The Hobbit: The Battle of the Five Armies 3D review

Overwrought, over-hyped and overlong, but at least Peter Jackson's bloated saga is finally over

If we didn't know better, we'd swear that Peter Jackson was deliberately aping the Star Wars saga with his mammoth blockbuster franchise. As with George Lucas's space opera, Jackson's fantasy series kicked off with a well-received trilogy that helped revolutionise the film industry, before returning after a lengthy gap with a trio of unsatisfying prequels that seem more concerned with the technology used to create them than the story they tell.

Picking up where …The Desolation of Smaug left off, this final part of The Hobbit wastes no time in killing off the dragon (voiced by Benedict Cumberbatch) so that it can get down to the real business of pitting armies of computer-generated Dungeons & Dragons figurines against one another in increasingly spectacular battles. Meanwhile Thorin Oakenshield (Richard Armitage) and his band of interchangeable dwarves wall themselves up inside the Misty Mountain and argue about whether or not to share their reclaimed loot with anyone.

But what about Bilbo Baggins (Martin Freeman), you ask? Well, as with the previous film in the series, Bilbo is shuffled off onto the sidelines and contributes next to nothing of any real consequence to the story, which is pretty rough treatment for a character who this particular three-part story has been named after.

As such, in his misguided attempt to pad J. R. R. Tolkien's original children's book out to fill three (!) movies and transform it into a blockbuster epic on a par with The Lord of the Rings, Jackson has lost sight of the heart and soul of the story. In its place you get an endless parade of tiresome and repetitive battles, which may have been a little more bearable if they weren't so heavily indebted to CGI. Just compare any of the battles from this flick to the final woodland fight with the Uruk-hai from …The Fellowship of the Ring and you'll see the huge difference made by shooting on location with real actors.

Jackson's The Hobbit trilogy must be viewed as a damp squib and …The Battle of the Five Armies is its wettest instalment. Hopefully one day the director will be persuaded back in to the editing suite to recut this bloated trilogy into the lean two-parter Tolkien's book deserved.

Picture: This Blu-ray set includes separate 2D AVC and 3D MVC encodes, both of which provide top-tier home cinema experiences.

The stereoscopic 2.40:1 1080p image ranks up there with the very best live-action 3D experiences, delivering an authentic sense of depth. The separation of characters and objects from the locations feels entirely natural and gives every shot an involving sense of space.

Colours are also extremely well saturated, feeling every bit as bold as they do in The Hobbit's 2D version. Contrast levels are also spot-on, providing plenty of deep blacks to offset the vibrant reds and yellows seen during Smaug's night attack on Laketown (Chapters 1-2, see above).

While the 2.40:1-framed 2D version lacks the additional sense of three-dimensional space, it remains a peerless Blu-ray presentation packed with pixel-sharp detail.
Picture rating: 5/5

Audio: As with the previous Blu-rays in the trilogy, …The Battle of the Five Armies boasts a boisterous DTS-HD MA 7.1 soundtrack (which means that the original Dolby Atmos cinema mix is M.I.A.). Whether it's dealing with the clash between the Orcs and the combined forces of Elf, Dwarf and Man (Chapters 22-24 and 27-28), or the whispering voices that haunt the mind of Thorin during his dragon-sickness (Chapter 26), the mix engages your speakers with precisely placed spatial effects and crisp, high-frequency details. LFE effects are constant and bring weight to the many action scenes – although (and this is a complaint that was levelled at the first two movies) the bass never quite extends low enough to wake a Balrog.
Audio rating: 4.5/5

Extras: There are some interesting extras here, but nothing too in-depth. New Zealand: Home of Middle-earth, Part 3 (six minutes) offers a final guide to the film's locations; Recruiting the Five Armies (12 minutes) focuses on the film's army of extras; A Six-Part Saga (10 minutes) discusses the connections that run through Jackson's six Tolkien films; A Seventeen-Year Journey (nine minutes) looks back across the making of the six films; and The Last Goodbye: Behind the Scenes (11 minutes) looks at the making of the song that plays over the end credits.

There's also a music video and trailer.
Extras rating: 2/5

We say: A spectacular Blu-ray presentation of a disappointing end to Jackson's fantasy saga

The Hobbt: The Battle of the Five Armies 3D, Warner Bros. Home Entertainment, All-region BD, £28 Approx