THE HOBBIT: THE BATTLE OF THE FIVE ARMIES 3D
MOVIE: **** (out of 5)
BLU-RAY EXPERIENCE: *** (out of 5)
Ian McKellen as GANDALF
Martin Freeman as BILBO
Richard Armitage as THORIN
Benedict Cumberbatch as SMAUG
Orlando Bloom as LEGOLAS
Evangeline Lilly as TAURIEL
Luke Evans as BARD THE BOWMAN
Lee Pace as THRANDUIL
Studio: Warner Bros.
Directed by: Peter Jackson
BY KEVIN CARR
When it comes to the Middle-earth movies, I tend to break with conventional wisdom. While I appreciate everything that “The Lord of the Rings” represents, after revisiting it several times on both DVD and Blu-ray (for the extended editions), I can’t say that I truly love the films. They have some fantastic elements to them, but they run on a bit long and get overly heavy at times. And don’t even get me started on the Twilight-esque brooding nature of those elves!
On the other hand, I have thoroughly enjoyed Peter Jackson’s “The Hobbit” trilogy. The first film is the lightest of the bunch, and also the most colorful. Sure, Jackson strays from the books quite a bit and embellishes with everything from characters that never appear in the series to winks and nods galore to his previous trilogy. There’s just something warmer about this second trilogy that sits better with me.
“The Desolation of Smaug” was a lower point in the story, mainly because the film itself was all second act fodder and had no resolution or organic climax. Now that “The Battle of the Five Armies” is out on DVD, Blu-ray and 3D Blu-ray, it’s nice to revisit it again and experience the ending to the overlong but still enjoyable series.
In a strange way, “The Battle of the Five Armies” has more connective tissue with the middle installment of the “Lord of the Rings” series (“The Two Towers”) than it has with that series’ finale. I associate them on a very basal level because of the massive and spectacular battle set-piece that the film wraps itself around. And in a way, I feel this is a fitting wrap-up to a journey that began in cinemas a decade and a half ago.
I like these movies. So sue me.
The most impressive thing about the 3D Blu-ray of “The Battle of the Five Armies” is how gorgeous it looks in high definition. I’ve always been a proponent of 3D, but I get tired of 3D that doesn’t enhance the films, and I grow weary of post conversion efforts even if the process has gotten exponentially better than when it first reared its ugly head five or six years ago.
Still, Jackson’s decision to shoot in 3D helps the film transfer to the small screen easily with crisp edges and defined perspective. Similarly, his much-maligned high-frame-rate process might not be a great way to view the film, but you end up with an almost absurdly crisp image on the television that lends itself to the detail and grandeur of Blu-ray at 1080p.
And best of all, this film has an ending. It’s a long ending, to be sure, but it is still dwarfed (pardon the pun) by the ending of “The Return of the King.” What also makes this film and its other installments work is the casting. By now, we’re actually able to tell the dwarves apart, and I challenge anyone to cast Bilbo and Smaug any better than they did with Martin Freeman and Benedict Cumberbatch.
The only real drawback to the 3D Blu-ray is that because the movie is close to three hours and the 3D image requires more storage than a 2D image, the film itself is split between two discs (much like the extended editions of “The Lord of the Rings” Blu-rays). Of course, if it’s a deal-breaker to watch the film without switching discs at the 90-minute mark, you can watch the film in its entirety on the 2D Blu-ray disc.
“The Hobbit: The Battle of the Five Armies” might not be the Oscar-winner that “The Return of the King” was, and the film trilogy itself may not hold up to the critical masses as well as Jackson’s first trilogy did, but it’s still an entertaining ride for me.
With the exception of the six-minute featurette “New Zealand: Home of Middle-Earth – Part 3, found on the main Blu-ray and the 3D Blu-ray, the bulk of the special features on this set come on a separate Blu-ray disc. These include a handful of featurettes, plus the second theatrical trailer for the film and the trailer for “the Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug – Extended Edition.” There’s no commentary, so I suppose you’ll have to wait for the Extended Edition of the film, which should be out in the next couple months.
The featurettes are broken into three sections. The first is the standalone “Recruiting the Five Armies.” This 12-minute short takes a look at the extras that make up the five armies, giving their unique perspective from the acting grunt-work.
The second section is the two-parts of “Completing Middle-Earth.” The first part is the ten-minute “A Six-Part Saga” which flashes back to 1999 and the production of “The Lord of the Rings,” looking at how the new Hobbit trilogy ties all of the movies together. The second part is “A Seventeen-Year Journey” is a nine-minute look at Peter Jackson’s decision to return to the series ten years later to undertake a massive production challenge.
The final section is “The Last Goodbye,” which features the 11-minute “Behind-the-Scenes Featurette” which looks at the development of the final end credit song of the film. Also included in this section is the music video of this song.