The behind-the-scenes featurettes included on DVDs and Blu-rays are usually little more than promotional fluff, an opportunity for cast and crew members to compliment one another on a job well done and maybe swap some innocuous backstage stories. The Verge’s Bryan Bishop, however, has found what he calls “the most honest promotional video of all time” on the Blu-ray for Peter Jackson’s The Hobbit: The Battle Of The Five Armies. Bishop has used this discovery as the basis for an editorial bluntly titled “The Hobbit Movies Were Awful, And Now We Know Why.” For those who found Jackson’s Hobbit trilogy to be bloated, disjointed, and unrewarding to follow, it turns out that the movies were no more fun to make than they were to watch. The astonishingly candid Five Armies featurette fully acknowledges the stress, chaos, and lack of planning that made the second Tolkien trilogy such a joyless slog for those involved, Jackson especially.

Everyone seems to agree that the key to the success of Jackson’s Lord Of The Rings trilogy was years of careful planning before production ever began. That was not possible on The Hobbit, however, because Peter Jackson only got involved with the project when the original director, Guillermo Del Toro, bowed out. Once the new director was hired, the harried crew members had to scramble to redesign everything to suit Jackson’s vision, but they could barely even keep up with the production schedule, let alone prepare anything in advance. At some junctures in the process, Jackson found himself essentially having to improvise on set because there was nothing really prepared for his actors to do. When it came time for the trilogy’s third and (hopefully) climactic film, Jackson realized he had no game plan whatsoever and simply sent his bemused actors, including a clearly disappointed Andy Serkis, home so he could form some kind of strategy. It’s no wonder that the people involved in making the movie look as though they barely survived a very real battle of five actual armies.

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