same time the extra scenes didn’t detract either. Unless you know what you’re looking for you probably couldn’t have told the difference due to there being SO much chaos in the battle to begin with.
Rated R for Some Violence
[img]http://www.hometheatershack.com/gallery/file.php?n=40953[/img]The video and audio encodes contained within look and sound IDENTICAL to the theatrical cut, so they carry the same rating. Peter Jackson’s 2D Blu-ray presentation of this final chapter into Middle Earth is no less spectacular than the previous two movies. There is some minor black crush and some softness in a couple of scenes, but overall the image is simply superb. The color grading is rather bleak and carries a boosted contrast to it that gives everything a glossy, air brushed look to them. The extra whites give it almost a bleak and desolate texture and the battle upon the mountain side does nothing but amplify that feeling the more you go through the movie. The detail is still stunning though, with copious amounts of detail on the armor and clothing of the humans, dwarves and orcs alike. The colors are bright and shiny with the whites and blues and greys getting the most screen time. Watch the cliff battle where Thorin and crew go up to battle Azog the Defiler. It’s simply amazing with all the crystal blue and shimmering whites surrounding them. There’s a few times where I think Peter Jackson went overboard with the CGI, as some of the effects look a bit jarring every once in a while (and for some reason they COMPLETELY CGI’d Dain, even though he wasn’t misshapen or anything that would REQUIRE a CGI body considering all the other dwarves were real).
[img]http://www.hometheatershack.com/gallery/file.php?n=40961[/img]These 7.1 DTS-HD MA audio tracks for “The Hobbit” movies have never failed to disappoint and Warner continues the excellent track record with “The Battle of Five Armies”. Aggressive and explosive it rocks you to your core with hard hitting LFE and a wildly engaging usage of the surround channels. The battle of the actual 5 armies is over half the movies length and it’s a raging, visceral experience as battle axes tear through Orc armor, and blades clang against blades with screaming, raging and the bleating of war goats ring from all directions. Dialog is preserved and well balanced amidst all of the chaos, while the LFE pounds you in your chest nearly continuously. My one complaint is STILL the famed rumble filter, where the lower octaves of the LFE is filtered out, much like the previous two films. The bass is there in spades and can be INCREDIBLY powerful, but those last few octaves have been filtered out which has been a bone of contention for many a sub nut since the first movie was released.
• Feature Film
• Audio commentary with Peter Jackson and Philippa Boyens
Discs 2 and 3
• In the Dungeon of the Necromancer
• Fire and Water
• Under the Shadow of the Mountain
• In the Wake of the Dragon
• The Gathering of the Clouds
• Many Partings
• The Clouds Burst
• A Last Desperate Stand
• Out From the Gate
• The Last Stage
• Beneath the Thunder: Forging a Battle of Five Armies
• The People and Denizens of Middle-earth
• Realms of the Third Age: From the City of Dale to the Halls of Erebor
• Farewell Friends!
• Bonus Features (3 segments)
• Andrew Lesnie Remembered
Is the Extended Cuts worth upgrading? Or are they just another ploy? Well, I tend to think they are worthy just for the extras and extra special packaging alone. The inclusion of the 20 minutes of extended footage is a non-issue, unless you’re offended by the R rating, and it comes down to having a complete set of Extended cuts or wanting all of those extra goodies on discs 2 and 3. Audio and video are literally IDENTICAL with its theatrical counterparts and I have to say that’s not a bad thing in any way shape or form. Still the very best version of the movie out there, even though it is the weakest of the three “Hobbit” films. Still Recommended.
Starring: Ian McKellen, Martin Freeman, Richard Armitage
Directed by: Peter Jackson
Written by: Fran Walsh, Philippa Boyens
Aspect Ratio: 2.40:1 AVC
Audio: English: DTS-HD MA 7.1, French, Spanish DD 5.1
Studio: Warner Brothers
Runtime: 164 minutes
Own The Hobbit: The Battle of The Five Armies Extended Edition on Blu-ray and DVD on November 17 or Own It Early on Digital HD now!
Buy The Hobbit: The Battle of Five Armies Extended 3D On Blu-ray At Amazon
Buy The Hobbit: The Battle of Five Armies Extended 2D On Blu-ray At Amazon
Recommendation: Watch It
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