TORn Staff Reviews the BoTFA EE
The day has finally come and gone when many of you were lucky enough to view The Hobbit: The Battle of The Five Armies in theaters. TORn’s facebook page, the discussion boards and Barli’s chat are all buzzing with excited observations! Many of our staffers saw it too and, as it TORn tradition, we’ll be featuring their comments and insights here, as well as a spoilery picture or two. Speaking of spoilers, they abound in the rest of this article, so read no further if you haven’t seen the EE yet and don’t want to be spoiled until you do!
OK, I’ll get the ball rolling – greendragon here. Let me start by saying, these comments come from one who is a BIG fan. I love Tolkien; I love the books; I love the fandom; and I LOVE Peter Jackson’s movies. So this comes from a place of love. BUT… PJ is rather like the little girl who had a little curl right in the middle of her forehead. When he’s good, he’s very, very good, and when he’s bad – oh you know how the rhyme goes.
So – the thing in The Hobbit movies, for me, which is good, is first and foremost the fantastic cast. The acting is excellent (except that I wish Lee Pace would close his mouth more…). In addition, the costumes, sets, props and locations are stunning. And those wonderful things (mostly) outweigh the bad for me. I went into the Extended Edition screening hoping for more of those things. I wanted more character development; more beautiful acting; more Martin Freeman, for goodness’ sake. But most of what we see in The Hobbit: The Battle of the Five Armies Extended Edition is more trolls, more fighting and more Legolas stunts. (Is it even POSSIBLE to have more Legolas stunts?! Apparently, yes…)
To begin at the beginning… Before the movie started, I said hi to the (small) gathering at the cinema I attended. I gave out Battle of the Five Armies mini posters, which fans were glad to have. Most of them had heard of TheOneRing.net, and some had even been at The One Last Party! It’s always a delight to meet fellow fans.
Each of these cinema Extended Edition screenings have included a greeting from Peter Jackson. For An Unexpected Journey and The Desolation of Smaug, it was the same brief hello. For The Battle of the Five Armies, Jackson said a little more – basically saying that he was pleased with this cut of the film. Clearly, the extras he wanted to see are in there!
For the most part, however, the first half of the new cut doesn’t include many changes. We do get one or two little extensions – for example, I think we see more of Bard leaping over rooftops as Smaug becomes aware of his presence – but it’s hard to tell exactly what’s new in these little moments without comparing side by side with the theatrical release.
The first big addition is when Gandalf encounters the orc (who is the original design for Bolg/Azog) at Dol Guldur. We learn that the orc’s master (aka Sauron) is seeking the Three Elven Rings – and the orc is about to cut off Gandalf’s hand to take the Ring of Fire from him when Galadriel comes to the rescue. We see a bit more of Galadriel being a badass (including her line, ‘I came for Mithrandir – and I WILL leave with him!’), and then – alas – more of the Elrond and Saruman vs the Nine battle. I love seeing Elrond and Saruman in action, but boy do I hate that ‘video game’ nature of the Nine. Urgh.
Now for a good bit – we see Radagast give Gandalf his staff!! Finally, confirmation – the staff Gandalf has at the start of Fellowship of the Ring IS Radagast’s. (I still don’t know, however, whence Gandalf gets his hat back; nor do I know what chance Radagast has in the battle at the end, without any staff….)
Back in Erebor (gosh Thorin gives a LOT of side-eye in this movie…) there is a beautiful scene between Bilbo and Bofur. Wonderful from both actors – and I see why Jimmy Nesbitt was so miffed when the Theatrical release came out! He had MANY scenes which were cut! Great to see them back in this version. Martin Freeman is fantastic throughout – every moment he is on screen is a good one.
Dain takes longer to arrive – negotiations over the Arkenstone go on for a bit longer – and then Gandalf tries to reason with Dain when he gets there. Personally, I really didn’t need more of Billy Connolly saying things like, ‘Ye buggers! Ye bastards! Ye pointy-eared princess!’ etc. And then we get to the stuff Peter Jackson really wanted back in the movie – NOW we come to most of the extras, and it’s pretty much ALL battle. Battle goats! War trolls! More war trolls! Different war trolls! And so on…
Most of the main characters are shown doing more fighting. We have a brief glimpse of Bilbo in action in Dale. Bofur gets a hero moment; Lake-town old men and women charge into battle; and we finally find out what the chariot on the ice (in the trailer) was all about. It all gets a bit silly for me – but even amongst the shenanigans, Graham McTavish and Ken Stott manage a touching and very well played moment of brotherly love. (Sadly, it is swiftly followed by a ‘Lethal Weapon’ style ‘I’m getting too old for this…’ moment….)
