Running Time: 2 hours 24 minutes
The dragon Smaug (Benedict Cumberbatch) has left the stronghold of Eribor to rain fire and death upon the inhabitants of Laketown, but when he is brought down by a well placed shot from Bard (Luke Evans), Thorin (Richard Armitage) and the rest of dwarves find themselves in possession of Eribor and its immeasurable wealth. Taking his rightful place as king, Thorin is slowly warped by the sickness that the dragon had left on the mountains of treasure and in his greed he refuses to repay both the Elves of Rivendale and the people of Laketown the debt he owes them for their assistance in retaking Eribor, making both groups his enemy. To make matters worse, Azog the Defiler (Manu Bennett) has raised a pair of Orc armies to assault the dwarven stronghold from both the North and South, to seize the wealth of Eribor and get retribution on Thorin Oakenshield. It is down to Bilbo Baggins (Martin Freeman) and Gandalf (Ian McKellen) to try and turn enemies to allies before the Orcs lay waste to them all.
By far the most purely entertaining film in this trilogy, The Hobbit: The Battle of the Five Armies, is loaded with action and emotion from the get go. Where the first two movies tended to meander and drag their feet, this movie is at full sprint and aside from a few scenes where you see Thorin being twisted by his greed and the citizens of Laketown leaving their burning city behind, we are treated to a spectacle of dwarven, elven and orcish combat. I can’t possibly imagine how complicated some of these scenes were to orchestrate and there is such a smooth combination of live action and CGI that you can really get lost in it. Now that said, there is next to nothing in the way of plot or story in this third installment and watching wave after wave of warriors throw themselves at each other for nearly 2 hours starts to wear you out. The actors are given little more than battle cries to shout at each other, but a few of them manage to really score when given the chance. Aidan Turner and Evangeline Lilly give an emotional pulse to the film as they try to reconcile what they feel for each other with realities of the world around them. Luke Evans and Ryan Gage show the two faces of men in crisis as Bard is the picture of stoic courage and Alfrid is all weasely cowardice.
At this point it is has been well established that these movies would have benefitted greatly (artistically if not commercially), split into two instead of having been stretched to three, but that doesn’t keep The Hobbit: The Battle of the Five Armies from being a satisfying conclusion to the series. The action is exciting, when characters die you feel their loss and it felt like the whole story was told. Those are the most important takeaways I had when I walked out of the theatre and these days, that is more than you usually get. B+