The Battle of the Five Armies starts off where The Desolation of Smaug ended with Smaug desolating the settlement of Laketown. After the dragon is killed the dwarfs, led by Thorin (Richard Armitage), seek shelter inside the mountain, ready to defend it from any threats that converge on the mountain. Inside the mountain, Thorin is driven mad by the treasures inside, but on the outside five armies are ready to do battle varying to claim to the riches within the mountain.
After over fifteen hours of screen time we are finally back where we started over thirteen years ago, you could say we've been there and back again. Peter Jackson certainly tries to end the Middle Earth saga with a bang as the final Hobbit Film, Battle of the Five Armies, is as big as a spectacle as the films before it. However, much like The Desolation of Smaug the overall effect of the final Hobbit film is a disappointing one. Despite the fact that the Battle of the Five Armies is twenty minutes shorter than the last two Hobbit films it still feels bloated and overlong and this is quite apparent in the film's long and drawn out second act.
The rather dull second act is disappointing because Battle of the Five Armies opened up in style with the dragon Smaug (voiced again by Benedict Cumberbatch) launching his assault on the town of Laketown, but with the swift dispatching of the dragon we're left with a second act that builds up until the eventual battle of which film is named after. The film attempts to build some character in the second act, with Thorin's mind being possessed by the gold being the main focus of the second act. His descent into paranoia and madness is slightly interesting but isn't weighty enough to be stretched across the entirety of the second act. Outside of Thorin the characters are poor, with the exception of Bilbo (the series' focus on Bilbo slowly declined as the trilogy went on), and emotions feel forced (the love story between Dwarf and Elf isn't interesting).
What made the battle sequences of the Lord of the Rings series so gripping is that they stayed within the boundaries of plausibility (with perhaps the exception of Legolas' slaughter of a Mûmakil), this of course made them tense, exciting and generally created a sense of danger. This isn't evident in the Battle of the Five Armies (neither was it evident in The Desolation of Smaug), instead what we get is something that certainly extravagant and visually spectacular but on the whole empty. Jackson's decision to bloat the film with needless GCI (massive armies and gigantic fortresses are not the issue as they justify the GCI) causes the film to feel empty and devoid of threat. One particular scene in which the GCI effects didn't work was Legolas (Orlando Bloom) skipping on falling stones in midair, a moment which only prompted laughter from the audience.
The entire series' saving grace is Martin Freeman, he certainly makes Bilbo Baggins his own as he helps create a character that is easily the most likeable and engaging character in the entirety of Middle Earth, but outside of Bilbo the film's characters are emotionally unengaging and some in particularly were lazy and dreadful (the fact we spend so much time Alfrid the Coward is unforgivable). Some of the dialogue is cringe worthy and the attempts to shoehorn the LOTR series in came off as awkward and had me wishing I was eight years old and watching them again.
And so we bid farewell to Middle Earth (until Jackson returns again at least) and after seventeen hours (10 of which were absolute cinematic gold) we leave on a rather sour and disappointing note.