A powerful, terrific end to the second Tolkien film trilogy, THE HOBBIT: THE BATTLE OF THE FIVE ARMIES is exciting and fast moving from beginning to end.
This is a welcome fact, considering I found the first two parts of the trilogy VERY slow and padded with boring exposition.
The film opens with Smaug's attack on Laketown and director Peter Jackson knocks every other "dragon attacking a city" scene from your memory with a visually stunning, thrilling battle.
After the exciting prologue, the film moves swiftly to catch us up with all of our characters, who soon find themselves all converging on Lonely Mountain.
Thorin (the terrific Richard Armitage) finds himself spiraling downward with "dragon sickness" as the gold inside the mountain becomes his only priority. Bilbo Baggins (amazing performance by Martin Freeman) finds himself trying to broker the peace between the warring hordes that all come to the mountain to claim the gold inside and the power it wields.
All your favorites are back, Legolas (Orlando Bloom), Tauriel (Evangeline Lilly), her secret love Kili (Aidan Turner) and of course Sir Ian McKellen as Gandalf.
All of the many tendrils of plot laid out in the first two films come together perfectly for nearly 2 and a half hours of adventure. There were certainly parts where I struggled to remember the politics or machinations that put the characters where we first see them in part 3, but like "Game of Thrones" it's worth the effort.
The final battle sequence is the equal of the epic middle earth battle at Pellenor "Return of the King" finale, with over 45 minutes of non-stop action between every creature imaginable at the base of the mountain.
The CGI in the entire film is seamless, visually impressive and utterly real throughout.
Peter Jackson still over indulges his urges for multiple emotional finales, but somehow they didn't grate on me here like they did in "The Return of the King". With "Five Armies" clocking in nearly 60 minutes shorter than that film, I'm sure that helps!
The final scenes are the perfect ending to the Hobbit Trilogy. While this trilogy will never, in my mind, equal the greatness of the "Rings" trilogy, you have to admire the sheer scope and quality of Jackson's work.
Battle of the Five Armies is by FAR the best of the Hobbit trilogy and gets an A.