The Hobbit: The Battle Of The Five Armies is the third in a trilogy of films adapting the enduringly popular masterpiece The Hobbit, by J.R.R. Tolkien. The film brings to an epic conclusion the adventure of Bilbo Baggins (Freeman), Thorin Oakenshield (Armitage), and the Company of Dwarves. The Dwarves of Erebor have reclaimed the vast wealth of their homeland but now must face the consequences of having unleashed the terrifying Dragon, Smaug, upon the defenseless men, women, and children of Lake-town. As he succumbs to dragon-sickness, the King Under the Mountain, Thorin, sacrifices friendship and honor in search for the legendary Arkenstone. Unable to help Thorin see reason, Bilbo is driven to make a desperate and dangerous choice, not knowing that even greater perils lie ahead. An ancient enemy has returned to Middle Earth. Suron, the Dark Lord, has sent forth legions of Ores in a stealth attack upon the Lonely Mountain. As darkness converges on their escalating conflict, the races of Dwarves, Elves, and men must decide––unite or be destroyed. Bilbo finds himself fighting for his life and the lives of his friends as five great armies go to war. (Gary Reber)
Special features include three featurettes: Recruiting The Five Armies, Completing Middle-Earth, and The Last Goodbye; “The Last Goodbye” music video; the documentary New Zealand: Home Of Middle-Earth Part 3; and an UltraViolet digital copy.
As with the previous two parts of the trilogy, the 2.40:1 1080p MVC 3D picture is realized to its fullest magical visualizations in every nuanced detail. Both the 2D and 3D encoding are flawless! While every parameter of quality is precisely executed—color fidelity, contrast, black levels, and framing—it is the 3D application that draws the audience completely into the image and storytelling. The 3D was captured with a total of 17 Red Epic digital cameras locked into 3Reality Digital mirror system rigs and other custom rigs, and monitored in 3D as it was being made. The sense of depth, dimensionality, and perspective is astonishingly successful, though, relatively restrained from screen-puncturing gimmicks. The spatial relationship of people and objects against vast landscapes and distant horizons is striking. Characterizations are incredibly realistic, with convincing shapely volume depictions and spatial interplays. Whether during quieter scenes or rambunctious battle scenes, the sense of depth and scale is absolutely realistic. The feeling conveyed is one of “you are there” as an invisible observer. Occasionally, a sword, fluttering bird, or swinging ax extends out of the screen, but still this negative parallax view never is a distraction. Throughout the viewing experience the integrity of the 3D is never compromised. As for the elements comprising the picture, color fidelity is exceptional, with lush Shire greens, glowing browns, and oranges; blue skies, blazing flames, lifelike fleshtones, and complexly deep blacks providing the imaginative stylization. Contrast is excellent, with solid blacks and natural shadow detail evidenced throughout. Resolution is exceptional as well, no doubt due to the original master photography captured at 48 frames per second at 5K resolution. The human eye sees 60 frames per second, so 48 frames gives the viewer more of what they would actually see in the real world. Fine detail is evident in facial features, creatures, hair, costumes, and objects. Such nuanced resolution enhances the sense of realism and transport to the worlds of Middle-earth. The imagery is impressively pristine, without artifacts such as ringing, aliasing, macroblocking, banding, noise, and crosstalk. This is without reservation one of the finest 3D native presentations to be experienced. Jackson has ensured optimum quality of presentation by spreading the storytelling over two Blu-ray Discs™. This is a true reference-quality picture and a MUST HAVE for one's Blu-ray Disc library. (Gary Reber)
The DTS-HD Master Audio™ 7.1-channel soundtrack is in one word—spectacular! Holosonic®-sounding throughout, the soundfield perfectly projects the varied soundscapes imagined for Middle-earth and the Dwarf King’s Mountain. The thread that unites the tapestry of extraordinary visuals is Howard Shore's sweeping orchestral score. The music is an almost-constant element in the sound design and delivers the emotional foundation of the storytelling. Atmospherics and sound effects are creatively and effectively supported with scale and dynamics, as well as presence in the surrounds. The added two channels subscribe to the Dolby® 7.1 theatrical format and enhance the overall sense of fullness and soundfield dimensionality. The .1 LFE channels provide necessary low-end support and force during particular segments. The bass extension is powerful yet nuanced to sub-25 Hz levels. Surround aggression is effective throughout, resulting in a totally enveloping soundfield with panned and directionalized sonics. Dialogue is consistently intelligible and nicely integrated spatially. Fidelity throughout is exemplary for motion picture presentations. This is one of those rare reference-quality presentations that sets the standard for attainment by other filmmakers. Peter Jackson and his team deserve our applause and appreciation for such creative work. This, along with the previous two releases in the trilogy, is one of the greatest Blu-ray Disc presentations thus far offered. (Gary Reber)