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 was the case with the three Lord of the Rings films and the first two Hobbit flicks, we’ll get an extended cut of Armies with copious extras later in 2015. While we get some bonus materials here, we find a limited set.
This package includes both 2D and 3D versions of Armies. The picture quality comments above address the 2D edition, but I also want to talk about the 3D image.
While not as attractive as the 2D picture, the 3D version still looked pretty good. Almost inevitably, it seemed a little darker than the 2D did, and it also showed somewhat weaker colors and slightly more tentative definition at times. Still, those were artifacts of the 3D presentation and not a significant problem, so the picture looked quite positive overall.
As was the case with the first two movies, the movie used 3D mostly in a manner to emphasize depth. This meant it lacked much in the way of “in your face” moments. Blades might poke out of the screen but nothing I’d call gimmicky occurred here.
That was fine with me, as I’m not a fan of the “Dr. Tongue” school of 3D. I like it when the format allows the movies to create a more natural sense of space, and that occurred during Armies. The 3D consistently acted as a good complement to the action and worked nicely.
When we shift to supplements, a featurette called New Zealand: Home of Middle-earth - Part 3 runs six minutes, seven seconds and provides notes from 2nd unit director Andy Serkis, co-writer/director Peter Jackson, supervising art director Simon Bright, co-writer Philippa Boyens, 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.
On a separate disc, we find a program called Recruiting the Five Armies. It runs 11 minutes, 39 seconds and presents comments from Evans, Lilly, Bloom, 2nd second Ads Bruno Du Bois and Danielle Baker, casting assistant Nicola Benton, prosthetic supervisor Tami Lane, NZ casting director Miranda Rivers, movement choreographer Terry Notary, off set armour and weapons Kimberly Sowter, and extra Dra McKay. The show looks at elements related to scenes with large crowds/many combatants, so it mainly deals with factors related to the use of extras. “Recruiting” gives us a smattering of decent details but lacks a lot of substance.
Under Completing Middle-Earth, we find two pieces: “A Six-Part Saga” (9:54) and “A Seventeen-Year Journey” (8:59). Across these, we hear from Jackson, Boyens, Serkis, Bloom, Blanchett, Evans, Pace, Taylor, Armitage, O’Gorman, Freeman, Brophy, McKellen, Weta Workshop concept artists Paul Tobin and Daniel Falconer, Weta Workshop creative director Richard Taylor, producer Barrie M. Osborne, director of photography Andrew Lesnie, producer/1st AD CaroLynne Cunningham, and actors Elijah Wood, Viggo Mortensen, Dominic Monaghan, Christopher Lee, and Stephen Hunter.
“Saga” looks at the ways the stories of Hobbit and Lord of the Rings mesh, while “Journey” examines the long production of all six movies. “Saga” gives us a passable overview of themes/connections, but “Journey” feels fluffy and self-congratulatory much of the time.
The Last Goodbye also presents two components. A “Behind the Scenes Featurette” (11:18) offers info from Jackson, Boyens, music recordist/mixer Peter Cobbin, re-recording mixer Michael Hedges, conceptual designers Alan Lee and John Howe, music editor Stephen Gallagher, songwriter/singer Billy Boyd, and arranger/orchestrator Victoria Kelly. “Goodbye” discusses elements related to the song that plays over the movie’s end credits. It becomes a pretty good exploration of these issues.
We also see a music video for “The Last Goodbye”. It runs four minutes, 21 seconds as it mixes footage of Boyd in the studio, movie clips and shots from film sets. It becomes a mediocre clip.
Finally, we get various trailers. We find “Trailer #2” for Armies as well as a promo for the Desolation of Smaug Extended Edition of Smaug.
In addition, the set provides a DVD copy of Desolation. This provides the movie and the “Home of Middle-earth” featurette but none of the other extras.
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 but fails to present substantial supplements. I enjoy Armies but it doesn’t deliver the kind of rousing, rich finale fans might hope to find.