Nov 232015
 
Title: The Hobbit: The Battle of the Five Armies – Extended Edition
Genre: Fantasy
Starring: Martin Freeman,
Ian McKellen,
Richard Armitage,
Luke Evans,
Orlando Bloom,
Certificate: 15
Picture: 1080p
2.40:1
Audio Format: DTS-HD Master Audio 7.1
Subtitles: English,
Chinese,
Portuguese,
Korean
Spanish,
French. etc.
Runtime: 2 Hours 44 mins
Extras: Featurettes,
Commentary,
Production Videos,
etc.
Studio: Warner Home Entertainment
Release Date: Nov 23 2015
See If You Like: An Unexpected Journey,
The Desolation of Smaug

While there was plenty to appreciate with the theatrical release of The Hobbit: The Battle of the Five Armies, it left a lot of people suffering from battle fatigue. Thankfully the same cannot be said for the newly released Battle of the Five Armies Extended Edition.

With a near 20-minute extended runtime the extended edition now runs at 164 minutes (that’s over two and a half hours) and, given my complaints of the theatrical edition mainly hinged on the battle fatigue induced by it seemingly being one huge fight sequence, it may come as a surprise to hear the majority of the new and extended scenes are not only more battle-orientated, but they actually help the whole movie flow much better.

Obviously there are more story moments; goodbyes to fallen friends last a little longer, and we get some more exposition; but the majority of the added footage is contained within the titular battle. Much of that battle footage also involves beheadings, trolls, and war machines, and it’s easy to see why the new release has necessitated the jump up to a 15-Cert.

Everything from the theatrical version remains in-tact; the shoehorning in of Lord of the Rings mentions, the special effects, the payoff, the soundtrack, mostly strong performances and the wonderfully fitting end to the Middle Earth movies; but thankfully, as with all other extended editions of Peter Jackson’s Middle Earth movies (with the exception of the first Hobbit film), the extra scenes not only embellish and expand upon everything we liked about the film first time around, they fully enhance and improve the overall experience – meaning this is guaranteed to become the accepted cannon version for any true fan.

If you didn’t like The Battle of the Five Armies first time around then the extended edition will do little to change your mind, however if you did enjoy it, this new release will simply further your appreciation of the final chapter in The Hobbit trilogy. A solid release, and a true must-have for any real fan of Peter Jackson’s Middle Earth movies.

Picture:

In terms of video quality, the transfer is practically identical to the earlier theatrical release; keen-eyed viewers will be able to spot the odd instance of crush, but that’s not to say dark scenes (of which there are quite a few) look anything less than fantastic; blacks are deep and inky, fine detail is stellar, and colour reproduction is excellent.

Textures are well refined, contrast is excellent, and thankfully the transfer is largely free from any significant anomalies (you’ll be hard-pushed to find any serious banding, artifacting, or aliasing issues), and overall The Hobbit: The Battle of the Five Armies looks every bit as impressive as you’d want it to on Blu-ray.

THE HOBBIT: THE BATTLE OF FIVE ARMIES

Audio:

Coming by way of a 7.1 DTS-HD Master Audio mix, the soundtrack awarded to The Hobbit: The Battle of the Five Armies also sounds every bit as detailed and impressive as you’d hope it would. The ever active rear channels burst to infuse the sound field with life, there’s a hearty amount of low-end giving weight to the battle scenes, and effects are handled superbly; pans and directionality are faultless; and spot-on prioritisation means dialogue is well-anchored, always intelligible, and never gets lost in the fray. An all-encompassing, fully engrossing, and wholly inviting soundtrack which effectively enhances the film.

Extras:

Unfortunately, there hasn’t been enough time to provide thorough scrutiny of the special features included on this release – so we’re simply reduced to listing what’s available here. Though, anyone who’s delved into the myriad of extras included on any of The Hobbit or Lord of the Rings releases in the past will know just how brilliant they always are; there isn’t a single production which has put as much effort into their behind the scenes footage and inclusions as the Middle Earth movies, and coming with over 11 hours of special features, The Battle of the Five Armies is no exception.

Coming with both the 2D and 3D versions, the 2D version of the film also comes with optional filmmakers commentary (which, judging by previous releases in the series will be equally fun and informative). The bulk of the bonus materials however are spread across discs 4 and 5 of the 5-disc set; where you’ll find cast and crew stories, interviews, production blogs and diaries, concept art, behind the scenes footage, and a huge amount of detail delving into the battle sequences (devising the complex battle, applying prosthetics, designing new weapons etc.), and every aspect of production; detailing everything from the ideas phase, through design work, manufacturing, screen tests, and application.

THE HOBBIT: THE DESOLATION OF SMAUG

Though one of the most appealing aspects for fans will be the touching goodbyes held on disc 5; where the cast and crew not only bid farewell to one another when filming ended, but talk of the entire journey (including LOTR) and the need to provide a fitting end to the entire saga; which leads nicely into bringing back former hobbit Billy Boyd (best known as Pippin) to provide the end credits song which closed The Five Armies.

All in all (remember, not all aspects have been thoroughly examined due to time constraints), it appears as though Peter Jackson and Warner Home Entertainment have done a fantastic job once again, and given fans north of 11 hours worth of bonus materials they’ll not only love exploring, but will likely delve back into time and again. A brilliant and faultless selection.

The Bottom Line:

If you didn’t like The Hobbit films, the extended edition of The Hobbit: The Battle Of The Five Armies will do little to change your mind however, as the extended runtime, extra battle scenes, and longer goodbyes somehow make the entire movie flow better, it’s guaranteed to be the preferred version of choice for any Hobbit fan going forward.

Not only does the extra 20 minutes make for a better film, it makes for a better trilogy overall, and given this latest release once again comes with hugely impressive audio and visual transfers, not to mention to simply astonishing level of fan-pleasing behind the scenes special features, there’s no reason not to invest in a copy. The Hobbit: The Battle of the Five Armies – Extended Edition is a true must have for any Middle Earth fan, a fantastic gift this Christmas, and guaranteed to become the accepted version of the film in years to come.

You can read my full review of the theatrical edition of the movie here.

Matt Wheeldon@TheMattWheeldon.

Film:
Ratings 08 Buy from Amazon.co.uk Buy from Amazon.com
Video:
Ratings 08
Audio:
Ratings 10
Extras:
Ratings 10
Overall:
Ratings 09