Wednesday, October 14, 2015
"The Battle of the Five Armies" Extended Edition - Early Review
I've finally seen it.
After ten months of blogging theories and a few days of trying to find a construction-free route to the one theater in town that was showing it, I've finally seen the Extended Edition of The Hobbit: The Battle of the Five Armies.
I should backtrack a little though to talk about this event as a whole. Just as they did with the Lord of the Rings trilogy in June of 2011, the company Fathom Events recently hosted a one-time-only, three-night screening of the Extended Editions of the Hobbit film trilogy in select theaters across the country. Fans like myself naturally flocked to cinemas to see the Extended Editions of the first two films last week, and both were highly entertaining experiences. However, this week's screening of the never-before-seen third Extended Edition was the star attraction of this event.
This was apparent not only from the much larger turnout in the audience, but also from the much more visual presentation of Peter Jackson's pre-movie introduction. Instead of showing one simple shot of the director talking to the camera like the first two Extended Editions did, the third one's intro featured music and clips from all three movies along with a full-screen graphic at the end. This extra bravado for the third Extended Edition makes sense, seeing how underwhelmed so many people were by the theatrical cut, and I for one was very excited for the movie to start after Mr. Jackson was done giving his thank-you's.
With that said, and with the promise not to give away much, what did I think of the Extended Edition of The Battle of the Five Armies?
To begin, there's only about 20 minutes of bonus footage added, not 30 minutes as was originally planned, and the bulk of it is more battle scenes. There are some scenes added before the battle, including a simple but poignant one that fans have been hoping to see since almost last December, but expect a first half that's very similar to the theatrical cut. There's also a bit more wrap-up after the fighting is over, though most of the minor storylines still don't get the closure that a lot of people probably wanted for them.
On a more praising note, there's actually quite a lot of humor throughout the bonus footage. Some of it is just goofy slapstick and sight gags, but the jokes involving the main characters give this version of the film something that was sorely missing from the other: a sense of fun.
For anyone concerned about the Extended Edition's R rating, don't worry. I can point the finger for that at exactly two shots, and what happens in them is mostly aimed to draw cheers and laughter from the audience. What that says about our modern-day senses of humor is probably more disturbing than the actual onscreen content.
There's really only one deleted scene that I lamented not making it into the Extended Edition, since it likely would have been a major character development moment and was sort of a centerpiece of the film's original trailer, but ultimately, I do understand why it was cut. There's also a scene added in that I've thoroughly spoken against in a previous blog entry, although the way that it unfolds is just so ludicrous and yet poetically fitting that another part of me couldn't help liking it.
And since it's been almost a year since I wrote my "There's Something About Ori" essay, I might as well mention that the little dwarf scribe photobombs Bilbo twice in one bonus scene. It's not the journal scene that I was hoping to get, but I'll still call it a victory.
In short, the Extended Edition of The Hobbit: The Battle of the Five Armies is worth the wait. I wish we had gotten this version in theaters instead last year, and given its 164-minute run time, it feels more like a theatrical cut anyway. Like I said back in December, hardcore fans are probably going to look back on this movie and all five of its predecessors as films that were preceded by condensed editions rather than followed by Extended Editions.
But in the end, I'm grateful that the filmmakers of the six Middle-earth movies cared enough about their fans to give us two versions of each to choose from. We're a very lucky bunch, if you do believe in luck.