The Hobbit: The Battle of the Five Armies appears in an aspect ratio of approximately 2.40:1 on this Blu-Ray Disc. Since the first two films looked amazing, should we expect Armies to differ? Nope – this was another exceptional presentation.
At all times, sharpness appeared excellent. Virtually no instances of softness occurred, as even the widest shots came across as precise and distinctive. Neither jagged edges nor moiré effects materialized, and I saw no edge haloes. Print flaws didn’t mar the image in any way.
As was the case with the other movies, Armies opted for a highly stylized palette that varied somewhat dependent on setting. Much of the film featured a desaturated feel with a mild to moderate teal tint, though. Within the parameters of these choices, the colors seemed satisfying. Blacks were dark and deep, while low-light shots seemed smooth and clear. Everything about this image fired on all cylinders
In addition, the movie’s DTS-HD MA 7.1 soundtrack worked well. Of the three Hobbit films, Armies boasted the most action, and that allowed the mix to come to life on a near-constant basis. From Smaug’s opening attack on Lake-town through the titular battle, the audio showed a broad sense of place and used the channels to excellent advantage.
This meant a great deal of material around the room. Smaug flew from speaker to speaker in a smooth, logical manner, and the sounds of battle managed to put us in the action to a terrific degree. Everything meshed in a lively way to form a highly satisfying soundscape.
As expected, audio quality also pleased. Music was bold and bright, while speech seemed concise and natural. Effects boasted strong range and impact, as they showed tight highs and deep lows. The soundtrack complemented the visuals to create an effective presentation.
As we head to the set’s extras, we open with an audio commentary from director/writer/producer Peter Jackson and writer/co-producer Philippa Boyens. Both sit together for this running, screen-specific look at the source material and its adaptation, cast and performances, story, character and script areas, changes for the Extended Edition, sets and locations, cinematography and visual design, various effects, music and other domains.
As this marks their sixth commentary across the Rings and Hobbit series, fans should know what to expect. Jackson and Boyens focus mostly on story/characters, but they branch into other topics as well. That helps make this another broad, engaging and informative chat.
Also on Disc One, we get three trailers and a featurette called New Zealand: Home of Middle-earth - Part 3. It runs six minutes, seven seconds and provides notes from Jackson, Boyens, 2nd unit director Andy Serkis, supervising art director Simon Bright, and actors Lee Pace, Cate Blanchett, Mark Hadlow, Orlando Bloom, Ian McKellen, Martin Freeman, Graham McTavish, Richard Armitage, Luke Evans, Evangeline Lilly, Dean O’Gorman, Billy Connolly, Jed Brophy and Adam Brown. Like “Part 1” and “Part 2”, the program gives us some info about the sets and locations used for the film. Also like its predecessors, this comes across like a promo from the New Zealand Board of Tourism, but it still manifests a few good nuggets.
Disc Two provides The Gathering Storm: The Chronicles of The Hobbit - Part 3 We find 11 chapters here, and they range in length from three minutes, 46 seconds (“Opening”) to 34 minutes, five seconds (“The Last Stage”).
All together, “Storm” fills a whopping four hours, 52 minutes and 49 seconds. We hear from Jackson, McKellen, Blanchett, Freeman, Bloom, Lilly, Boyens, Evans, Brown, McTavish, Serkis, Brophy, O’Gorman, Armitage, Hadlow, Pace, unit production manager Brigitte Yorke, splinter unit director Christian Rivers, 2nd second AD Bruno do Bois, scale double/stunt performer Kiran Shah, NZ casting director Liz Mullane, Weta Workshop concept artist Daniel Falconer, conceptual designers Alan Lee and John Howe, dialect coach Leith McPherson, armor and weapons production manager Jamie Wilson, stunt coordinator Glenn Boswell, assistant stunt coordinator Tim Wong, on set art director Ben Milsom, swordmaster Steven McMichael, Weta Workshop creative director Richard Taylor, visual effects supervisors Chris White, Matt Aitken and Eric Saindon, senior VFX art director Michael Mangrazio, animation supervisor David Clayton, senior visual effects supervisor Joe Letteri, lead animator Kevin Estey, FX supervisor Ronnie Menahem, senior animator Graham Binding, supervising sound editor Brent Burge, 2nd unit first AD Liz Tan, supervising location manager Jared Connon, gaffer Reg Garside, boom operator Corrin Ellingford, key grip Tony Keddy, production designer Dan Hennah, set decorator Ra Vincent, hair/makeup designer Peter Swords King, best boy Ants Ferrell, movement coordinator Terry Notary, sound designers Dave Whitehead and David Farmer, script supervisor Victoria Sullivan, prosthetic supervisor Tami Lane, re-recording mixer Michael Semanick, music editor Stephen Gallagher, Tolkien experts Tom Shippey and John D. Rateliff, editor Jabez Olssen, sound mixer Tony Johnson, 2nd unit director of photography Richard Bluck, costume designer Bob Buck, assistant stunt coordinator Augie Davis, Weta Workshop lead concept designer Nick Keller, and actors Christopher Lee, Benedict Cumberbatch, James Nesbitt, Elijah Wood, John Bell, Stephen Fry, William Kircher, Peter Hambleton, Stephen Hunter, Ryan Gage, Nick Blake, Peggy and Mary Nesbitt, Mikael Persbrandt, and John Callen.
