A must for fans of Peter Jackson's Hobbit trilogy, The Hobbit: The Battle of Five Armies gets an extended edition with a 20-minute longer cut of the feature film and an additional nine hours of bonus features.
The additional content will include audio commentary with Peter Jackson and his co-producer and screenwriter Philippa Boyens as well as a multi-part documentary that covers all aspects of the film and the trilogy.
I grew up having the Lord of the Rings and The Hobbit books read to me and the films were all a must see on the big screen and so to get this on dvd with all the extras on it was both wonderful and a bit daunting, consider that there's nine hours of extra features!!!
I decided to start off with the special features, having seen the movie already I figured what better way to kick off watching it again than getting to learn more about what went on behind the scenes before viewing it again. The very first special features disc comes with six menu options as well as bonus features... (a bonus disc with bonus features....). We start off with some of the cast and a little focus on the Necromancer and Sauron, now Ian McKellen, being in his early 90's during filming wasn't expected to fly to good ol' New Zealand and so they shot his scenes on the green screen in London, along with his cast mates for their shared scenes and I loved hearing from him that he doesn't pick a role based upon how famous it will make him but by being able to create a memorable character. There's a few behind the scenes part showing audio such as recording the children crying and screaming for the Lake Town scenes and Benedict Cumberpatch recording his lines in the black language. I loved little tidbits like Smaug is the size of two 747's side by side wide and head to tail!!
Each bit was nicely separate and had its own title, it didn't seem like they would talk about much but there's plenty jammed into each part. We also get little snippets down in a bottom corner which looks like someone cut it out of the script, which is quite neat. We get to 'talk' to a lot of people who worked on the film, and I learned of roles I didn't even know existed, such as Victoria who's main aim was to try and ensure the continuity was maintained and they came up with 'Victoria's Cross' to give to people who really maintained their continuity, Luke Evans got the first one on set (did not know he was also a dancer). One of the bonus features is a song written by Jed Brophy aka Nori, it won't win any awards, that's for sure, but a good way to see how much fun the cast had on set.
The second disc of special features follows along from the first disc, the set up and menus, as well as the transitioning between each part remains the same which gives great continuity. I love the discussion about Bilbo and his acorn and how he has held on to it, then shows us the scene where he buries it in Lake Town, a scene that never made it to the film but is rather beautiful. The drawings shown at the start of each clip are gorgeous and look like they've come straight out of the book, I'd be really happy to see them integrated in a future printed edition of the book. We see a lot of on the set moments, so it's quite neat to see where they've built the sets and the green screen behind it. 2013 says it was 14 years working on these films (including LOTR) which really has me going "has it really been that long!!!!" and there's one special feature focused on the final day of shooting and I liked seeing what the final scenes shot were because of course, nothing is filmed in order, but seeing how excited everyone was to reach the end etc... was heaps of fun.
The third and final disc comes with three main features as well as 'Andrew Lesnie Remembered' and the credits. The first two options each have a further three options inside them, so you're certainly not lacking in anything to watch and these extra options give a little more insight into Tauriel, Thranduil, Oáin Ironfoot, Dale, Dol Guldul and Erebor. It was interesting seeing where Tolkien got his ideas from, such as his elves, for which he did a lot of background reading into so that he could get more of an idea upon where to take his elves. Also, Tauriel's costume was thanks to being a costume at New Zealand's World of Wearable Arts and the artist was hired to help make her costume. This disc gives us more of the history the creation of certain places and characters and not as much focus on the filming, there's still interviews with some of the actors and those behind the scenes and Tolkien's decisions and inspirations. Out of all the special features, the ones on this disc really interested me the most, it's more of a history lesson into the world of Middle Earth.
Popping in the first disc (the movie has been split up onto two discs) I went and checked out yet more special features, going first with watching the three trailers that are on here, a part three featurette (I can only assume parts one and two are on the previous film discs), I was hesitant to watch it given how many hours of special feature I've just seen but this doesn't duplicate anything I had seen which was great, basically an ad for how beautiful our backdrop is. We also have the option to turn on the directors commentary, which at times feels surplus to ones needs after seeing the extra discs but at the same time has some good, directly linked to scenes but don't have it on if you want to hear everything that's going on...
I would have loved it if there was an option in the menu to watch only the extended scenes that have been added, this way, if not listening to the directors commentary you could still find out what and where, as it was, without the commentary on I had no idea if it was I had watched any extended scenes or not (to test this I watched the first half commentary free and second half with the commentary going). Disc two of the movie, other than the option to turn on the special features there are no extra bonuses to view. The first half of the movie stops at a very good moment, not in heavy action, but a perfect pause for changing discs, it was good to be able to put in the second disc and it gives you the option of going into the menu or to continue straight into where we left off.
There's a great extended scene that features a chariot journey and I must say I really enjoyed it (though again, had you asked me before I heard it was added in for this release, I wouldn't have been able to say either way if it had been added back in or not). It was interesting to hear why they left certain scenes out of the film, such as just not a perfect vibe, not the time for comedy or left out to keep their rating, and I find that particularly interesting and enjoy hearing those little tidbits. Also, should anyone wish to know, Peter Jackson does indeed have a cameo, as a picture on the wall of Bilbo's father, Bongo.
I know a lot of people weren't happy with how the film ended up playing out and I can see how but I have to be honest and say that I loved this film, I grew up reading The Hobbit and LOTR but I also knew I couldn't go into watching this and comparing it to the book along the way. I love Tauriel and think she was really well done, though a little irritating that many of her actions revolved around forbidden love, she was still a strong and capable character. Bilbo doesn't feel so much the main character but Freeman does a brilliant job portraying him. I was a bit irritated by Bards daughters and how they require rescuing whilst their brother, close in age, can do so much, no reason why one of the girls couldn't have had one of his scenes... Thrown was played wonderfully and you could see the emotions so brilliantly played out on his face, though his cousin just seemed very CGI throughout the whole thing... as well as a few other small moments where it clearly was CGI.
For the majority of the film everything worked well together, making a see less movie that had me lost in the world of Middle Earth and hoping for everyone's survival (although no one is ever safe from war, no matter who you are), each character had their own depth and personality making me believe that they had once existed. With hours undertaken to shoot simply one scene, the dedication of everyone involved really shows and aids in creating a good, final film. My kids were able to watch some of the extra features and questions came flying in at me, so I simply cannot wait to begin their journey into Middle Earth (books first) knowing that there will be some wonderfully visual movies to watch when they're finished with the books.
Jam packed full of information, perfect if you want to know every little detail, and a great film to boot, take one last journey into Middle Earth and have a pint or two (youll need it).
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