The Hobbit: The Battle of the Five Armies appears in an aspect ratio of approximately 2.40:1 on this 4K UHD Disc. Since the first two films looked amazing, should we expect Armies to differ? Nope – this Dolby Vision presentation continued to dazzle.
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. The disc’s HDR added zest and impact to the hues.
Blacks were dark and deep, while low-light shots seemed smooth and clear. The HDR made whites and contrast look especially appealing. Everything about this image fired on all cylinders
Note that Peter Jackson shot the Hobbit flicks at 48 frames per second rather than the standard 24 fps. While 4K supports high frames rates – as indicated by releases like the 60 fps Gemini Man - apparently the format can’t handle 48 fps, so the 4K version of the movie runs at the usual 24 fps.
Downconverted to Dolby TrueHD 7.1, the movie’s Dolby Atmos 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.
How did the 4K UHD compare to the prior Blu-rays? The 4K’s Atmos mix added some breadth and punch to the already-excellent DTS-HD MA 7.1 from the BD.
While the BD also delivered terrific visuals, the Dolby Vision 4K topped those releases, as it became better defined and more vibrant. Expect reference quality picture from this 4K release.
In terms of visual comparisons, a potential complication comes via the fact both the theatrical version and the Extended Cut also exist as 3D Blu-rays. Not only did Jackson shoot the flicks at 48 fps, but he also made them native 3D productions.
Because I enjoy the ability to watch 3D Blu-rays, it becomes a tough choice between the 3D Armies and this 4K version. On one hand, the 4K clearly offers superior visuals.
As noted, the 4K beats the 2D version in terms of picture quality. While the 3D BD also looked great, it marked a minor degradation in visuals compared to the 2D BD, so it obviously presents weaker visuals than this 4K.
On the other hand, I do like the 3D presentation of Armies. Though it never becomes the most ambitious stereo image, Jackson uses the format well and the 3D adds a nice layer of depth and involvement.
So in the future, which will I watch? Cop out this may become, but I don’t know. If I eventually get an Atmos set-up, I’ll go 4K, but until then, it feels like a tossup between the 3D and the 4K.
Take that as a win-win, though, as both work awfully well. You can’t go wrong with either.
Unlike the prior home video versions of Armies I reviewed, this 4K UHD package includes zero extras. That situation will become rectified in summer 2021, when a deluxe package will emerge.
Not only will that set include all the missing bonus materials, but also it will encompass the whole Tolkien saga, so it’ll match the Hobbit trilogy with the Lord of the Rings flicks in one big six-movie set. It also promises some new extras in addition to the eight million hours of content already released.
That leaves this version of Armies devoid of extras. This package also lacks a Blu-ray copy of the film, so we get just the 4K discs.
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 4K UHD brings remarkable picture and audio but it includes zero supplements.
That latter factor may prompt some fans to want to wait for the 2021 release of the Hobbit trilogy mentioned earlier, as it’ll contain copious supplements. If you only care about the movies themselves – and perhaps already feel sated with the massive collection of features on the prior DVDs and Blu-rays – then this movie-only set may seem sufficient.
Note that as of December 2020, you can only purchase this 4K UHD version of Armies as part of a “The Hobbit Motion Picture Trilogy” package. This includes all three movies – both theatrical and extended editions - for a retail price of 89.98.
To rate this film visit the original review of THE HOBBIT: THE BATTLE OF THE FIVE ARMIES