“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. (from Movieweb.com)
When the third and final installment of The Hobbit hit theaters last year, I wrote up a full review on that film, as well as the initial Blu-Ray release--which you can read all of here--so here I'm going to focus entirely on the Extended Edition of The Battle of the Five Armies, what you can expect, and how it affects the film as a whole.
When they announced this Extended Edition a few months ago, the Internet was ablaze with chatter over the rating... this was the first movie and edition of a movie in either The Hobbit or Lord of the Rings series to get slapped with an R rating. Yes, you read that right; The Hobbit: The Battle of the Five Armies - Extended Edition is rated R. The MPAA attached "for some violence" as its rating description, but what in the world does that mean exactly? The PG-13 rating for the original film was rated for "extended sequences of intense fantasy action violence, and frightening images," so to simplify all of that to "for some violence" seems really dumbed down and obscure.
Despite the fact that I still largely adhere to my own, personal choice to not watch R-rated movies, I took a chance on The Battle of the Five Armies with the understanding that it's probably just more brutal orc deaths, and I was right for the most part (Director Peter Jackson was also quoted as saying he had originally cut some of the orc violence out to get the PG-13 rating). The violence you saw in the original cut of The Battle of the Five Armies is all there, with the addition of quite a few more orc decapitations and even some outright obliterations. And most of these instances have dark red/black blood splashing around or at the screen. It's gory and gruesome, but it's limited to Middle Earth monsters and not humans. But the weird part--to me, at least--is that while the violence in the other movies (like Return of the King) seemed like a lot but still rather fitting given the battle scenes, the gratuitous gore here feels out of place for a movie largely about Hobbits and dwarves. And The Hobbit was largely a family story, or aimed at young adults at least. For it to earn a gruesome finale feels unwarranted and misguided.
The new scenes and extended ones are mostly good additions. Where the additions to An Unexpected Journey did nothing for me (and I missed out on the Desolation of Smaug Extended Edition; the thought of any additional footage or behind the scenes of the Mirkwood fight discouraged me from checking it out), I feel like the little pieces--apart from the shocking gory moments--added to the story. Bofur gets a few new, great moments to shine, including steering a large troll through battle by sticking a weapon into its head. Bombur also gets some fun fighting moments--bouncing off his adversaries, while an extended "war chariot" ride adds to a chase scene that produces some of the more suprisingly gross moments (It soars over a ledge at one point and the spinning blades on the wheels decapitate a series of orcs in a splashy, bloody mess). Also, the sequence where Gandalf gets rescued from Dol Guldur is longer and a little more exciting (although it's still a weird scene where heroes and villains from Lord of the Rings come to Gandalf's aid and fend off apparitions in armor). But one of the more fun additions is a scene where Radagast gives Gandalf his iconic staff, but tells him it's a little finicky. Later, we get a satisfying scene that ends the worst character of The Hobbit series, Alfrid, when Gandalf tries to fight off a troll with his staff but he can't get it to do anything. (Alfrid ends up accidentally saving Gandalf and ending his own life in the same motion, even if it doesn't make a whole lot of sense. Nevertheless, it's the kind of gratification most Star Wars fans would have had to see Jar Jar Binks meet his end on screen.)
As far as the new, added violence goes, as I said earlier, most of it is orc-related or monster-related gore. The first moment added to the mix is Galadriel using her powers to obliterate a large orc. In a flash, we see it burst into a spray of guts and bone. And that's kind of a good description of the additional violence; it's all quick and over-the-top. It never feels all that realistic, but it still does feel unnecessary, and it's kind of shocking when it happens suddenly. Another scene shows Bifur--who has a piece of ax stuck in his head all the time--getting that blade wedged in the head of an attacking orc. They get stuck together, and several of the dwarves try to pull him off of it. In the end, the blade comes out of Bifur's head an he just tosses it aside. Another scene shows Legolas dangling upside down as he flies over an army of orcs and he slashes their heads (which have helmets on them) and necks as he passes over. The scene with the war chariot shows a wolf-like beast exploding in a splash of blood when it gets caught in the spinning blades on the chariot wheels. Before that is the aforementioned scene where the blades obliterate the heads off of several orcs, and later we see one of the wheels decapitate another orc as it runs over it. Other scenes include a gag in which the dwarves keep throwing an ax into one orc's skull and then another takes it out and throws it into another orc and another takes it out and throws it. And there's just additional battle footage, and pervasive action related to that. Honestly, the movie just has too much battle action that makes it unnecessarily longer and, again, it doesn't seem to really fit the story. Considering how the battles are centered around claiming the mountain after the dragon is dead, as opposed to in Lord of the Rings when it's a massive defensive battle against absolute evil taking over all of creation, there's just something about it that doesn't work as well in tone and execution.
