Peter Jackson’s Middle-earth saga comes to a thrilling conclusion with The Hobbit: The Battle of the Five Armies, serving as both a wrap-up of The Hobbit trilogy, but also creating a bridge to the director’s Lord of the Rings trilogy.
Studio: Warner Brothers
Distributed By: N/A
Video Resolution and Encode: 1080P/AVC, 1080P/MVC
Aspect Ratio: 2.40:1
Audio: English 7.1 DTS-HDMA, Spanish 5.1 DD, French 5.1 DD
Subtitles: English SDH, Spanish, French
Run Time: 2 Hr. 24 Min.
Package Includes: Blu-ray, 3D Blu-ray, DVD, UltraViolet5-disc Blu-ray keepcase with lenticular sleeve
Disc Type: BD50 (dual layer), DVD-9 (dual layer)
Region: A, 1
Release Date: 03/24/2015
Unlike the previous entry, The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug, which included a tacked on prologue to refamiliarize viewers of what occurred in The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey, the final entry, The Hobbit: The Battle of the Five Armies gets right to the point and picks up almost exactly where the previous film left off, with Smaug (voiced by Benedict Cumberbatch) burning Laketown to ashes while the citizens flee for their lives. As Thorin (Richard Armitage) and his band of dwarves view the destruction from Erebor with Bilbo (Martin Freeman), Bard (Luke Evans) reclaims his destiny by striking down Smaug and saving the villagers, who take refuge in the deserted town of Dale along the shores of the lake. But the gold within the mountain is sickening Thorin’s mind, driving him mad with envy and rage, so much so that when Thranduil (Lee Pace) arrives with an army of elves to both offer aid to the Laketown refugees and reclaim a white gem necklace hidden inside the mountain that once belonged to him, Thorin would rather go to war than share in the wealth that he had promised.
The Production Rating: 4.5/5
Meanwhile, Gandalf (Ian McKellen) is still imprisoned by the Orcs at Dol Goldur, and is eventually freed by Galadriel (Cate Blanchett), with assistance from Elrond (Hugo Weaving), Saruman (Christopher Lee), and Radagast (Sylvester McCoy), but at a great cost to Galadriel. Knowing what the Orcs are up to, Gandalf rushes back to Dale to warn Bilbo, Thorin, Thranduil, and Bard of what’s to come. This all leads to a defining moment in Middle-earth, with Sauron taking his first strike against dwarves, elves, and mankind with an all-out battle.
As a movie, The Hobbit: The Battle of the Five Armies works exceptionally well, with engaging battle sequences and a brisk pace that keeps the audience entertained and engaged in the storyline. Those battle sequences, however, do not top the technical achievement of those in Peter Jackson’s previous Middle-earth films, The Two Towers and The Return of the King from The Lord of the Rings trilogy. The movie does succeed in tying up the loose ends from the previous Hobbit films, including the Romeo and Juliet love affair between Kili (Aidan Turner) and Tauriel (Evangeline Lilly), and sets up story threads that continue in The Lord of the Rings.
The overall video quality provides excellent color reproduction (even if it was tweaked during post production) as well as detail. Blacks are nice and inky, while whites are often bright but never clip. Although shot in native 3D at 48 fps, Battle has a much more film-like appearance than the first entry, An Unexpected Journey, which often looked too much like it was shot on digital video (which all three Hobbit films were). The 2D version is on one BD50 disc (as noted above), and presents the film in 1080p with its intended 2.40 theatrical aspect ratio, using the AVC codec.
Video Rating: 5/5 3D Rating: 4.5/5
The 3D version is spread over two discs (as noted above) to maximize bitrates, using its 3D more for a sense of scale and depth rather than relying on gimmicky pop-outs (although there are a few instances of swords and such breaking the plane, resulting in what I like to refer to as the flinch test). Ghosting and crosstallk was virtually non-existent on my Samsung 60F7100, especially after adjusting the 3D settings on the TV and using XpanD Universal RF 3D glasses rather than Samsung’s included battery-operated ones.
The 7.1 DTS-HD Master Audio track is another go-to disc to demo my sound system, even folded down to 5.1 by my Marantz SR5008 receiver. The action sequences are immersive, with excellent placement of discrete surround effects and a very aggressive low-end that will give your subwoofer a good workout. Even with such an aggressive mix, dialogue remains clear and understandable, never getting drowned out by sound effects or music.
Audio Rating: 5/5
New Zealand: Home of Middle-earth, Part 3 (1080p; 7:11): Accessible from disc one of the 3D version and disc three (which contains the entire 2D version). The featurette is basically a promo for tourism in New Zealand, masquerading as a documentary on the filming locations for The Hobbit: The Battle of the Five Armies.
Special Features Rating: 3.5/5
Recruiting the Five Armies (1080p; 11:39): A look at the extras hired to play Dwarves, Elves, Orcs, and townspeople for the epic battle sequences.
Completing Middle-earth: A Six-Part Saga (1080p; 9:54): A look at the narrative threads and connections the filmmakers wove into The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings trilogies to make them one complete, cohesive story.
Completing Middle-earth: A Seventeen-Year Journey (1080p; 8:59): Follows the 17-year journey the filmmakers undertook to bring Middle-earth to the screen.
The Last Goodbye: Behind the Scenes (1080p; 11:18): A look at the writing and recording of the final end credit song.
The Last Goodbye Music Video (1080p; 4:21): Performed by Billy Boyd.
Trailer #2 (1080p; 2:33): The second theatrical trailer for The Hobbit: The Battle of the Five Armies.
The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug - Extended Edition Trailer (1080p; 1:34)
DVD Copy: The feature film plus New Zealand: Home of Middle-earth, Part 3 in 480p standard definition.
UltraViolet Digital HD Copy: Redemption code must be used by March 28, 2018.
As a moviegoer, I had almost written off Peter Jackson’s attempt at bringing The Hobbit to the big screen after the disappointing first film, An Unexpected Journey, due to its slow pacing. The Desolation of Smaug, in its theatrical form, was a complete 180 from that first film, a truly engaging experience, as is this final film, The Battle of the Five Armies. The special features are rather bland, but that has always been the case with the theatrical versions of the Middle-earth films, with the wealth of bonus materials arriving on the extended versions. The 3D is more about providing an epic scope and depth to the story rather than adding any gimmickry, so those looking for popout may be somewhat disappointed. This release is more for the casual fan and the completists (who must own every version and want ALL of the bonus materials). True fans will likely want to wait for the Extended Edition to be released later this year.
Overall Rating: 4/5
Reviewed By: Todd Erwin
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