The concluding part of Peter Jackson’s mammoth odyssey through Middle-earth…
The extended edition of The Battle of the Five Armies was given an R rating in the US (although only a 15 over here) which gives you an idea of the nature of some of the twenty minutes’ extra footage which Peter Jackson has incorporated into this new cut of the movie. There’s plenty of gore and bloodshed, set alongside which Martin Freeman’s Bilbo has many of the key emotional moments of the entire trilogy – and it’s good to see that the funeral sequence for the fallen heroes is given further weight in this edition.
Chances are though you’re going to buy this version not for the extra footage but for the nine hours-plus of value added material. These range from the ever-fascinating Appendices drawing to a conclusion to short features on everything from the creation of the battle sequence to a lovely tribute to cinematographer Andrew Lesnie. There are also commentaries from Jackson and Philippa Boyens which will give true believers plenty to discuss.
The extended editions of all three films are available in one box set (as those for Lord of the Rings are), and it perhaps says more than anything else about The Hobbit trilogy that the stack of discs from this collection is thicker than the copy of the book upon which they’re based! Jackson and his team have laboured long and hard to create Tolkien’s world, often “retrofitting” material from later books and tales into the three movies based on The Hobbit and rewatching it now, I do wonder if a simple two-hour film would have done the source material more justice? That’s not to belittle Jackson and co.’s achievement in any way, I hasten to add – these six movies will remain a benchmark for fantasy film making for years, I suspect – but now is definitely the time to move on. (But not to acting, Mr Jackson, based on that video about directing Doctor Who…)
Verdict: Unmissable for Tolkien fans – an appropriately grandiose and visually stunning end to the Middle-earth screen tales. 8/10