These pieces act largely as a production diary, as we follow various aspects of the shoot. Along the way, we learn about sets and locations, stunts and action, cast and performances, various effects, props, weapons, costumes and makeup, story/character areas and adaptation topics, sound design, and similar issues.
The “Storm” clips tend to be more anecdotal that “hard data”-based, and I like that approach. We find a great array of behind the scenes shots and learn a ton about the production. Even though the package runs nearly five hours, “Storm” remains fun and enjoyable.
Disc Three gives us a compilation of 10 featurettes. Entitled Here At Journey’s End, these last between 27 minutes, 55 seconds (“Tauriel: Daughter of the Forest”) and 32 minutes, 56 seconds (“Farewell, Friends!”). Taken as a whole, they go for five hours, 14 seconds.
Among those heard from earlier, we get notes from Peter Jackson, Christian Rivers, Jabez Olssen, Philippa Boyens, John D. Rateliff, Tom Shippey, John Howe, Daniel Falconer, Richard Taylor, Nick Keller, Alan Lee, Matt Aitken, Joe Letteri, Eric Saindon, David Clayton, Simon Bright, Andy Serkis, Glenn Boswell, Dave Whitehead, Graham McTavish, Brent Burge, Dan Hennah, Cate Blanchett, Evangeline Lilly, Peter Swords King, Bob Buck, Leith McPherson, Steven McMichael, Lee Pace, Augie Davis, Tim Wong, Miranda Rivers, Tami Lane, Terry Notary, Luke Evans, Ian McKellen, Jed Brophy, Ra Vincent, Brigitte Yorke, Ben Milsom, Liz Tan, Martin Freeman, Kevin L. Sherwood, Billy Connolly, Richard Armitage, Dean O’Gorman, Stephen Hunter, Victoria Sullivan, Corrin Ellingford, and Christopher Lee.
We also get some participants who didn’t appear in prior programs: Weta Workshop concept artists Greg Tozer, Anthon Allan, Jamie Beswarick and Paul Tobin, lead creatures designer Andrew Baker, animation supervisors Michael Cozens and Aaron Gilman, VFX producer Kevin L. Sherwood, VFX art director Andy McLaren, head of environments Stephen Unterfranz, previs supervisors Jamie Beard and Randy Link, lead animator Mariya Kalachova, textures supervisor Geno Acevedo, re-recording mixer Michael Hedges, layout supervisor Jacob Stephens, author Jane Johnson, costume designer Anne Maskrey, additional costume designer Lesley Burkes Harding, greens master Simon Lowe, and actors Hugo Weaving and Sylvester McCoy.
After the broad production diary-style of “Storm”, “End” touches on more specific topics in each of its segments. These cover the construction of the movie’s battle sequences- which involves many subdomains such as sets, costumes and visual effects – as well as design/execution of various characters, set/production design, and a summary of experiences across all six Tolkien films.
Of the two long documentaries, “Storm” is the more fun, but “End” works very well, too. It’s more specific and more detail-driven, but I don’t regard those as problems. “End” teaches us a ton about production elements and becomes a splendid investigation of its topics.
Three clips show up under Bonus Features. We find “Butt-Numb-A-Thon Greeting” (11:43), “Rivers of Gold” music video (4:32) and “The Real Adam Brown” (5:25). The “Greeting” offers a special video made for a movie festival, while “Gold” gives us a video for a goofy tune Jed Brophy composed. Finally, “Real” offers a faux “exposé” about the actor. All of these are silly but enjoyable.
Disc Three ends with a featurette called Andrew Lesnie Remembered. It runs five minutes, 47 seconds and contains comments from Boyens and Christopher Lee. Lesnie died in the spring of 2015, so this acts as a tribute to him. It’s a thoughtful piece, though it seems strange to include Christopher Lee and not give the actor his own tribute; Lee passed about six weeks after Lesnie.
Does The Hobbit: The Battle of the Five Armies finish the trilogy in a satisfying fashion? Yes and no – while it comes with plenty of excitement, it lacks the emotional depth/impact that it needs. The Blu-ray delivers exceptional picture and audio along with a broad, informative and enjoyable collection of supplements. This becomes a fantastic release for a good but not great movie.
To rate this film visit the original review of THE HOBBIT: THE BATTLE OF THE FIVE ARMIES