The Hobbit: The Battle of the Five Armies Extended Edition (2014)
The theatrical edition of The Hobbit: The Battle of the Five Armies was light on plot and heavy on action sequences. As a result it had many unresolved story lines. The extended editions once again attempts to address these deficiencies but sadly out of the twenty minutes of additional material that has been added, most are extended action scenes. There are moments of substance buried within this ponderous expanded edition but they are few and far between. Compared to other entries in the extended trilogy, this is the weakest as it really doesn’t add any major plot or narrative improvements. It does however add a lot more orc based violence.
If you are familiar with Peter Jackson’s earlier work such as Bad Taste and Braindead, then the splatter and CGI gore that has been added to The Hobbit: The Battle of the Five Armies will come as no surprise. As ever with his treatment of violence, Mr. Jackson tries to mitigate it’s over the top nature with a little slapstick humour. It may well me cunningly contrived and well-staged but it seems tonally out of place. Is this really Tolkien’s work? It’s a shame really because Peter Jackson is a very good film maker but he needs someone to curb his excesses and pull his focus back to the narrative when he becomes too enamoured with spectacle.
The new scenes added to The Hobbit: The Battle of the Five Armies are as follows.
Gandalf and Narya, The Ring of Fire.
The first new scene starts during Gandalf’s captivity in Dol Guldur. A large Uruk interrogates him regarding Narya the ring of fire. After brutally flinging him to the ground (shades of Pontius Pilate in The Life of Brian), the torturer attempts to sever the wizard’s hand.
Galadriel arrives and subsequently causes the Uruk to explode when revealing her power. Apparently this nameless Uruk, created via the use of an actor wearing prosthetics, was the original design for Azog.
Fighting the Ringwraiths and Radagast’s staff.
There are additional shots of Saruman and Elrond fighting the Ringwraith, which remains an entertaining but incredibly lore breaking sequence.
A more important scene is added after the expulsion of Sauron from Dol Guldur by the White Council. Radagast gives Gandalf his staff, as Mithrandir had lost his when confronting the Necromancer. Bunny Sled fans will enjoy its brief return during this expanded section.
Bilbo and Bofur.
One of the few strong points of this trilogy is the interaction between Bilbo and Bofur. During the night Bilbo decides to leave Erebor and go the Dale and give the Arkenstone to Bard and Thranduil to stop the ongoing conflict. Bofur mistakenly thinks that Bilbo is leaving for home again, as he did in the first movie. It’s a nice character driven vignette, that highlights the quality of the performances of both Martin Freeman and James Nesbitt.
Thorin considers Bard and Thranduil’s terms.
In this expanded scene Thorin ponders Bard and Thranduil’s terms, with regard to ransoming of the Arkenstone. This is a nice embellishment that showsThorin’s resolve wavering. There’s a nice lore based quip when Thranduil says to Bard “Ecthelion of Gondor will give you a good price for it”. However the arrival of a Raven on the wall informs Thorin that his Cousin Dáin Ironfoot has come and the negotiations swiftly end.
Send in the Goats.
In this considerably expanded section of the movie Dáin Ironfoot arrives with a sizeable army of Dwarves armed with Ballistas and Battle Rams in armour. After a pithy exchange with Thranduil, he decides to “send in the Goats” against the Elven Archers. It all ends in a scene very reminiscent of Braveheart with the Goats being skewered by a sheltron.
The Dwarves also deploy a Ballista based weapon that deals with the Elven arrow barrage very effectively. This new content adds gravitas to the decision by all parties to cease fighting when the Orc army arrives.
Bofur and the Troll.
After Thorin and company join the battle, there is new material involving the Dwarves. One such scene features a reoccurring joke involving a hand axe being thrown between Dwarves. This is the sort of embellishment that works very well and adds character to the proceedings.
Sadly shortly after this fun new addition, we get a completely over the top action sequence in which Bofur rides a Blind Troll and causes havoc among the Uruks.
The Dwarven War Chariot.
This next action scene is quite lengthy and is possibly the most controversial addition to the extended edition of the film. When Thorin decides to attack Azog at Ravenshill , he rides on a Battle Ram, with Kili Fili, Dwalin and Balin providing support in a Dwarven war Chariot. A hectic pursuit ensues as they are attacked by Wargs, Orcs and an armoured Troll.
This scene contains a lot of CGI splatter violence that may well have pushed the US rating from PG-13 to R. There is a short pause for a dialogue exchange between Dwalin and Balin which again shows that there is some depth to the little narrative there is.
The Death of Alfrid.
Alfrid (Ryan Gage) is an utterly contrived character and frankly serves no real purpose in this movie, beyond the functional. Did the story really need a comic foil? However in the extended edition at least we get to see his demise, which is equally phony and laboured. The scene benefits from some light relief as Gandalf tries to get the staff that Radagast gave him to work.
Bifur and the Axe in his Head.
I’ve always found the concept of Bifur having an axe embedded in his head a step too far. However this new scene does at least make use of this particular “MacGuffin”. After headbutting an Orc Bifur finds himself stuck. Both Bofur and Bombur wrestle to free him resulting in the axe head finally being removed from his skull. A zinger line follows, which I believe is the only piece of dialogue Bifur (William Kircher) has in all three films.
Legolas and the Gratuitous Action Scene.
If you are a fan of the scene in the theatrical version of the movie in which Legolas hung from a Gaint Vampire Bat, then you’ll love this expanded scene in which he dangles upside down and attacks an entire column of Uruks singlehandedly. It is staggeringly crass and frankly embarrassing to watch.
Finally and perhaps in some ways the most important addition to the movie, we have the funeral for Thorin Oakenshield. This short and sombre scene does see the Arkenstone restored to Thorin as he as well as Kili and Fili lie in state on top of their stone tombs. The montage then cuts to Dáin Ironfoot being crowned king under the mountain.
Fans of this trilogy will no doubt enjoy this latest extended edition, as will those viewers who are not Tolkien aficionados and are just looking for come casual fantasy entertainment. However there are many who still feel that this adaptation of The Hobbit is deeply flawed and is very much a case of style over substance. This is very much Peter Jackson's interpretation of Middle-earth, rather than an authentic depiction of Tolkien's. However irrespective of your point of view this extended edition is ultimately superior to the theatrical release and remains the recommended version of the film.