In the battle, there are only one or two ‘blood splatter’ moments which I think pushed the film to an R rating – it really isn’t more scary or gory than the theatrical release.
Radagast’s staff is, he warned Gandalf, ‘a bit dicky’, and in the heat of the battle it lets Gandalf down; but he is saved, in the most unlikely way, by Alfred meeting a sticky end. We find out how and why Legolas goes from being right way up to upside down on his bat, and we see a little more of Beorn in battle.
There is a daft but charming moment when Bifur finally loses the axe in his head – and William Kircher and Stephen Hunter FINALLY get lines! Hurrah! And then – the moment I was waiting for throughout – we see the funeral, and Dain becoming king. Once again, the cast excelled and the scene was stunning. I wept, of course.
Overall, on first viewing, I have to say that this is the only one of the six of Peter Jackson’s Middle-earth movies which I didn’t feel was improved in its Extended Edition. For me, there was just too much of the nonsense/silliness/action added and not enough plot/character development. That said, I will continue to love all six of these films, for all the magical moments therein, and for all the joy they have brought me. To paraphrase, I bid them all a very fond farewell; but I know the fandom continues. The Road goes Ever On….
*greendragon mic drop*
First off, PJ’s intro was a little longer and more expressive this time around.
Watching all 3 Extended Editions in a row helped flesh out a lot of things. In DOS EE we saw mention of the 7 Dwarven Rings, especially the fairly recent loss of Thrain’s Ring, the only one that had still been with a Dwarf Lord. And now, in the Bot5A EE we learn that the reason they kept Gandalf in prison was to weaken him enough to find and take Narya, the Ring of Fire, one of the 3 Elven rings.
This now begs the question as to whether new fans to Middle-earth should learn that Gandalf has one of the 3 Elven Rings before the events of LOTR even begins, or if they should be advised to watch Chronologically, with LOTR first and then Hobbit trilogies. Then again, when we get to the end when Gandalf warns Bilbo of the folly of messing with a Ring of Power, we know that Gandalf understands exactly what he’s talking about.
When Galadriel rescues Gandalf, she is given more time to be the narliest Elven warrior Queen in Middle-earth. She just disintegrates the Orc threatening to remove Gandalf’s ring finger and then picks up as if he were a child.
Once Gandalf has been removed from Dol Guldur by Radagast, we get to finally see the exchange of the Staff from Radagast to Gandalf, and a warning that the crystal might be a bit wonky. And I love the comment from Radagast that maybe that won’t be as much of an issue for Gandalf, he’s quite aware that Gandalf is the stronger wizard. The EE of each film has helped show the real friendship of these two wizards, something I rather like, since it’s nothing but dissent with Saruman. Gandalf also suggests Radagast rally the animals to help, so the Eagles weren’t just a surprise from Radagast, but something looked for.
This leads to Beorn, which we get to see a little more of. Not much more, but we do get to seem him storm his way through the Orc army, recreating some of the most enduring images of chaos from this battle seen in Middle-earth art work over the years.
There is another lovely character moment between Bilbo and Bofur when they run into each other on the gate wall with Bofur all but giving Bilbo permission to sneak out. In the book it was pretty much only Balin who ever really made friends with Bilbo, so it was nice to see a relationship develop with Bofur as well. This also gives a little more weight to the scene after Thorin threatens to toss Bilbo over the wall, Gandalf stops him, and it’s Bofur who pulls him out and gets him to the rope.
Once the Battle starts, we get a lot of new scenes, including some completely different story lines that change the way the theatrical edition presented things. This makes the overall battle flow in a much more logical manner, giving many of the characters we have come to know some time to shine. Here is a laundry list of how the battle goes a little differently.
The Dwarf infantry arrives and Dain comes to parley, just as in the Theatrical, but we get a whole lot more of Dain badmouthing Thranduil, which is hilarious. And just as they are set to do battle, the Were-Worms arrive, bringing the Orc army with them, in the Theatrical version. But in this, we get some full on fighting between the Elven and Dwarven armies, starting with flights of arrows from the Elves, which in turn is shot down by the Dwarves via Windlances shooting some sort of powerful spinning harpoon that destroys the arrow flight. Gotta say, this was kinda cool. Then Dain sends out his Goat Cavalry, and I must say, those Rams are perfect for a Cavalry rush. And it’s only in the middle of this melee that the Orcs show up behind those giant worms, and everything shifts over the new threat.
