Reviews

The Third Time, 'The Hobbit: The Battle of the Five Armies' Is Not the Charm

The extended edition of the third Hobbit film is just as bloated as the second one, but the bonus features are a must-have if you're a fan of the film.


The Hobbit: The Battle of the Five Armies

Director: Peter Jackson
Cast: Martin Freeman, Ian McKellen, Richard Armitage, Evangeline Lilly, Lee Pace, Luke Evans, Benedict Cumberbatch, Ken Stott, James Nesbitt, Cate Blanchett, Ian Holm, Christopher Lee, Hugo Weaving, Orlando Bloom
Distributor: New Line
Rated: R
Release date: 2015-11-17

Those who are wondering what director Peter Jackson has to say to those who are not heaping praise on his Hobbit films the way they did with his Lord of the Rings trilogy need look no further than the bonus features in this extended edition release of The Hobbit: The Battle of the Five Armies. In them, Jackson admits that taking the reins from Guillermo del Toro so late in the pre-production process left him no time to prep the movies his way.

Jackson explains: "We didn’t wind the clock back a year-and-a-half and give me a year-and-a-half prep [time] to design the movie, which was different to what he was doing. It was impossible, and as a result of it being impossible I just started shooting the movie with most of it not prepped at all."

There you have it. If you'd rather not dig through the bonus features to find his comments, someone has helpfully uploaded them to YouTube.

When I reviewed the film's theatrical cut on Blu-ray, I found it bloated and seriously in need of being combined with its predecessor to create a streamlined sequel to The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey. While the first movie benefited from some fleshing out with materials from Tolkien's Lord of the Rings appendices, the second and third films were weighed down by lengthy unnecessary subplots involving a new Elvish character, Tauriel, and "I am the one percent" scenes with the Master of Laketown, among other things.

In addition, the set pieces felt like someone at special effects house Weta was mashing controller buttons, as the barrel ride in the second film became something akin to a bonus level in a videogame. Same with the plot to encase the dragon Smaug in molten gold, which serves as the climax to the second installment.

The third film cut down on the movies-meets-video-games moments, thankfully, but the bloated plot problems remained, and the opening with Smaug's attack on Laketown was a sequence that would have made more sense at the end of the second movie. This extended edition does little to fix those problems, although it does fill a few holes, such as showing us the fate of Alfrid, the Master of Laketown's sniveling number two, and it gives us a few nice tie-ins with the next trilogy, including a moment wherein Gandalf gets his new staff. However, it would have been nice if the additions had come with cuts to get rid of the bloat.

Interestingly, enough carnage was added to the battle scenes that this version earned an R rating, which makes it the only Middle-earth film to have one.

The bonus features in this three-disc set follow the same formula as the previous extended editions, starting with a commentary track featuring Jackson and co-writer Philippa Boyens. Like the other discussions they've had on Middle-earth films, this one is enjoyable and interesting, with plenty of good information for the fans. A moment of intrigue arrives when they say that they would be interested in seeing others remake the two trilogies some day. The movie disc also has a six-minute piece about the New Zealand locations used for the film.

Over on disc two, the voluminous appendices begun for the first two extended editions continue with Part 11: The Gathering Storm. This is a massive five-hour chronicling of the making of the movie, from on-set moments to special effects insights and more. An enormous amount of grueling work goes into an epic film like this one, and this bonus feature captures the highs, the lows, and just about every mood in between.

Disc three finishes the appendices with Part 12: Here at Journey's End, another five-hour marathon that takes a deep dive into: the creation of the climactic Battle of the Five Armies; the design and casting of Tauriel, Thranduil, and Dain Ironfoot; and the practical and special effects work that went into creating Dale, Dol Guldur, and Erebor.

The final disc wraps up with a birthday greeting from Jackson and Ian McKellen for Harry Knowles, who runs the site Ain't It Cool News and who hosts the annual Butt-Numb-a-Thon in Austin, along with an amusing look at Adam Brown, the actor who played Ori, a music video for "Rivers of Gold", and a touching remembrance for the late Andrew Lesnie, the cinematographer who worked on all six Tolkien films.

