Would it have been more effective as two films instead of three? Yes, in fact just one epic film probably would've sufficed. Now, courtesy of Warner Bros. Home Entertainment, The Hobbit: The Battle of the Five Armies is even longer in a new "Extended Edition" that adds 20 minutes to the leanest of the three Hobbit films (also available in a 3D edition). Ten-plus hours of new special features spread across two Blu-ray discs makes the new edition indispensable for fans.
The additional footage earned Battle of the Five Armies an R rating due to a significant uptick in violence, so parents of younger kids will definitely want to be aware of that. None of the new content really makes Five Armies that much more interesting, in fact it really has the opposite effect. The coolest thing about the film, in its original theatrical form, is how it moves from one action set piece to another. There isn't much plot as Bilbo (Martin Freeman, the trilogy's secret weapon due to his dry, expertly-timed humor) marches forward with the Dragon-sickness stricken Thorin (Richard Armitage). Any semblance of plot is really just an excuse to pit Dwarves, Orcs, Evles, and men against each other in an epic, no-holds-barred battle.
'Beautiful' is a pretty good word to describe Warner Bros.' 1080p, high definition Blu-ray presentation of Battle of the Five Armies. The image is sharp enough to make a few of the dicier CG segments (like the opening Smaug showdown that just feels cheap, honestly) look even cheesier than on the big screen. But that's certainly no knock against the transfer itself. The theatrical edition Blu-ray looked superb and so does this new Extended Edition.
Ditto for the DTS-HD 7.1 surround mix which stands right up against the previous Peter Jackson Middle Earth films. No need to elaborate really. If you've been collecting the Lord of the Rings and Hobbit films on Blu-ray, you know exactly what level of high quality to expect.
Now to the special features—undoubtedly the key reason to pick up the Extended Edition, even if you already own the previous theatrical edition. Between "The Appendices Part 11: The Gathering Storm" and "The Appendices Part 12: Here at Journey's End," spread out over two Blu-ray discs, fans are treated to ten hours of behind-the-scenes material. No stone is left unturned in this utterly comprehensive examination of the film's production. We also get audio commentary by Peter Jackson and co-writer Philippa Boyens. There are a handful of smaller featurettes, as if anything else was needed on top of the "Appendices." "New Zealand: Home to Middle-Earth Part 3" runs about six minutes; "Butt-Numb-a-Thon 2011 Greeting" for Harry Knowles (12 minutes); "The Real Adam Brown" (five minutes); "Andrew Lesnie Remembered," a tribute to the Hobbit cinematographer who passed away in April 2015; music video for Jed "Nori" Brophy's "Rivers of Gold."
The Hobbit: The Battle of the Five Armies Extended Edition is more savagely violent than the theatrical cut, which may or may not be a good thing depending on any given viewer's age and expectations. But the hours of special features here make this worth the double-dip.