"The Hobbit: The Battle of the Five Armies" Extended Cut Review (No Spoilers)

Last night, across the nation, Fathom Events hosted a special early screening of "The Hobbit: The Battle of the Five Armies" extended cut.  The roughly 20 minutes of new footage was enough to earn the extended version an "R" rating.  However, if you saw the original theatrical cut of BotFA or took your children to see it, you are probably safe doing the same with the extended cut.  Yes, more "classic Peter Jackson" outrageous battlefield deaths occur in the extended cut, but just the fact that they are indeed so Peter-Jackson-esque means that they are played for laughs, somewhat ridiculous, and there's no gore seen up close.  And this is "The Hobbit," after all - this is fantasy violence - orcs beating on dwarves, dwarves beating on trolls, trolls beating on elves, etc.  The MPAA chooses to stand firm on some types of content, such as long, sustained scenes of violence, therefore the "R" rating pops up despite the added scenes not much more gruesome than the theatrical cut.

As for the specific content of the added scenes, I was originally going to gush over a couple in particular, but this morning, TheOneRing.net reminded everyone in a Facebook post that some people still have not had the chance to view the extended cut, and please don't ruin it for such people.  I agree with that sentiment.  BotFA Extended Version won't be released until November 17th - I'm going to let everyone who is waiting with bated breath for its arrival savor the last month of anticipation and excitement.  When it is released, it will be a bittersweet day, to be sure, since it will truly mark the end of our adventures in Middle-Earth with Peter Jackson and his marvelous cast of actors.  Even though the extended cuts historically only bring twenty-to-thirty minutes of unseen footage, for a super fan, that is ample reason to postpone farewells to Middle-Earth, to pretend for a little longer that these fantastical films featuring beloved faces will never end.

If I'm being honest, when I left the theater after my first viewing of "The Battle of the Five Armies," I felt a little hollow.  I felt as though it were rushed, and all the emotion in the story (of which there is supposed to be a lot!) was disproportionately heaped on poor Martin Freeman.  And though he is a master in his craft, and still brought the audience to tears, the vast majority of the film was a whirlwind battle, disjointed and fickle.  And one particular emotional scene which was very important to me was completely missing.  Utterly jumped over.

I will go as far as to say that much of this is remedied with the extended cut.  This is why I am an Peter Jackson-extended-cut purist once they are released - I don't know if I have seen the theatrical release of Fellowship since 2001!  If you were left feeling a little disappointed with the original BotFA, give the extended cut a try.  The scenes of heavy pathos in the story are better spread across the film and the audience is allowed to dwell on their sadness a little more before being whisked away to more battle or adventure.  There is a lot more of Jackson's specialty - interesting beasts and monsters.  The members of Thorin's company other than Thorin and Bilbo actually get some decent screen time!  And most importantly, the scene that I need to see to have closure with these films was there...  It had been filmed, thank goodness, just not included in the theatrical cut.

Honestly, out of the three "Hobbit" films, it might just be my new favorite.  I'll see you in stores on November 17th!

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