The Hobbit: The Battle of the Five Armies EE
The Extended Edition for Peter Jackson's final The Hobbit film, The Battle of the Five Armies, is hitting store shelves soon offering fans the chance at one more excursion to Middle-Earth. Does this version’s extra run time give fans more of what they want, or continue to water down the story? Come inside to check out my review.
Adding in More
I've been fairly critical of The Hobbit films over these last few years and had high hopes that Battle of the Five Armies would ultimately redeem the franchise. Sadly, it turned out to be even weaker than the previous entries, ending the series on a down-note, rather than a high one. Obviously, not everyone agrees and The Hobbit, has as many fans as it does detractors.
Generally speaking, I’ve enjoyed the Extended Editions of The Hobbit films far more than their theatrical counterparts. The extra run time often gave the superfluous elements (the “fluff” as I tend to call it) more justification for being there. It tied things better into the overall story, making them seem less random and more a part of the events that are unfolding. This was especially true with The Desolation of Smaug. While this in no way eliminates the fact that many of the scenes are still ‘fluff’, it makes them more enjoyable to watch.
The same is true when it comes to The Battle of the Five Armies, a film that was filled with even more fluff than the others. I won't delve deeply into the problems I had with the film overall. I've already covered that pretty extensively in my original review. Suffice it to say, a lot of my issues seem to stem from a lack of focus. The film bounces between themes and characters without giving you enough reason to care about any of them.
The Extended Edition alleviates this a little bit, in that it gives you more time to care about the characters and things that are taking place on the screen. But, as I mentioned, it doesn't take away from the fact that it's all still fluff. When Saruman and the others go to rescue Gandalf, it's a cool scene, to be sure, but ultimately didn't matter in the grand scheme of things. It works more as a world-building effort than anything necessary to the current story.
Considering the film plays out like one giant action sequence, it's understandable that much of the new footage adds to the battle sequences. Much has been made about the fact that this version is now R-rated, and I can see why. There's much more blood and guts in the fights, adding a more visceral quality to the battle. It FEELS like a war. Truth be told, however, I don't think the added carnage made the battles any more exciting. I thought the action was well done before (it's one of the things these Hobbit films has excelled at), even though much of it feels like it was thrown in there simply because Peter Jackson could make it happen.
As far as the movie itself is concerned, The Battle of the Five Armies Extended Edition doesn't do much to solve the problems I have with the film in general. It DOES make the film slightly more enjoyable to watch through, however, taking away some of the dullness (though I've seen others feel differently). Much like with the other Hobbit films, your decision on this purchase is likely to come down to how big a Middle-earth fan you are. If you're looking to pick up the flick, this would be the version to go with.
Regardless of how I feel about the film's story, there's no denying that it's visually impressive. The battle scenes are massive, filled with all manner of combatants, and it's easy to get lost among all that's going on. The blu-ray makes these moment shine, bringing crystal clear clarity to those sequences. The film mixes in dark and light colors throughout all of its scenes, making good use of the HD format. The darks are deep without crushing too much (I noticed it a little in a few sequences but not often), which gives everything that clear look, and helps make the others colors pop out.
There's a lot of CGI in the film, which not everyone was pleased with, but for the blu-ray they look incredible and solid. Visually speaking, there aren't any issue on the blu-ray release and it stands out as a great example of what the format can do on the home entertainment market. If you're looking to show off your setup, this movie can do that for you.
The same is true of it's soundtrack. The surround sound plays out wonderfully, and makes you feel like you're literally in the middle of the chaos of battle. After all, what's a good battle scene without great sound design behind it. All of that comes across well on the blu-ray, though I noticed a couple times where the dialog track was a little lower than the effects going on around it. I had to adjust the volume a couple times only, so it's not a huge deal in the long run. From a technical standpoint, The Battle of the Five Armies Extended Edition is great and stands out.
A Bunch of Special Features
One of the things Peter Jackson has always done well, is provide fans with a wealth of special features to enjoy. This is especially true when it comes to the extended versions of his films. The Lord of the Rings started it with 'appendices' reminiscent of the appendix sections in the books. These offer up several featurettes that not only look at behind the scenes of making the films, but goes deep into the Middle-earth lore as well. Here's what BOTFA comes with:
Audio Commentary with Peter Jackson and co-writer Philippa Boyens
New Zealand: Home to Middle-Earth Part 3
The Appendices Part 11: The Gathering Storm
In the Dungeons of the Necromancer
Fire and Water
In the Wake of the Dragon
The Gathering of the Clouds
The Clouds Burst
Out from the Gate
The Appendices Part 12: Here at Journey's End
Beneath the Thunder: Forging a Battle of the Five Armies
The People and Denizens of Middle-earth
Realms of the Third Age: From the City of Dale to the Halls of Erebor
Butt-Numb-a-Thon 2011 Greeting
The Real Adam Brown
Andrew Lesnie Remembered
Coming in at over 9 hours of bonuses, it's hard to argue with the amount of content offered. Truly, if you're a diehard fan of The Hobbit or Middle-earth in general, this may be the biggest selling point for you. While some of the are pretty basic, being traditional bonus featurettes, many of them are genuinely interesting.
One of the things I've always admired about Peter Jackson is how much he seems to enjoy filmmaking. He's not shy about it either, and his attention to detail and bringing these things together really comes through in all of these extras. While I may have been disappointed with the film, the extras didn't let me down, and even those who found themselves frustrated with The Hobbit movies will enjoy them. They serve as a more fitting goodbye to Middle-earth on the big screen and all the went into making it happen.
I feel the 9 hours of bonus features are what justify the purchase. Even if you didn't care for the film, there's something for fans of filmmaking and Middle-earth to enjoy and get use out of. Honestly, I think I'm more likely to re-watch the special features than the movie itself.