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The Hobbit: The Battle of the Five Armies - Blu-ray Review

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The Hobbit: The Battle of Five Armies - Movie Review

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2 stars

Peter Jackson doesn’t exactly save the best in his misguided The Hobbit trilogy for the very last. Much of the final film – in fact, too much of it – is all Jackson's epilogue with no real Tolkien story to tell, setting up the exposition for The Lord of the Rings movies. Damn you, Shakespeare. A better title for the film might have been Much Ado About Nothing

Within the first ten minutes of The Battle of the Five Armies, Smaug has been dealt with. The big set-up that closed the previous film is resolved that quickly. That leaves the rest of the movie – with its forgettable cast of dwarves and other odds and orcs – to serve as the rickety screen door to the sacred house that is The Fellowship of the Ring. With no legitimate story to tell in the third and final film, the unnecessary three parts that make up Peter Jackson’s drawn out adaptation of The Hobbit simply aren’t worth the journey there and back again.

My complaints about the previous films continue to resonate throughout The Battle of the Five Armies. Jackson’s abandoned the whole frame ratio conversation (yay!) but still dollops out the seriously spotty CGI with reckless abandon. The story has been sectioned off in such a fashion that this – its final part – feels like the last reel in a traditional film, not a whole story in and of itself. The bright 3D canvas feels way too shiny for such an ancient story, whose cinematic roots can be seen in the fantastical creatures animated by the late Ray Harryhausen – which I appreciate.

At 144 minutes, Jackson delivers a relatively leaner entry but can’t seem to find anything – beyond one extended battle – worthy to focus on. The glossy environments continue to feel less and less lived-in. The many, many characters fail to make an impact on anything of substance with their inclusion. Only Ian McKellen comes out of the mess smelling like a rose.

Jackson’s display of sheer cinematic thunder in the exhausting battle sequence, while enthusiastic, does not a movie make. One can marvel all they want to at the vision presented; to be emotionally invested in it is another matter entirely and I simply haven’t been throughout the trilogy. I’m over my disappointment. I just can’t believe that Jackson can be at all satisfied by what he’s managed to do when compared to what he did so epically promising with The Lord of the Rings.

A war is brewing between all interested parties trying to lay claim to the defeated dragon’s stolen goods. But the hero in Jackson’s tale – Thorin Oakenshield (Richard Armitage), not Bilbo (Martin Freeman) – has gone insane with gold lust. Throw Sauron (Christopher Lee) and his Orcs into the mix and it becomes a tale of good verses evil, complete with a CGI Billy Connolly steering a warthog into battle and a CGI Orlando Bloom doing fanciful acrobatics – running UP a crumbling building - while everyone else watches the CGI spectacle and Bilbo remains a simple passenger in his own story.

For all the film’s business, nothing really ever happens. The Battle of the Five Armies makes me wish Jackson had heeded Tolkien’s advice on the evil of fortunes. A lot of money has been thrown at the screen but, when you add everything up, the end result of this trilogy is as soulless and forlorn as George Lucas’ Star Wars prequels. Beware of the evil lure of extra gold and riches, the movie screams at the audience. Good advice to follow, Jackson. The Hobbit is not trilogy material. The simple story – a children’s tale – would have made a solid two-part film series. The needless trilogy, driven by greed, stretched the material to its breaking point.

The second and less-acclaimed Middle Earth trilogy remains exactly that: second and less-acclaimed. Greed IS bad, mmkay?

The Bobbit: The Battle of Five Armies - Movie Review

MPAA Rating: PG-13 (for extended sequences of intense fantasy action violence, and frightening images).
Runtime:
144 mins
Director
: Peter Jackson
Writer:
Fran Walsh, Philippa Boyens
Cast:
Ian McKellen, Martin Freeman, Richard Armitage
Genre
: Fantasy | Adventure
Tagline:
The Hobbit: The Battle of the Five Armies
Memorable Movie Quote: "You have but one question to answer: How shall this day end?."
Distributor:
Warner Bros.
Official Site: http://www.thehobbitblog.com/
Release Date:
December 17, 2014
DVD/Blu-ray Release Date:
No details available.
Synopsis: The Hobbit: The Battle of the Five Armies brings to an epic conclusion the adventures of Bilbo Baggins, Thorin Oakenshield and the Company of Dwarves. Having reclaimed their homeland from the Dragon Smaug, the Company has unwittingly unleashed a deadly force into the world. Enraged, Smaug rains his fiery wrath down upon the defenseless men, women and children of Lake-town.

Obsessed above all else with his reclaimed treasure, Thorin sacrifices friendship and honor to hoard it as Bilbo’s frantic attempts to make him see reason drive the Hobbit towards a desperate and dangerous choice. But there are even greater dangers ahead. Unseen by any but the Wizard Gandalf, the great enemy Sauron has sent forth legions of Orcs in a stealth attack upon the Lonely Mountain.

As darkness converges on their escalating conflict, the races of Dwarves, Elves and Men must decide – unite or be destroyed. Bilbo finds himself fighting for his life and the lives of his friends in the epic Battle of the Five Armies, as the future of Middle-earth hangs in the balance.

The Hobbit: The Battle of the Five Armies

Blu-ray

Blu-ray Details:

Available on Blu-ray - March 24, 2015
Screen Formats: 2.40:1
Subtitles
: English SDH, French, Spanish, Portuguese
Audio:
English: DTS-HD Master Audio 7.1; French: Dolby Digital 5.1; Spanish: Dolby Digital 5.1; Portuguese: Dolby Digital 5.1
Discs: 50GB Blu-ray Disc; Three-disc set (2 BDs, 1 DVD); UV digital copy; Digital copy; DVD copy
Region Encoding: A, B

Released from Warner Bros, the 1080p transfer quality of a film about one long, laborious battle is pretty impressive.  Black levels are deep, shadows are strong and everything looks sharp.  The film uses a diverse color palette and everything pops on the screen.  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. 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 that is a problem for viewers.  The DTS-HD MA 7.1 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.

Supplements:

Commentary:

  • Wait for the Extended Edition.

Special Features:

Sure, Battle of the Five Armies is worth a look, and the Blu-ray is a great way to demonstrate the clarity that HDTVs have to offer.  But this isn’t going down in history with the reverence the first trilogy seems to have.  Though you can’t blame the makers of the Blu-ray for trying to hand wave over that one.  The most interesting extra on the disc is a featurette about how the “Hobbit” films link up with Lord of the Rings using a healthy dose of footage from the earlier movies as if to convince fans to conflate their esteem for those movies with these new ones.  Other short featurettes include looks at the make-up and production values of the final battle and a look at the making of the end-credits song, performed by Billy Boyd.  There’s also another travelogue promo for New Zealand, where the films were shot.

On a final note, the concluding chapter of the Lord of the Rings prequel trilogy, The Hobbit: The Battle of the Five Armies is the embodiment of all of Peter Jackson’s most troublesome tendencies in this series.  The film is bloated to the border of boring, stuffed with too many characters, action sequences that run way too long and CGI that makes the backgrounds look like a video game.  The fact remains that had Jackson been truer to the book, this could have been a tight, thrilling, solid three-hour movie and a more worthy prequel to the Lord of the Rings trilogy.  

  • New Zealand: Home of Middle-earth Part 3 (6 min)
  • Recruiting the Five Armies (12 min)
  • Completing Middle-Earth: A Six-Part Saga (9 min)
  • Completing Middle-earth: A Seventeen-Year Journey (9 min)
  • The Last Goodbye: Behind the Scenes (11 min)
  • Music Video (4 min)
  • Trailers (4 min)

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