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Hobbit: The Battle of the Five Armies, The

Warner Bros. // PG-13 // March 24, 2015
List Price: $44.95 [Buy now and save at Amazon]

Review by Neil Lumbard | posted March 30, 2015 | E-mail the Author
The Hobbit - The Battle of the Five Armies Blu-ray Review

The Hobbit: The Battle of the Five Armies is the final act in director Peter Jackson's three-part adaptation of J.R.R. Tolkien's The Hobbit. Produced through MGM, New Line Cinema, and Warner Bros. entertainment, Jackson's final epic is a satisfying conclusion to the film saga started with 2001's The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring. It is both a ending wrapping up The Hobbit film series and the six-film saga including The Lord of the Rings.

The Battle of the Five Armies proves to be an accurate title for the last entry in the series. This entry picks up directly where The Desolation of Smaug left off with the impending doom of Laketown because of the approaching dragon Smaug. The people of the Laketown struggle during their confrontation with Smaug and try to defeat the dragon. It is ultimately up to the heroic Bard (Luke Evans) to try and stop Smaug from obliterating everything in the path and save Laketown.

Thranduil (Lee Pace) now seeks the sacred jewels of his people and arrives with the elves to get them back from the dwarf kingdom. The humans of Laketown seek shelter and gold so they can rebuild their town. The dwarves, having been without their home for so long, unite and fight to protect the reclaimed mountain kingdom. Increasing chaos ensues as the orcs arrive and bring with them bats bred for war and goblins. The threat of the rise of Sauron (the Necromancer) looms in the background.

As the story progresses, it becomes clear a war is brewing in Middle Earth between the dwarves, the elves, the orcs (under the separate commands of Azog and Bolg), and the men of Laketown (who are fighting alongside Bard). Gandalf (Ian McKellen) must try and prevent the battle that looms but is faced with escaping the grasp of the necromancer with the help of Galadriel (Cate Blanchett). Upon arriving outside of the dwarf kingdom before the battle begins, Gandalf tries uniting the men, dwarves, and elves as he senses the impending war approaching with the orcs and wants the armies strengths combined so they can defeat the orcs. Bilbo Baggins (Martin Freeman) also tries to unite the divided armies of men, dwarfs, and elves. Legolas (Orlando Bloom) and Tauriel (Evangeline Lilly) continue to be an aid to the dwarfs as needed and are thrust directly into the ensuing battle.

Dwarf leader Thorin (Richard Armitage) has become obsessed with finding the Arkenstone: the heart of the mountain. It is kept by Bilbo Baggins as he dislikes the way that power and greed has overtaken Thorin's mind. Bilbo tries to remind Thorin of his important duties to those in need. Thorin, blinded by gold and the rage of his past, has to overcome his demons to fight as a hero once more before the war has ended. Bilbo, a true friend to Thorin, remains by his side as he faces a inner struggle to regain his sanity and to fight for what is right.    

Following An Unexpected Journey and The Desolation of Smaug, The Battle of the Five Armies is easily the most action-packed of the three films. The entire film serves to act as a concluding act to the series. It concludes the story that was established in the first Hobbit film and brings additional closure to the entire six-film saga as it creates a bridge between series. With great adventure, action, and dramatic closure, The Battle of the Five Armies is another excellent experience in the cinematic land of Middle Earth.

The performances are impressive across the board in this film. Martin Freeman serves as a sort of anchor to the proceedings with his lovable performance as Bilbo.  Richard Armitage brings dramatic weight to the character of Thorin with his remarkable performance. As always, the great Ian McKellen makes Gandalf one of the series most beloved characters. Rightfully so. Evangeline Lilly does a superb job in the role of Tauriel (the naysayers have it wrong). She brings her best to the part and makes an excellent action-hero. It's a lot of fun to see Orlando Bloom bringing the character of Legolas back. Cate Blanchett is as good as always and Luke Evans brings something uniquely special to the film with his role as Bard. These performances mesh together remarkably well and help the film to succeed during both moments of spectacle and dramatic events occurring between the characters.

The production is impressive on so many levels: from the production design to the costumes and the complicated special effects created for the complex action sequences. The Battle of the Five Armies is a tremendous technical achievement which should have found more recognition by Academy Award members this past year. Few films in the history of cinema have had such a dedicated team of artists working towards such a large-scale vision.

The production design by Dan Hennah is remarkable on every level. The detail and clarity of the work always impresses. The art direction by Andy McLaren (Avatar) is quite invigorating and has tremendous impact on the stylistic achievements as well. The cinematography by Andrew Lesnie  (a collaborator with Jackson on all six of the Middle Earth films) is some of his best work to date and perfectly captures the essence of the world and the ensuing battle. With a superb costume design team consisting of Bob Buck, Ann Maskrey, and Richard Taylor, everything about these characters also feels as real as possible for a epic fantasy-series.

The script by Fran Walsh, Philippa Boyens, Peter Jackson, and Guillermo del Toro brings a satisfying close to the saga. Peter Jackson ends his series with terrific action sequences and moments of great emotional weight interspersed throughout the journey. Jackson continues to prove why he is one of the most gifted filmmakers in the world. Jabez Olssen offers strong editing for this theatrical version of the film. Lastly, the score composed by Howard Shore amazes and matches the big level established in earlier films and the final song (written and performed by Lord of the Rings actor Billy Boyd), entitled The Last Goodbye, won't leave an audience with dry eyes.

