Here it is folks! The long-awaited review of the extended edition of The Battle of the Five Armies is here.
Don’t expect a long discussion for now; just a quick look at each extended scene.
A few mild spoilers follow, in case you haven’t yet seen it.
My advice to anyone who has yet to see this extended cut is not expect any of those in-depth, story-laden scenes found in The Lord of the Rings.
Instead we get a a few additional action sequences sprinkled throughout the film. Most of them are exquisite and intense, but others feel too much like a series of prolonged visual gags.
Regrettably, most of the Dwarves’ personalities remain in the shadows, and it’s unfortunate that precious minutes which could have shown us more of their characteristics and motivations, were instead occasionally used to show an extra shot or two of an individual, or the camera lingering for a few more seconds on someone’s face.
That said, most of the new 20 minutes of footage enhances and “beefs up” the central narrative of this film: which is ultimately the development and resolution of the titular battle.
Fire and Water
There’s nothing much to state here expect for an additional three or four shots of Bard in a spot of bother at the mercy of Smaug. This entire sequence was beautifully done and required no extra scenes. Nonetheless, with this extended cut, it somehow feels more complete and satisfying.
The Guardians of the Three
What’s so disappointing about this sequence is not what’s new about it, it’s what has surely been left on the cutting floor. Forget the rescue of a tortured Beorn or a more physical Sauron-Galadriel confrontation. Instead we get some interesting insight into Gandalf being one of the bearers of the Rings of Power at the hands of the Dol Guldur torturer; which, intriguingly, allows us a closer inspection on the original Azog design.
The addition of more astounding Ringwraith-fighting shots and a humorous Radagast moment handing over his staff to Gandalf, are a welcome sight to the undeveloped Dol Guldur subplot: which unfortunately was never given the right amount of attention once the filmmakers introduced it into the main story of The Hobbit.
Bilbo and Bofur’s Conversation
Another one of those long-rumoured scenes has actually made it to the extended cut. Recalling back the moment at the start of the quest in An Unexpected Journey, Bofur again spots Bilbo sneaking off from the Company. Misunderstanding Bilbo’s quest to resolve the issues between the Elves and Dwarves, it is a beautiful little scene that completes the circle on the relationship between the hobbit and the Company.
Thorin on the Ramparts
Richard Armitage’s stellar performance is allowed some more screen time to shine, as Thorin ponders on whether to accept Bard and Thranduil’s deal in exchange for the Arkenstone. His earnest and agitation, pacing to and fro the battlements, whilst relying on the arrival of Dáin, is a testament to the actor’s skills.
Just as he’s about to give in and reconsider the deal, the arrival of the Raven dispels any other thoughts of parley: making the bird’s entrance even more significant after having seen those crucial moments a few seconds before.
Arrival of Dáin
Undoubtedly my favourite extended scene of this film. In a completely reworked sequence from the theatrical cut, the Iron Hills contingent comes armed to the brim with ballistas and rams (explaining their sudden appearance later on in the film).
Gorgeous and utterly striking, the fierce skirmish between the Elves and the Dwarves beautifully filled in for the previously lacking gravitas prior to the start of the real battle against the orcs. Having the two races stop their mortal bickering to fight a common enemy just gave this sequence some much needed depth and purpose.
I am so glad that this made it into the cut.
Charge of the Dwarves
Peter Jackson can’t stay away from creating funny gags even during the most intense of moments. Bofur climbing onto the blind troll and wrecking havoc among the orcs is both amusing and slightly discomforting: mainly due to its “jarriness” when it comes to the severity of the situation.
Some light moments here and there are fine, but when a scene goes overboard it begins to turn from humorous to ridiculous.
Certainly my second favourite moment from this extended edition!
Just like the Dwarves-Elves confrontation, Jackson proves his mastery at close-quarter, visceral battle scenes. The moment four Dwarves lead away a troll, and are in turn attacked by Wargs and Orcs, is fast-paced and brilliantly executed.
What makes this even more fun to watch is that no matter how ridiculous it may sound or look, this scene is actually far from being an “over the top moment”. Unlike Legolas’ gravity-defying feats, this chariot chase actually remains grounded (literally) to a realistic portrayal of physics.
So don’t expect exaggerated jumping or impossible maneuvers. It’s a much needed Dwarven moment during the battle, including an emotional piece of dialogue between Dwalin and Balin.
If only Peter Jackson could have extended this Dwarven relationship with all the others!
Bifur, Bofur and Bombur
Speaking of Dwarven relationships, we finally get to witness another moment where three of our characters are given some much-needed screen time.
Bifur losing his axe and Bombur’s one-liner gave life to these otherwise obscure characters, and is one of the reasons I find most frustrating and confusing. Couldn’t Jackson have sprinkled these character moments throughout the entire trilogy, so that by the end of this film we would have known each member of the Company a little bit more?
Another one of those gags that was long speculated. Thankfully, it’s over pretty quickly soon and its banality is eased off by the presence of Gandalf, attempting to fight off a troll by wielding his newly-earned staff.
We all knew it was bound to appear. Although too brief for my liking, the scene is emotionally charged as each member of the Company gets to say goodbye in a tear-inducing series of shots accompanied by Shore’s haunting music of the Durin theme.
What I learnt
No matter how much I tried to keep my expectations low prior to this extended cut, I couldn’t resist feeling excited about all the speculations, rumours and confirmed footage shot of Beorn, Radagast, Sauron, the Dwarves and others, that could have potentially made it into this release.
Unfortunately, I was rather disappointed at the gaping hole left behind. True, all of these scenes couldn’t have made their way into 20 minutes worth of footage. Perhaps, my viewing experience was somewhat distracted by the constant “ticking off” of said minutes as a new shot or scene popped up on screen. I found myself mentally calculating the duration of each extended moment and kept on hoping there was more and more.
I’m sure that a second and third viewing will ease off that disappointment.
I am already happy with this cut (a definitive improvement on many scenes from the original), so I am certainly not complaining! 😀
Have you seen the Extended Edition? Has Jackson earned your respect or shattered it?
Copyright of images belongs to Warner Bros. and MGM Studios.