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

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The Hobbit: The Battle of Five Armies - Movie Review

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2 stars

Rated R due to the amount of bloodshed and on-screen violence, director Peter Jackson returns one final time (maybe) to the fields of Middle-Earth and delivers The Hobbit: The Battle of the Five Armies Extended Edition. Available this week, the new cut features 20 minutes of unseen moments and story arcs not featured in the theatrical cut. The new material, in general, adds a bit more weight to what is at stake for the main characters involved in the battle and adds more dimension to what is at stake but does not improve the inherent problem with the film itself.

While the new material (essentially superfluous scraps added to already incorporated scenes) doesn’t necessarily justify the need for the extended editions of The Hobbit Trilogy (as they were already, in each of their three theatrical versions, spread way too thin), it is interesting to see Jackson go “dark” and return to the bloodier-minded films of his youth. Is this new R-rating much of a gamble for Warner Bros? Not really. Parents should be warned, though. The newly-finished war scenes aren’t exactly what the kiddos need to be seeing on a Saturday morning. And the poor fans should be warned, too. The 164-minute extended cut proves why the third film in The Hobbit Trilogy is his weakest.

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 the theatrical cut was a relatively leaner entry but Jackson still couldn't seem to find anything – beyond one extended battle – worthy to focus on and the extended version only makes things worse. 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:
November 17, 2015.
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 Five Armies - Blu-ray Review

Blu-ray

Blu-ray Details:

Extended Edition / Blu-ray + UltraViolet

Available on Blu-ray - November 17, 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 (3 BDs); UV digital copy; Digital copy
Region Encoding: A

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 - even the blood ooze seems vibrant.  There are strong scenes of rich and colorful vistas here and there but most of it has been tweaked to match up with the palettes of the previous films (because we can't have a happy little hobbit adventure). The colors aren't shimmering like an episode of Rainbow Brite, if you get my meaning, but dazzle only when they have to be.  Some of the black levels crush the detail in a few of the shots, but it's not something that is a problem for viewers.  The DTS-HD MA 7.1 lossless soundtrack is phenomenal, though.  Middle-Earth sings again! .

Supplements:

Commentary:

  • The 9 hours of special features this release boasts about starts here with the feature-length commentary from Peter Jackson, the film’s director/producer/screenwriter, and Phillippa Boyens, the film’s co-producer/screenwriter. Throughout the film, the talk extensively about the development of the screenplay and various other aspects of the film. It’s another missed opportunity; however, because there is no perspective on the film from the actors and this has long been a wish-list item for fans of The Hobbit. They would like to hear from them instead of Jackson.

Special Features:

Spread over 3 blu-ray discs, the conclusion to the much-discussed The Hobbit Trilogy is finally available for fans.  It can’t be stressed enough that the supplemental items are better than the entire film.  And that’s a fact.  This release includes footage not seen in theaters and, as expected, hours upon hours of behind-the-scenes features, production stories and more.  Disc One contains the extended edition of the movie, the commentary, and includes the third look at New Zealand, the home of Middle-Earth.  Disc Two houses Part Eleven of The Appendices and features a look at what it was really like to be on the set as cast and crew discuss the myriad of happenings going on.  Disc Three, with the twelfth and final part of The Appendices beings things to an epic conclusion as you go behind-the-scenes to see just how the epic battle that is the majority of the film was filmed.  Of course, the 3D version has a bonus disc of more supplemental material.

New Zealand: Home to Middle-Earth Part 3 (6 min)
The Appendices Part 11: The Gathering Storm (5 hours)
The Appendices Part 12: Here at Journey's End (3.5 hours)

 

 

 

 

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