My birthday, being on the fifth of January, falls upon this day. By coincidence, Tolkien’s birthday is on the third of the same month, and therefore several days ago I celebrated the birthday of my favourite author by watching the “special extended edition” of The Hobbit: The Battle of the Five Armies for the first time, which I had been saving for just that occasion. In all honesty, the “extended edition” is a bit of a misnomer, for it really isn’t that it is extended, but that the theatrical is somewhat abridged for the theatres. Unfortunately, few theatres would be willing to show a film as long as these are in their entirety, and so it becomes necessary to cut down the finished film for this purpose. The full movie is, in fact, the extended edition, which should more appropriately be dubbed the “unabridged edition.”
As always, the Extended (unabridged) Edition is far superior to the theatrical in every way. Indeed, every problem I had with the theatrical version was fully rectified. The battle scenes, which I admit to finding somewhat tedious in the theatrical, are vastly improved in the extended and are now engaging and no longer tedious in the slightest. The funeral for Thorin, Kíli, and Fíli was, of course, heartrendingly beautiful, and related loose ends such as Dain’s coronation are tied up where they were left unresolved in the theatrical. Any and all plot-holes I noticed in the theatrical version were filled and explained, and it goes without saying that the whole thing flows seamlessly where the theatrical did not.
All in all, if you have not yet seen The Battle of the Five Armies, I would suggest that you forego the theatrical (abridged) version and go straight for this masterpiece of a film in its full glory: the Special Extended Edition.