The Hobbit: The Battle of the Five Armies was my favourite film in the Hobbit trilogy – of the three, it had the least amount of deviations from the source material, and was also the most exciting to watch. (You can read my initial review here.) The extended cut, with its additional twenty minutes of footage, tied up many of the loose ends which had driven me crazy in the theatrical cut. Although not every little subplot had a resolution, I enjoyed this film so much that I really can't complain.
Despite there not being many additional moments with Bard, re-watching the film gave me a greater appreciation for Luke Evans' portrayal of the dragon-slaying bowman. His performance is one of my favourites, and it's a shame he didn't get just a little more screen time (seeing him crowned King of Dale would have been nice!).
My favourite extended scene was the attack on Dol Guldur; it is revealed that Sauron has not only resurfaced, but he is also seeking the Elven rings of power worn by Gandalf, Galadriel, and Elrond – an appropriate way to introduce the White Council into the scene and further connect The Hobbit films to The Lord of the Rings. In particular, I really enjoyed Cate Blanchett's additional screen time as Galadriel. "I come for Mithrandir," she announces upon arriving at Dol Guldur, "and I will leave with him." If only Tauriel had been written out and her screen time given to Galadriel: she is the heroine that female audiences deserved.
The battle featured far more violence (the R-rating seems appropriate), but was kept rather light-hearted thanks to little sprinklings of humour (such as Bifur getting his head-axe stuck in the head of an enemy Orc) and sass from both Thranduil and Dáin Ironfoot; it's not very Tolkien-esque, but I laughed nonetheless. The battle scenes alone further highlighted Jackson's skill as a filmmaker. He could have turned The Battle of the Five Armies into its own 9-hour film trilogy and there would never have been a dull moment.
Thankfully, the film offered some of the closure I was looking for: Alfrid met a demise as ridiculous as himself; Thorin, Fíli, and Kíli were all given their proper on-screen burials, and it was every bit as beautiful and saddening as I had hoped. However, one thing still missing from the extended cut was the fate of Tauriel. Did she die of a broken heart? Was her banishment from Mirkwood upheld, forcing her to roam Middle-earth alone? Why didn't she just go with Legolas to Rivendell? After taking the time and effort to write in a new character, leaving her fate unknown was anti-climactic and a bit of a letdown to those who may have looked to her character as a role model and hoped for a meaningful ending.
In the end, I gained more of an appreciation for this film after seeing the extended cut. Naturally, it's impossible to fit everything into one cut, so to get the most out of Peter Jackson's Middle-earth, you really have to watch the extended versions. As I said in my last review: if you enjoyed The Hobbit films, you will love the extended cut; and even if you didn't, you may be pleasantly surprised with this one.
The Hobbit: The Battle of the Five Armies Extended Edition will be available on Blu-Ray and DVD on Tuesday, November 17.
A HUGE thank-you to Warner Bros. for allowing me to review all of The Hobbit films and their extended editions.