Peter Jackson's Last Tolkien-Dream Arrives on Blu-ray

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Hobbit Five Armies Blu-ray Peter Jackson Tolkien Critical Blast

In comic books, we have this thing called "the fight scene." Some comics end up being nothing but an extended fight scene, skipping over story for wall-to-wall slugging it out.

With the end of THE DESOLATION OF SMAUG, the great dragon Smaug (voiced by Benedict Cumberbatch) was awakened. As THE BATTLE OF THE FIVE ARMIES opens, Smaug has begun his attack on Lake-town, destroying all in his path. The humans who live there are left refugees, as Bard (Luke Evans) escapes the cell that imprisons him and tries to defend his crumbling and burning town with arrows, eventually succeeding with the enigmatic (and huge) Black Arrow and a makeshift bow.

With the Lonely Mountain now left unguarded, Thorin Oakenshield (Richard Armitage), his band of dwarves, and our story's lovable burglar, the Hobbit Bilbo Baggins (Martin Freeman), enter the mountain to reclaim the long lost dwarven treasure. But the dwarves aren't the only ones who would have the treasure: as Thorin searches feverishly for the Arkenstone that will establish his rule as king, the mountain is set upon by elves and humans, each wanting their share as promised by Thorin. But Thorin has been going mad with Dragon Sickness, making him greedy, jealous, and paranoid. Bilbo struggles with helping his friend by doing the unthinkable -- betraying him by absconding with the Arkenstone.

As the humans and elves prepare to storm the mountain, they are met with an army of dwarves -- Thorrin's people -- and the battle begins. It gets even worse, however, when the forces of Sauron -- powerful orcs and sundry ugly things -- bear down on the worn down forces. That's four armies, if you've been counting. The fifth army appears at the end of the fight, an army of giant eagles and bears, led by the wizard Radagast (Sylvester McCoy, DOCTOR WHO), a friend of Gandalf's (Ian McKellen).

While the film is largely a fight scene, there's still a good bit of actual story at play, including Thorrin's rallying against the madness that has overtaken him, and the rescue of Gandalf at the magical hand of Galadriel (Cate Blanchett) and the swords of Elrond (Hugo Weaving) and Saruman (Christopher Lee). And there's the tragic ending to the tale of forbidden love between the elven Tauriel (Evangeline Lilly) and the dwarf, Kili (Aidan Turner).

I had to admire the choreography for such enormous battles, even knowing that much of it was CGI. At the end of it, I felt as drained and exhausted as the actors must have felt, particularly Orlando Bloom who, in his role of the elf Legolas, performs a lot of sword gymnastics.

Now that this film has been released onto Blu-ray, I should expect marketing to spin out a boxed set of the HOBBIT trilogy featuring the lengthier Director's Cut, and perhaps even a boxed set of all six films, including the trilogy of THE LORD OF THE RINGS so that the ultimate Tolkien binging can begin.

This Blu-ray release comes with a DVD version with limited bonus features, and an Ultraviolet digital download. Special features include a look at the New Zealand countryside where much of the story was filmed (plan your vacations now, folks -- you may never want to leave), a music video for "The Last Goodbye," a making-of that focuses on the designs for the five armies, and a retrospective on the entire idyll through the eyes of the actors and characters we've become attached do over the past decade plus some.

The greatest adventure is still what lies ahead -- every time you open the box and begin to live Peter Jackson's vision of Tolkien's epic story. Unless, of course, Peter Jackson decides to do the unthinkable and take on one last, desperate mad plan:

THE SILMARILLION.

Grade: 
4.0 / 5.0