The Orcs have brought plenty of Trolls to help counter the Goat cavalry and the war chariots. Some just stomp and crush the chariots, dwarves and rams, while other Trolls have siege engines on their backs. Several of the larger Trolls are driven by orcs, as if they were enslaved, so it’s fun with Bofur takes out an Orc driver of a blind Troll and then creates all kinds of havoc within the Orc enemy lines.
We got a lot of interplay between Thorin’s Company of Dwarves once they finally storm out onto the field. The Tossing of the Axe from dwarf to dwarf as they each saved another was sweet, and showed that instinctual team play we’ve come to love from this Company of Dwarves. I especially liked that we got to see someone like Ori fully participating in the Battle, no longer the young, frightened Dwarf he started out to be. And Bombur uses his weight to his advantage in a fight, body slamming several unsuspecting Orcs.
Dain get’s a lot of fight action too, and is clearly a force to be reckoned with. Even after removing his helmut, his head butts seem rather deadly.
Bifur finally loses the axe in his head when he head butts a small Troll, and they get stuck together. Several others come to try and pry them apart, and it’s not until Bombur throws in his weight that not only do we get Bifur and the Troll separated, but the Axe Head has come out. Bombur tries to return it, but we finally hear Bifur speak, about how he wants nothing to do with the Axe Head. Brilliant little way to resolve that issue.
The R rating for this cut of the film becomes most apparent when Balin, Dwalin, Fili and Kili take a War Chariot and follow Thorin on a Ram as they head off to Ravenhill to kill Azog. The confrontation with various Orcs, Trolls and Wargs leads to an awful lot of bloodshed, something that was carefully not seen much of in the Theatrical cut. But there is an awful lot of squishing (into jelly, no less), beheading, eviscerating, and the like in this sequence, so I can see why the whole War Chariot scene hit the cutting room floor the first time around.
I also really like that once their goat team is lessened, Balin basically sacrifices himself so the others can take the rams and head off to Ravenhill while he holds them off, which he does admirably.
We also get to see a lot more of Thranduil and the other Elves fighting, especially Thranduil from the back of his War Moose. It’s clear that beast has been trained for war, he knows how to use his horns to his advantage.
Legolas hanging from a Bat was in the Theatrical version, as he tried to get from one place to another, and then suddenly he was upside down and it made no sense. Now we see him make the change on purpose, in order to slash out at a long line of Orcs and take them all out. I guess there really is a method to his madness.
Not to be outdone, there is a little bit more of the Lake Town people fighting, especially after that woman rallies the women and old men to help fight, and rush out of the Hall to fight. It’s not much, but it’s nice to see a bit more of the effort on their part.
This, of course, leads to Alfrid, who was finally outed as the coward he is, and he finally get’s his just rewards in the form of being a projectile that takes out a Troll trying to kill Gandalf while his new staff is misbehaving.
After all is said and done, we do finally get to see the funeral of Thorin (who now has both the Arkenstone and Orcrist, as he should), Fili and Kili. The Company of Thorin, including Bilbo, wander between the biers to mourn the three, while Radagast, Beorn and Gandalf watch. You can see candlelight and dim images of armored people surrounding the chamber, and then you get Gandalfs “The King is dead, Long Live the King” and we see Dain wearing the Raven Crown. It was an emotionally resonant send off for these characters, again, something that was missing from the Theatrical.
Things I was hoping to see:
More of Bilbo’s journey home, including the stop at Rivendell and the official naming of Sting, complete with the Elven script engraved on it. Don’t need to see him pick up the Troll treasure chest, just a little mention to Elrond that he will be doing so is all that would be needed. I wanted to see Radagast rallying the animal allies, especially to see if he also uses Moths to call the Eagles, or if he uses the birds living under his hat, or if he just goes up and speaks with them. And how did he convince Beorn to join in?
Justin (who hasn’t read the book):
Battle of the Five Armies EE is the movie we were meant to see. Every character has their moment to shine and every dwarf is a hero. Why did some of this stuff get cut out from the original theatrical release?
Bofur finally gets the screen time he deserves. Throughout the trilogy, Bofur is the only dwarf who cares about Bilbo. Watch AUJ and DOS – it’s always Bofur asking “Where’s Bilbo?” In this EE we finally get a personal moment with Bofur that carries the emotional weight of the entire journey, and happens to be the most personal goodbye in the entire trilogy. Watching Bofur be a quick-witted dwarf worthy of the company on the battlefield feels like classic Peter Jackson. Every Bofur does in BOTFA EE is why we like Peter Jackson films.