While I rated The Hobbit: The Battle of the Five Armies - Extended Edition slightly lower than the theatrical version, I think most of the added scenes serve the film better. I rated it lower because the additional gore isn't necessary and doesn't add anything at all to the movie.- John DiBiase (reviewed: 11/14/15)
The film in 3D is pretty good; Peter Jackson actually used 3D cameras while filming. However, I don't feel as though the movie translates as well in 3D as some other films (I actually thought San Andreas and Pixels played better in 3D, to be honest). Still, the 3D is good here--just maybe not a "must" for a movie like this. Also, with the bloodier scenes, Jackson takes advantage of the 3D by throwing the blood at the screen. It makes it a little more jarring when it's flying at you.
As with the previous Extended Editions for the three Lord of the Rings films and the previous two Hobbit movies, the Extended Edition of The Battle of the Five Armies includes two bonus discs with hours of bonus features -- close to TEN hours, to be exact. It's a staggering amount of bonus material! I wasn't expecting to be super engaged by the first disc's round of production diaries, but I actually found it very, very intriguing. As the production wound down, things were at a pretty fast pace, and the shoots were emotionally charged since it was roughly 2 and a half years' worth of the cast and crew working together... and it was all coming to an end. If anything, these special features helped me appreciate the movies and the cast a lot more. (Note: There's some mild language throughout these featurettes and the "F" words are usually mostly bleeped out, although barely sometimes.)
Appendecies Part 11: The Gathering Storm (4:52:49)
The content on the first bonus disc is available in a Play All function and then separated out by section. The Opening serves as a teaser of what's ahead, and "In the Dungeons of the Necromancer" kicks things off, taking us to the Dol Guldur where Cate Blanchett, Hugo Weaving and Christopher Lee join Ian McKellen. Jackson describes these scenes as "telling the untold story from the book" and we're shared some excellent on-set, behind-the-scenes footage (even Cate bringing her kids on set, who were afraid of how scary it looks!). It's also here where they introduce one of the crew's own creation - a "prize wheel," where cast and crew were given the chance to win trips and prizes (or nothing) every day! Another fun anecdote was seeing the flirtatious chemistry between Ian and Cate on screen. These scenes were actually the first real scenes the two got to do together over the course of the six films! (There's 1 mouthed "F" word from Ian and 2 spoken "S" words)
Fire and Water - This filming took place in August 2011 (remember that the movie released in 2014!) with Luke Evans as Bard on the first day of set. New Zealand also experienced a huge snow storm -- the first in roughly 40 years, and it nearly halted production! Another fun moment was that there was a day where extras weren't available, so the film crew populated Lake Town that day in full costume. Orlando Bloom--who played Legolas--even had his mom appear as one of the towns people in one short scene. Finally, we see some on set footage of Benedict Cumberbatch filming his scenes as Smaug, and they used his real voice screaming as the dragon is dying.
In Under the Shadow of the Mountain, the dwarf cast go up a mountain in New Zealand, but the clouds roll in, so the cast and crew had to rush out or get stuck there. As it turned out, part of the production unit did get stuck on the mountain for a little bit. In the Wake of the Dragon shows the post-Smaug-attack devastation filmed on the beach of Lake Pukaki. The crew were tasked in littering the beach with remnants of Lake Town and then filled the set with local extras. In this segment, we also hear about the "Victoria Cross," an award created by a crew member (her name is also Victoria, paying tribute to the real war medal) who awarded cast members for being sticklers for continuity while filming. It's also here where we learn that Peter Jackson doesn't care at all about continuity!
