Rather than providing the rich, more deliberately paced, character moment-filled version of the movie that Peter Jackson’s extended cuts usually provide, The Battle of the Five Armies is even more jam-packed with mindless battles and stupid sights gags.
And let me tell you, that kind of sucks.
I’ve perhaps been more forgiving of the Hobbit movies than they deserve. I don’t pretend they are great cinema, and readily acknowledge they are deeply flawed to the point of often being downright awful. Still, I love aspects of PJ’s cinematic Middle Earth enough so that I let their flaws slide and instead focus on the parts that I like, considering them a lesser but still accepted part of my beloved Lord of the Rings movie family.
Much of that is purely personal and stems from geekdom that predates the movies by my whole damn life. I’ve mentioned before that J.R.R. Tolkien inspired me to write for a living. That deep love of Tolkien’s work bled into film, with the adaptations sparking a desire to learn more about cinematic language. I devour all things Tolkien. The movies were no different.
So, like a Star Wars fan in denial struggling to come up with something good to say after their first viewing of The Phantom Menace, the Hobbit movies have been an exercise in willful blindness for me.
Besides, there’s always the extended editions to look forward to!
For most of Peter Jackson’s forays into Middle Earth, the true, “definitive” versions of the movies have been those extended editions. Rife with character moments and lore that didn’t make the theatrical cuts, for most fans they represent a richer, deeper experience that are just plain chock full o’ more stuff we love.
Each of the three Lord of the Rings movies were improved in the extended format. Since their release, I’ve never bothered to watch the vanilla versions. So was The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug, which became a much better movie in the extended cut (with the exception of more crass humor).
By contrast, the extended edition of The Battle of the Five Armies, the last of his Hobbit trilogy, is a complete waste of time and money.
Unless you’re a completionist, don’t bother.
Almost all the added time comes in the form of additional combat scenes and action gags, as if that’s something this movie was lacking. A few are pretty clever, sure — the initial clash between the elves and dwarves features some cool dwarf tech that would be awesome in a videogame, and the introduction of Dain Ironfoot, Thorin’s brash cousin, is far better thanks to some cheerfully mean-spirited banter between him and the elf king Thranduil — but most additions either border on or veer outright into just plain stupid.
What can you expect?
- More physics-defying Legolas antics.
- A bunch of trolls and orcs having their limbs and heads cut off with unnecessary, Walking Deadesque splatter (including an orc shown trying to walk on the stumps of his cut-off legs).
- The insipid villain Alfrid getting a cartoonishly idiotic death scene in which he’s shot by catapult into a troll’s mouth, all while dressed in drag.
- And a bunch more mindless, sight gag-filled stuff that will be invisible to most viewers, serving to increase the run time without actually increasing the meaningful content.
When it comes to “meaningful content,” there are really only two new scenes, maybe three, and one of them is just a few new lines of dialogue. The highlights (and that’s using the word generously):
- We see Bilbo and Bofur have a longer conversation before Bilbo sneaks off in the night to turn over the Arkenstone. It’s a great moment that never should have been cut from the movie.
- Dain Ironfoot, Thorin’s rowdy cousin, has a longer introduction. It’s better and somewhat funny, though the CGI on Billy Connolly is still dodgy as hell.
- And finally, we have Thorin’s funeral, a scene that features no dialogue. It should never have been cut from the movie in the first place. To leave in so much of that asshole Alfrid or the mindless action rather than a brief, haunting scene that says goodbye to one of the key characters of the trilogy is stupidity I can’t wrap my head around.
Otherwise, eh. There are a lot of minor dialogue additions, but when I say “minor” I mean it. Someone says a single extra line here and there. “Look, Thranduil made a reference to Ecthelion!” That’s about it.
It’s mostly just a lot more action. A lot more. TONS more. Of the 20 additional new minutes, I’d say only 5 are worthwhile in any way. The rest are “clever” new ways to kill orcs or show trolls smashing shit to pieces.
Considering the theatrical release was an hour of setup and then 80 minutes of nonstop fighting, that substance-to-flash ratio for the new material pretty much sucks.
I don’t care how big a fan you are. I don’t care if you’re a forgiving fan like I am. This thing just isn’t worth your time. And if you were on the fence and hoping some additions would improve the movie, forget it. Not going to happen. It’s exactly what these movies didn’t need: more self-indulgent playtime for Peter Jackson.
What a disappointing finish to this 15-year-old ride.