WETA is the only VFX company credited in the film, unlike almost every other major blockbuster which has thousands of credits from dozens of visual effects houses. Jackson and his producers kept the Hobbit in-house. This may explain why so much new action is in the EE. Most studios would “share the load” of VFX shots but by keeping it all at WETA they may have just run out of time for the initial theatrical release.
Andrew Lesnie gets a special tribute at the end of the credits with a quote from Gandalf. Curiously, Christopher Lee is not afforded a tribute in the Extended Edition, and in a departure from the LOTR EE the fans do not get a shout out.
Others here will go into details of all the various scenes and significance, but this EE feels complete. Every character has a noble conclusion on screen. BOTFA EE is Middle-earth done right with action, mythology, friendships and bereavement. I really want to watch it again (a first for any of the Hobbit films).
I don’t know how effective I’ll be with my observations for “The Battle of [the] Five Armies” extended edition because this is just so darn emotional for me. I normally take notes like mad during my viewings, but knowing this is the last of the Tolkien/Jackson stories of Middle-earth shared over the past 14 years… it’s just hard to say farewell.
That said… I did notice a few things 😉 Most of the added minutes I really appreciate. Here’s what stood out to me:
Most of the opening scene with Lake-town is the same, BUT there are added moments between Bard and Smaug that made Bard’s effort more intense for me. It makes Smaug’s taunting later more diabolical as he turns the destruction of Lake-town from revenge into a personal game.
Moving to Dol Guldur and Gandalf’s plight, there is more of his situation with the orc as it moves on the Wizard. After Gandalf is thrown down and falls out of the gibbet/cage, he actually tries fighting back, but hasn’t the strength. A more threatening version of Galadriel quietly appears and intervenes. As the focus changes to the Elven Rings (and to Thrór’s Dwarven Ring), it makes the segue to Galadriel reciting the verses of the Rings of Power more meaningful. Also in Dol Guldur, there’s a lot more fighting amongst the Nine, Saruman and Elrond. More of Elrond fighting is always a good thing!
There’s a funny moment between Radagast and Gandalf after they arrive at Radagast’s shed and Gandalf is about to ride to Erebor. Radagast gives Gandalf his staff with much befuddling about how tricksy it might be to get it to work right. Later on in Dale as Gandalf faces a troll and tries to use it, Radagast’s warning proves right.
One of my favourite installments is when Bilbo is about to slip away to Dale with the Arkenstone. As he’s fiddling with the rope to throw over the side of the battlement, Bofur shows up. There’s wonderful exchange between two friends who must be remembering another conversation in a cave on the doorstep of Goblin-town.
There are more quips from just about everyone (including Thranduil), and more angst from an embattled Thorin. There’s a LOT more fighting in the Battle of Five Armies (not a surprise), including a fight between the Dwarves and Elves that wasn’t in the theatrical edition.
At the moment when Thorin and his Company break through their stronghold and rage onto the battlefield… for some reason this was more stirring than before! There wasn’t much of a change, except maybe in the way that Dain and the Dwarves in the field cry out and rally to Thorin as they join in the charge. Dain’s acceptance of Thorin as King was most apparent when Thorin is about to go and take on Azog. Dain pleads with him not to go… and this is when the chariot pulled by about 6 rams shows up. Balin has some fine moments on the field… as does Bofur. I’ll leave you with some surprises 😉
I’m going to jump to what is most stirring for me. It has always been so heartbreaking and beautiful when Thorin and Bilbo speak for the last time. For me, it’s one of the most moving scenes through all 3 films… along with Bilbo sitting alone in shock and Gandalf coming to sit next to him. But my tears redoubled to see Thorin, Kili and Fili’s funeral.
There is much more to this extended edition than I’ve noted, and I’m very happy with most of the changes. I have always had trouble criticizing anything done in these films, and “The Lord of the Rings” films, because of the incredible respect and effort that went into making them…for us. When I think we almost didn’t have “The Hobbit” at all makes these films, for me, more cherished. To have Peter Jackson, Fran Walsh and Philippa Boyen’s telling of these stories come to an end is like losing a close friend. I’ll miss having them about the place.
Check back here in the next few days for more staff reviews and be sure to add your comments if you’ve seen the BoTFA EE, or if you’re a spoiler-monger like me and want to comment on them anyway!
Posted in Billy Connolly, Director news, Events, Fans, Film Screenings, Graham McTavish, Headlines, Hobbit Movie, James Nesbitt, Ken Stott, Martin Freeman, Meet Ups, New Line Cinema, Peter Jackson, Stephen Hunter, Studios, The Hobbit, The Hobbit: The Battle of the Five Armies, Uncategorized, Warner Bros., William Kircher on October 14, 2015 by Altaira