In The Gathering of the Clouds, we learn that Peter Jackson never did pre-production on The Hobbit films. He had about three years to prepare for The Lord of the Rings trilogy, but because Guillermo del Toro had started production on The Hobbit before the series was handed off to Peter, the LOTR veteran hadn't the needed time to prepare. Sadly, I think that hurt the movies. However, it was cool to see that Ian McKellen would always refer to Tolkien's original book and champion the use of the original dialog in the film. Other neat little moments included Lee Pace's horse (named "Moose") not standing still for the takes, the gang vocal recording of the battle chants, and the fact that production was delayed a full year so Peter could better plan the battle of the five armies. (1 "S" word)
Many Partings is about the end of principal photography and Martin Freeman wrapping up his last scene (in the tent with Ian and Lee). It was a wrap on 266 days of filming, until pick-ups a year later. For the prize wheel, they gave away four trip packages to the premiere of the film in key places around the globe. We also get a peek at the last day of shooting. The Cloud Bursts shows how, at Comic Con 2012, Jackson announced that the movies would be stretched from two to three. Everyone then came back in May 2013 for pick-ups and filming in the town of Dale. Despite this being the scheduled time for "pick-ups," the crew still needed to shoot all of the battle scenes. Things get a little silly when we see some green screen horseback riding with Legolas and Tauriel (and how the awkwardness of how it looked made it a joke that went viral online). We also learn that they'd filmed 3 days of Gandalf with the completely wrong wizard staff, so they had to digitally fix it in post-production. And at one point, during filming, smoke was seen billowing up from behind the Dale set and they soon discovered that the generator for the lights had caught fire. No one was hurt and nothing was seriously damaged, so Peter just went on filming. One of the highlights of this sequence, though, is the behind the scenes on a completely unused sequence where Bard and Gandalf think they're all going to die in Dale, so Bilbo plants his acorn right then and there to let them know that life goes on. We then see the whole scene finished here (it's a touching scene, but I see why Pete cut it).
A Last Desperate Stand shows Orlando filming some of his scenes, including Legolas slicing the orc heads off while hanging upside down and how he filmed it. We also see some of Tauriel's fight scenes and how, in one take, Evangeline forgot to duck and was accidentally punched in the head (and nearly knocked out). We also see the filming of Orlando and Evangeline's last scenes and watch them receive parting gifts of realistic reproductions of their characters' weapons. We also see Martin filming Bilbo and Thorin's final moments, and Ian's last scene ever as Gandalf. (2 "S" words) Out from the Gate is dedicated to the dwarves' charge as they rush out of the castle into battle. We see the guys suiting up in their battle armor, but they quickly learn that they cannot move in the armor, so they had to change the scenes so that the dwarves decide to fight without it. We also see them filing the chariot chase (and it being built by the prop department), as well as Martin Freeman's final shots on set. For that, Benedict showed up to congratulate his friend and Sherlock co-star.
Things draw to a close with The Last Stage. This covers the last day of shooting, which also featured some of the key death scenes in the movie. And for a lot of Thorin's big fight scenes, Richard Armitage and Peter Jackson were both really sick--but they didn't want to let that hold them back. They also show us deleted footage of Dwalin fighting through orcs while trying to get to Thorin to save him (and failing). Finally, we see a playful race between the Main and Splinter filming units as they see who can wrap filming first. The dwarf cast then share their tearful goodbyes and receive commemorative photos and paintings of their characters as gifts.
Appendecies Part 12: Here At Journey's End (5:00:14)
The People and Denizens of Middle-Earth (1:28:08) is all about designing and casting Evangeline as Tauriel, Lee Pace as Thraundil and Billy Connolly as Dain. My favorite parts were about Evie and Billy, and it was really interesting to hear Billy talk about how he used to hate Tolkien fans back in the day. So it seems really ironic for him to agree to be in a Hobbit film! We do see him suit up as Dain and get into costume, before learning that Pete wanted to scale back the costume so you could see more of Billy in Dain's appearance. That may explain why Dain looks really digitally animated in the finished film. The documentaries wrap up with Realms of the Third Age: From the City of Dale to the Halls of Erebor (1:30:28) and Farewell, Friends! (32:56)
Lastly are the additional Bonus Features: Butt-Numb-A-Thon 2011 Greeting; "Rivers of Gold" Music Video (4:23), which features Jed "Nori" Brophy rapping on set and turning it into a music video with the rest of the dwarf cast; and The Real Adam Brown (5:25), which is just a mockumentary about Adam actually being evil and a problem on set (which wasn't the case).- John DiBiase, (reviewed: 11/15/15)
Disclaimer: All reviews are based solely on the opinions of the reviewer. Most reviews are rated on how the reviewer enjoyed the film overall, not exclusively on content. However, if the content really affects the reviewer's opinion and experience of the film, it will definitely affect the reviewer's overall rating.
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