Peter Jackson’s Hobbit trilogy finally comes to a dramatic and somewhat spectacular close, but Return of the King it is not. From the onset of this Lord of the Rings prequel there were problems: changing directors, fighting over the rights to the book, and then splitting it from two films into three. The Battle of the Five Armies, originally titled “There and Back Again”, begins where The Desolation of Smaug ends, and for about 10 minutes we are thrust back to the second film with the dragon, then pushed onto what this film is really about: war. C’mon, the dragon battle should have ended in the second film. This film is nearly one big battle, which Jackson is very good at orchestrating with seamless visual effects from WETA. Surprisingly, this is the shortest Middle Earth film and ironically it feels rushed, jumping from one fight sequence to another.

 ​Smaug (Cumberbatch) reigns terror on Lake Town, where Bard (Evans) is imprisoned and unable to use that last dragon arrow. The town suffers tremendous devastation and looks toward Dale and The Lonely Mountain where Thorin (Armitage) now sits on his throne cursed by the gold. Bilbo (Freeman) possesses the arkenstone and realizes that in order to save his dwarf friends from themselves, he must betray his company and give the heart of the mountain to the elves and men of Lake Town. Before the civil war begins, goblins, orcs and all deadly things descend upon the Lonely Mountain, waging war for the treasure and wealth. The five armies: Men, Elves, Dwarfs, Orcs and even Eagles will battle for control of Middle Earth.

 ​If the first two films felt more like the children’s story that author JRR Tolkien intended The Hobbit to be, Jackson and his team make up for that here with lots of death, destruction, and loss on all sides. What Jackson and his female co-writers have included outside the books, mostly found in the appendices, including a pretty spectacular fight between Galadriel (Blanchett) and Sauron, is more interesting than watching the usual company battle orcs again. The score by Howard Shore isn’t as piercing and heartbreaking here and, complain as you might about those many endings on ROTK, things get wrapped up entirely too quickly here.

 ​Bloom’s Legolas gets just as much screen time as Bilbo while some of the dwarves don’t even have any spoken lines in this final segment. Jackson’s Tauriel (Lilly) creation and addition to the story is used quite effectively. She and Kili(Turner) provide the only real emotion in the entire trilogy, which is something The Lord of the Rings films were never short on. Emotion and beauty filled every frame of The Lord of the Rings, whereas in The Hobbit it’s one bleak plot point after another. The Battle of the Five Armies, for all its ridiculousness, is still probably the best of the series, especially in those few moments where Jackson brings this series full circle with The Fellowship of the Ring.

 Final Thought – Should please the fans adequately, but don’t expect a masterpiece.

 Grade B+

By: Dustin Chase