With The Hobbit The Battle Of The Five Armies, director Peter Jackson has concluded his epic adaptation of J.R.R. Tolkien’s classic 1937 fantasy novel (and, most likely, the entire cinematic Middle-earth saga as well). But while the movie was a bit of a letdown in theaters, watching it again at home — be it on the Blu-ray/DVD combo pack, the 3D Blu-ray/DVD combo pack, or DVD — oddly works much better.
When The Hobbit The Battle Of The Five Armies begins, a very angry Smaug the dragon is headed towards Laketown, while the dwarves celebrate that they finally have their mountain home back. But while this would seem to be a good place for the words, “And they all lived happily ever after” to appear on screen, this is really only the beginning as the dwarves are not the only ones happy that Smaug is no longer squatting in a mountain full of gold.
Which is where the problems started for The Hobbit The Battle Of The Five Armies in theaters. With [SPOILER ALERT] Smaug being defeated before the movie hits the twelve minute mark, it seemed like the film had come to a satisfying conclusion rather quickly. Especially since it made the rest of the movie feel like the aftermath to the main story. [SPOILER ALERT OVER]
But watching it again, at home, this disparity wasn’t as glaring. Maybe it’s because I’d already seen the movie, and knew what was going to happen — as opposed to when I saw it in theaters, but didn’t remember because I read the book twelve years ago — or maybe it’s because I was watching it on a relatively smaller screen, but it decidedly made everything after that twelve minute mark feel like less of an epilogue.
Though it helps if you watch The Hobbit The Battle Of The Five Armies after viewing the other two Hobbit movies and before the three The Lord Of The Rings films, as doing so effectively makes Armies the third part of a six episode saga; the Star Wars: Episode III: Revenge Of The Sith of the Middle-earth movies, if you will. Because then it doesn’t need to be as grand a climax as it did in theaters, where it was the last Hobbit movie.
While watching The Hobbit The Battle Of The Five Armies a second time, and at home, did fix its biggest problem, it doesn’t fix all of its problems. The most glaring of which is Alfrid, who is an unfunny bit of comic relief no matter how many times you see it. If anything, while he was essentially Paul Reiser in Aliens the first time, now that the movie works much better, he’s become more like Jar Jar Binks in Star Wars: Episode I: The Phantom Menace.
Also, the love triangle between Legolas, Tauriel, and Kili still seems forced, while Thorin seems to get over his psychosis a bit too quickly.
The home version of The Hobbit The Battle Of The Five Armies also adds its own problem, one that sadly plagues the previous Hobbit Blu-rays and DVDs: the audio mix was done for theaters, not home theaters or stereos. As a result, there are times when you’ll want to crank up the volume to hear what someone is saying, but then have to turn it down when the music gets real loud.
Along with the movie, The Hobbit The Battle Of The Five Armies Blu-rays and DVDs also include some interesting (though hardly unexpected) extras.
First up is “Recruiting The Five Armies,” an entertaining and informative featurette that spends nearly a dozen minutes showing how they dressed, directed, and shot the extras for the titular battle.
Next, The Hobbit The Battle Of The Five Armies Blu-rays and DVD include “Completing Middle-earth,” a two-part, nearly twenty-minute look at how the Hobbit fits in with The Lord Of The Rings films. In the first part, “A Six-Part Saga,” the filmmakers show how they included little nods to the Hobbit books in the Lord Of The Rings films, and then included those nodded-to moments in the Hobbit films. Then, in the second part, “A Seventeen-Year Journey,” they look back at how making the six Middle-earth movies was an epic undertaking that deeply impacted the lives of the cast and crew.
The Hobbit The Battle Of The Five Armies also has a six-minute-long featurette titled “New Zealand: Home Of Middle-earth, Part 3,” which concludes this look at how the titular nation once again became Middle-earth (“Part 1” and “Part 2” were on the previous Hobbit Blu-rays and DVDs). Like the other installments, it’s a fairly entertaining, and not the tourism commercial you might expect.
The Hobbit The Battle Of The Five Armies Blu-rays and DVD also, oddly, has the second trailer for the movie, but none of the others. More annoying, the trailer is on the second disc, with the rest of the special features, instead of on the first (which has the “New Zealand: Home Of Middle-earth, Part 3” featurette instead), which makes it a pain in the butt to watch the trailer before you watch the movie itself. Though since I seem to be in the minority when it comes to doing this.
It also has a trailer for the extended edition of The Hobbit: The Desolation Of Smaug, though it’s hard to imagine that if you wanted to own that version, you wouldn’t have bought it already.
Also included in The Hobbit The Battle Of The Five Armies are the music video for “The Last Goodbye,” a song written and sung by Billy Boyd (Pippen from The Lord Of The Rings), as well as an eleven minute featurette on the making of the song and the music video. But since the song isn’t as good as, say, “Ramble On” or “Misty Mountain Hop” by Led Zeppelin….
Sadly, like the Blu-rays and DVDs for the theatrical versions of the other Hobbit movies, The Hobbit The Battle Of The Five Armies also doesn’t include any deleted scenes. And while this is somewhat understandable, given that the cut stuff will be in the extended edition, it’s hard not to think there wasn’t stuff cut from this edition that didn’t make it into the longer one. At the very least, a gag reel would’ve been nice.
Also, for those who care about the third dimension, Warner Home Video didn’t send me the 3D Blu-ray/DVD combo pack of The Hobbit The Battle Of The Five Armies to review. But having the seen the 3D version of the movie in theaters, I can tell you that seeing it that way made some scenes look like they were shot on a set, with bad green screen.
As good as The Hobbit The Battle Of The Five Armies Blu-rays and DVD may be, though, it behooves me to remind you that there’s an extended edition forthcoming, which will reportedly add thirty minutes to the movie. (Based on when the previous two were released, it should be out before the end of the year.)
You should also know, if you don’t have the other two already, that both this Blu-ray and the ones for An Unexpected Journey and The Desolation Of Smaug are available in a nine-disc Blu-ray boxed set called The Hobbit: The Motion Picture Trilogy, but that there isn’t — at the moment, anyway — a boxed set of all six Hobbit and Rings films.
But for those who don’t need all three Hobbit movies, or all six Middle-earth movies, The Hobbit The Battle Of The Five Armies Blu-rays and DVD will more than suffice. Sure, it could’ve been better, so could the movie, but as is, it is a fine end to our time in Middle-earth.