The Hobbit: The Battle of the Five Armies
Bilbo's journey comes to the end in The Hobbit: The Battle of the Five Armies and soon, Middle-earth fans will be able to bring the adventure home on blu-ray. Warner Bros. gave me the chance to check out the disc before it's release so I can help you decide whether or not it's worth picking up. Come inside to read my full review!
Putting a Bow on It
We've already reviewed Battle of the Five Armies here on the site when it initially released back in December, so you can check out that to get a more thorough look at the film's story and overall appeal, so I won't spend a whole lot of time on it now. Instead, I'll talk about it briefly having watched it through a second time.
If you know me at all, then you've likely heard me rant about The Hobbit films. While I loved The Lord of the Rings films and hold them in high regard, The Hobbit films failed to live up to those standards. In general, they felt poorly paced and lacked the sense of direction and focus that could have made them great. Instead, they were just "okay" films and I cant' say that anything changed in regards to Battle of the Five Armies.
While I think BOTFA is a more enjoyable film to watch more than once, this is mostly do to the fact that it's one gigantic battle scene that plays out over the course of a couple hours. It lacked the character development I was looking for, and while cool, didn't have much emotional impact on me in any way. Not to mention the fact that it skewed far away from being Bilbo's story and his conclusion felt more like and afterthought.
Suffice it to say, I wasn't all that thrilled with the movie, and having watched it again, I can say that I still feel the same. Will I watch it again? Sure, there are things in there I enjoyed and I'll get that itch to pop it in again...but I doubt it'll be very often. The truth is, if you didn't care for it much in theaters, you probably won't find your opinion changing with a second viewing. If you enjoyed the film, then you're still going to enjoy it on blu-ray.
If you're totally on the fence, my suggestion would be to wait until the Extended Edition hits later this Summer. On the whole, those versions of the film have actually made the story and pacing feel better (especially the case with Desolation of Smaug). Where you may not enjoy this standard version, there's a better chance of you enjoying the director's cut.
Epic Events on the Small Screen
As I mentioned, Battle of the Five Armies is essentially one massive battle sequence, with set piece after set piece. To be fair, the fights are pretty incredible and there are a lot of memorable action moments that remain fun to watch on the second viewing (and I'm sure will still be fun down the road). On the big screen in theaters, it's easy for these moments to stand out, and action on the epic scale of this sort tends to feel more visceral in a theater setting. Since seeing the film in theaters, I wondered how everything would hold up in the transition to blu-ray.
The good news is, that the battle still works well on the smaller screen. The transfer quality is very impressive (as many of Warner Bros. has been, except for a couple of notable ones), and everything looks sharp. BOTFA uses a diverse color pallette and everything pops on the screen, with high contrast between the colors and some seriously deep blacks. Though I did notice some minor "crushing" of the blacks in a few of the shots that takes place under the mountain, it's not something I noticed enough to become a problem.
Everything else stands out to an impressive degree, making this a gorgeous blu-ray. The sound is much the same, and the combination of the great visuals and powerful surround sound, make it so BOTFA still feels epic in scale and action. So any fear you have of the film losing it's "punch" in regards to the action is unfounded. Watching it on your TV at home will still give you those "holy crap" moments that make up some of the more enjoyable parts of the film.
One of the things Peter Jackson has always been well known for, is the amount of content he brings to the special features parts of his movies. Seriously, even though a lot of extra content is added on for his director's cuts, he doesn't exactly skimp on the goods when it comes to initial releases. Here's what comes on Battle of the Five Armies blu-ray:
Recruiting the Five Armies
The Last Goodbye: Behind the Scenes
The Last Goodbye Music Video
New Zealand: Home of Middle-earth, Part 3
While it's not totally extensive, the featurettes attached still offer a great behind the scenes look at the final journey through Middle-earth. If you've been keeping up with the films so far, and a big fan of this series you'll find plenty to enjoy. Even if you're only passing interested, there's enough interesting content here to warrant a watch through on it.
Technically speaking, it's a stand out blu-ray with great picture quality and sound mix. So the purchase decision really comes down to how much you've enjoyed The Hobbit movies so far. If you're really on the fence, give it a rental. It's enjoyable for an action flick, but doesn't offer much deeper.