The Hobbit: The Battle of the Five Armies proved to be a divisive film amongst many fans of Peter Jackson's Middle Earth saga. Despite some fair criticisms as a standalone feature film, everything in The Hobbit: The Battle of the Five Armies manages to amaze when viewed as a closing act to one of the most ambitious film projects ever conceived. It's difficult to imagine Battle of the Five Armies without the preceding two films accompanying it. The film does an amazing job of finding a solid place in the middle earth saga and ends on a scene which blends the conclusion into the beginning of The Fellowship of the Ring.

 I strongly urge viewers to experience the film is relatively close succession to The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey and The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug. When viewed as one epic, The Hobbit: The Battle of the Five Armies is an immensely satisfying conclusion which nicely ends the storyline that began in An Unexpected Journey and it does a splendid job of connecting the dots to The Lord of The Rings. Jackson has thoroughly connected these prequel films with this last adventure and he wouldn't have it any other way. (Neither would I.)  

If viewed on its own, the film jumps directly into the middle of the action in a way that might be disconcerting for viewers who don't have as strong of a memory of the previous entries. I firmly believe a six-film viewing of the saga will be all the more enjoyable for fans who start with The Hobbit film series before delving into The Lord of The Rings on future viewings. This series is now perfectly designed and suited for a marathon (with adequate breaks, of course). That is the best way to experience the story cinematically. The Hobbit: The Battle of the Five Armies is an amazing accomplishment which stands as one of my favorite films of the year.

The Blu-ray:


Video:

The Hobbit: The Battle of the Five Armies arrives on Blu-ray with a stunning 1080p MPEG-4 AVC encoded presentation in the original theatrical aspect ratio 2.40:1. Jackson filmed all of these Hobbit films using Red cameras and the results are magnificent. The cinematography created by Andrew Lesnie (who also worked with Jackson on all of The Lord of the Rings) impresses at every turn. There is no issue with this presentation. The image is sharp, clean, beautiful, and bold. The use of color is terrific and will certainly impress. CGI looks quite stunning throughout. There are no issues with regards to encoding strength and issues like banding are nowhere to be seen during the presentation. Audiences should feel pleased in experiencing the film on Blu-ray as this is such a strong release.

Audio:

The audio presentation includes a 7.1 DTS-HD Master Audio track. This lossless audio mix is astonishing. The detail, clarity, and depth of the audio is going to be impressive for all audio enthusiasts. Dialogue clarity is excellent. Fidelity is strong. The immersive dynamics of the sound design are enthralling and the music score composed by Howard Shore is beautifully represented on the release.

Spanish and French Dolby Digital 5.1 dub presentations are included as well. Subtitles are provided in English SDH (for the deaf and hard of hearing), Spanish, and French.

Please Note:

This three-disc release includes a Blu-ray for the feature-film presentation, a Blu-ray for the supplemental features, a DVD of the film, and a digital copy.

Extras:

New Zealand: Home of Middle Earth - Part 3 (6 min.) is part celebratory behind-the-scenes featurette with the cast and filmmakers discussing their love of the beautiful New Zealand filming locations and part promotional-piece for visiting this gorgeous country.  

Recruiting the Five Armies (12 min.) is an enjoyable behind-the-scenes piece which focuses entirely upon the extras involved in the making of The Battle of the Five Armies. It shows production crew working with the extras to stage background action, get in costume, and undergo their significant make-up transformations. Crew and extras are interviewed about experiences during filming and what it was like working on such a massive production. It's certainly a wonderful glance into what it can be like to be an extra. The filming footage is also terrific and the glimpses into the prominent extra parts (where an extra gets special screen-time in a scene) is discussed.

The two-part supplement Completing Middle Earth: A Six-Part Saga (10 min.) and Completing Middle Earth: A Seventeen Year Journey (9 min.) explores the ways in which the three Hobbit films connect to the Lord of the Rings trilogy. Featuring interview footage with Peter Jackson, Philippa Boyens, and others involved on the series. A glimpse is given into the threads woven between the six installments. The cast, crew, and filmmakers also discuss what it was like being involved in such a massive undertaking over so many years and what it was like to be part of the saga for the first time (or what it was like to return to the saga after working with Jackson on The Lord of the Rings).

The Last Goodbye: Behind the Scenes (11 min.) is an engaging look at some of the effort placed into achieving the saga's final end-credits song: from the efforts in the recording studios to the orchestration, singing, and sound mixing.

The Last Goodbye: Music Video (4 min.)

Lastly, the release includes the trailer for the extended edition of The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug and the theatrical trailer for The Hobbit: The Battle of the Five Armies.

Final Thoughts:

Even though I am a huge fan of the theatrical cut of the film (and encourage fans to add it to their film collections) I can't wait to see Jackson's extended edition of The Battle of the Five Armies. It is expected to run around 35 minutes longer than the theatrical version and the release is sure to be packed to the brim with more extensive features. It is expected to release around November 2015. If you can wait and only want one edition it would be the one to go for. However, if like me, you want to experience it now and to have both versions released (and all supplements). I encourage a purchase of this fine conclusion to Jackson's saga for serious Middle Earth fans, especially given that the Blu-ray features quality video and audio as well as an enjoyable (if relatively small) selection of supplements. This is an excellent release of one of 2014's best films.

Highly Recommended.

Neil Lumbard is a lifelong fan of cinema. He aspires to make movies and has written two screenplays on spec. He loves writing, and currently does in Texas.

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Highly Recommended

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