With the journey having ended this time last year, it's now time to make a return to Peter Jackson's visionary Middle Earth - in particular, the finale that closed the epic saga, The Hobbit: The Battle of the Five Armies. I was lucky enough to be sent the film's Extended Edition - which gets its home entertainment release this week - and here's my review of it.
-------------------Picking up right where we left in Desolation of Smaug left, Battle of the Five Armies reunites us, for the last time, with Bilbo and the others as they are forced to engage in a callous war of monumental size against a slew of warriors and armies. At the same time, though, they have to make sure that Smaug doesn't get his hands on a kingdom of treasure before laying waste to all of Middle-Earth.
Normally the typical YA trope is to split the final book into 2 parts but, despite not being a young-adult adaption, here Jackson has split a novel over three films and condenses the mere few final pages of J.R Tolkien's short novel into this final two and a half hour feature length film. Add on the extra 20 minutes or so of footage that the Extended Edition adds to this and we have a near 3 hour film dedicated to the final third or so of one single book - it's a risky move and, sure enough, it drags at times, that's a given. However, despite this, it's a great film and Jackson has crafted an illustrious and marvellous world that is so immersive to the extent that no introduction or story recap is required to get us involved back into this meticulously crafted world. Most films struggle to dedicate 2 hours to an entire novel, let alone a few pages. But this is Peter Jackson and if there's anyone that can pull it off, it's him. And he does.
Of course, one of the The Hobbit: The Battle of the Five Armies' biggest selling points is the eponymous battle itself. It's action-packed, thrilling and just so enjoyable to watch unfold - as are all tge action sequences in this film. The visuals are glorious too, throwing you right into the action. Jackson's use of effects and CG is stunning and there are some breathtaking shots of this beautiful Middle-Earth that he brought to life in The Lord of the Rings and, now, The Hobbit films. And the picture quality on Blu-Ray is astoundingly good; immersive and cinematic and so sharply detailed (the 3D effects only add to the experience too if you happen to buy that copy). The sound too is resounding and epic and throws you right into the moment.
The main attraction of the Extended Edition of the film is, undoubtedly, all the extended footage. If you're expecting a Lord of the Rings-esque extended edition with lots of story driven scenes and an abundance of alternate endings then you'll be disappointed. With a runtime of 164 minutes, 20 minutes longer than the theatrical release, Jackson cherry picks his additional footage. Of course, it can be argued that it's never necessary and doesn't add anything to the film but that was really never the intention of this release; it's an opportunity to let us grasp onto the Middle-Earth saga that bit longer and I can't say that the footage hinders the project either. We got a few additional action scenes that look great or some intense character laden moments that only flesh them out and add depth to them further. Most of the footage just adds to and enhances the central narrative further really. It won't change your opinions on the film nor will it add impact to the final outcome but the scenes are fun to watch and it's nice to be able to savour the magic a little longer.
DISC ONE: The Film and Select Bonus Content
-------------------Featuring 3 discs FULL of special features, the Extended Edition for The Hobbit: The Battle of the Five Armies features over 11 hours of special features and never before seen behind-the-scenes footage, giving us an in-depth insight into the making of the grand finale to Jackson's Middle-Earth saga.
DISC ONE: The Film and Select Bonus Content
- Audio Commentary by Peter Jackson and Co-Writer Philippa Boyens - Peter Jackson and Co-Writer Philippa Boyens go in-depth into discussing making the epic finale to not only The Hobbit trilogy but the 6 film Middle-Earth saga too. The feature provides lots of insight into just how this film was made and gives us lots of interesting behind-the-scenes details on production of the film too.
- New Zealand: Home to Middle-Earth Part 3 - With Part 1 and 2 in the Extended Editions of both prior Hobbit films, this is the final featurette about the epic New Zealand locations used in the franchise - most especially this time, used in The Battle of the Five Armies. Landscape porn, in a nutshell.