That's it for Jackson's second and last epic trilogy based on Tolkien's works, unless a studio puts up the money for him to adapt The Silmarillion as a ten-film series. It feels anti-climactic, which is a bummer considering the huge wave that The Lord of the Rings rode over a decade ago, but The Hobbit simply joins the detritus from promising movies that crashed on release. (Matrix sequels or Star Wars prequels, anyone?)

5

In the wake of Malcolm Young's passing, Jesse Fink, author of The Youngs: The Brothers Who Built AC/DC, offers up his top 10 AC/DC songs, each seasoned with a dash of backstory.

In the wake of Malcolm Young's passing, Jesse Fink, author of The Youngs: The Brothers Who Built AC/DC, offers up his top 10 AC/DC songs, each seasoned with a dash of backstory.

Keep reading... Show less

Pauline Black may be called the Queen of Ska by some, but she insists she's not the only one, as Two-Tone legends the Selecter celebrate another stellar album in a career full of them.

Being commonly hailed as the "Queen" of a genre of music is no mean feat, but for Pauline Black, singer/songwriter of Two-Tone legends the Selecter and universally recognised "Queen of Ska", it is something she seems to take in her stride. "People can call you whatever they like," she tells PopMatters, "so I suppose it's better that they call you something really good!"

Keep reading... Show less

Morrison's prose is so engaging and welcoming that it's easy to miss the irreconcilable ambiguities that are set forth in her prose as ineluctable convictions.

It's a common enough gambit in science fiction. Humans come across a race of aliens that appear to be entirely alike and yet one group of said aliens subordinates the other, visiting violence upon their persons, denigrating them openly and without social or legal consequence, humiliating them at every turn. The humans inquire why certain of the aliens are subjected to such degradation when there are no discernible differences among the entire race of aliens, at least from the human point of view. The aliens then explain that the subordinated group all share some minor trait (say the left nostril is oh-so-slightly larger than the right while the "superior" group all have slightly enlarged right nostrils)—something thatm from the human vantage pointm is utterly ridiculous. This minor difference not only explains but, for the alien understanding, justifies the inequitable treatment, even the enslavement of the subordinate group. And there you have the quandary of Otherness in a nutshell.

Keep reading... Show less
3

A 1996 classic, Shawn Colvin's album of mature pop is also one of best break-up albums, comparable lyrically and musically to Joni Mitchell's Hejira and Bob Dylan's Blood on the Tracks.

When pop-folksinger Shawn Colvin released A Few Small Repairs in 1996, the music world was ripe for an album of sharp, catchy songs by a female singer-songwriter. Lilith Fair, the tour for women in the music, would gross $16 million in 1997. Colvin would be a main stage artist in all three years of the tour, playing alongside Liz Phair, Suzanne Vega, Sheryl Crow, Sarah McLachlan, Meshell Ndegeocello, Joan Osborne, Lisa Loeb, Erykah Badu, and many others. Strong female artists were not only making great music (when were they not?) but also having bold success. Alanis Morissette's Jagged Little Pill preceded Colvin's fourth recording by just 16 months.

Keep reading... Show less
9

Frank Miller locates our tragedy and warps it into his own brutal beauty.

In terms of continuity, the so-called promotion of this entry as Miller's “third" in the series is deceptively cryptic. Miller's mid-'80s limited series The Dark Knight Returns (or DKR) is a “Top 5 All-Time" graphic novel, if not easily “Top 3". His intertextual and metatextual themes resonated then as they do now, a reason this source material was “go to" for Christopher Nolan when he resurrected the franchise for Warner Bros. in the mid-00s. The sheer iconicity of DKR posits a seminal work in the artist's canon, which shares company with the likes of Sin City, 300, and an influential run on Daredevil, to name a few.

Keep reading... Show less
8
Pop Ten
Mixed Media
PM Picks

© 1999-2017 Popmatters.com. All rights reserved.
Popmatters is wholly independently owned and operated.

rating-image