- Opening - Jackson and the cast kick off another making-of documentary. And so the long hours of special features begin.
- In the Dungeons of the Necromancer - Sir Ian McKellen and Cate Blanchett talk about their work together and discuss their epic battle with Sauron.
- Fire and Water - This feature takes an in-depth look at the insane opening of the film, in which the angry dragon Smaug lays watse to Laketown. Don't worry, no real dragons were harmed in the making. Wood, however, maybe not so lucky.
- Under the Shadow of the Mountain - The cast and crew talk about the difficult of shooting on location as we see them go through some tough conditions and get more of an insight into what filming these big features on location was actually like. Spoiler alert: lots of bad weather.
- In the Wake of the Dragon - Luke Evans earns the Victoria's Cross, and some of the extras go a bit overboard on set in this piece.
- The Gathering of the Clouds - The cast and crew must race againsg the clock in order to finish filming, facing off against something more powerful and evil than Smaug himself: a tight schedule.
- Many Partings - A look into what it was like once Principle photography had wrapped and Martin Freeman left the set. Prepare for tears and some great on-set stories and memories.
- The Clouds Burst - The cast and crew have to deal with fire damages to the set, as well as beginning pick-up shots. Smaug is really at work here, oh no.
- A Last Desperate Stand - What happens when Orlanda Bloom and Sir Ian McKellen are coming to the end of their run in the epic saga and their iconic roles? Lots of emotion and silliness. Yes, even Gandalf can have some fun.
- Out from the Gate - An in-depth look at the initial dwarf charge at Erebor.
- The Last Stage - Peter Jackson completes The Battle of the Five Armies and this is his message for the fans.
- Beneath the Thunder: Forging a Battle of the Five Armies - This expansive documentary chronicles the practical and digital creation of the massive, five-army final battle. It's impressive and monumental, in-scale. Of course, it wasn't all real.
- The People and Denizens of Middle-Earth - This feature puts the spotlight on some of the leading characters in the finale of the trilogy. I'm tired now, insert another Smaug joke here.
- Realms of the Third Age: From the City of Dale to the Halls of Erebor - A look into how the iconic and incredible sets for the finale where created by the filmmakers. Lots and lots of glue.
- Farewell, Friends! - A touching tribute and wrap-up of Peter Jackson's Middle-Earth saga; his work on this trilogy and on The Lord of the Rings.
- Butt-Numb-A-Thon 2011 Greeting - Peter Jackson and Ian McKellen make a birthday video for Harry Knowles. "Let them eat cake," as Gandalf says.
- The Real Adam Brown (5:25/HD) - Adam Brown, who played Ori in the films, gets the spotlight. It's his big day.
- "Rivers of Gold" Music Video by Jed "Nori" Brophy - It is what it says it is.
- Andrew Lesnie Remembered - A touching tribute to the film's cinematographer, Andrew Lesnie, who died of a heart attack earlier this year. He was responsible for the stunning look of the film and this feature highlights his impressive work. RIP.
13 years since it began, with The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring, and our journey in Peter Jackson's Middle-Earth comes to its conclusion. With OVER 11 hours of special features to indulge in, you can laugh, cry and relive the experience of making what has become an incredible franchise. Packed with 20 minutes of great, never-before-seen footage and special features - from tributes to documentaries to behind-the-scenes shenanigans - to your heart's content, if there's one thing the Extended Edition does, it's deliver on the promise of extending the magic of Middle-Earth; providing an interesting, entertaining and, most of all, very detailed look into just how Peter Jackson made this trilogy and this epic finale. There's content galore, to last for ages and, with any Extended Edition Blu-Ray, that's all you ever want.
About the Author
Founder of Oasis Awais, and avid lover of life, Awais Irfan's love of writing and film is unequivocal. Ever since he was a little kid, he has loved the cinematic experience; so much so, he is studying Film Production in Glasgow and hopes to be the next "big thing" in directing.