By Gary Murray

Starring Richard Armitage, Martin Freeman and Ian McKellen

Written by Fran Walsh, Philippa Boyens, Peter Jackson and Guillermo del Toro

Directed by Peter Jackson

Running time 144 min

MPAA Rating PG-13

Selig Film Rating FULL PRICE


Peter Jackson has dedicated a very large portion of his career to the works of J.R.R. Tolkien.  Over the last decade or so, he has turned New Zealand into Middle Earth and started a massive film industry in this island nation.  He ends another trilogy with The Hobbit: The Battle of the Five Armies.

The film starts with Smaug (brilliantly voiced by Benedict Cumberbatch) destroying the village of Laketown   The dragon blows massive reams of fire, lighting everything in embers.  Bard (Luke Evans) breaks out of jail and runs to the top of the tower to confront the beast.  He is a brilliant marksman but the thick hide of the beast is too much for his arrows.  His son Bain gets a special black arrow and the two work together to slay the beast.  This all happens before the credits.  The film takes off with a shot and never lets up for two hours.

The film is about the aftermath of killing the dragon.  The dwarfs have a mountain of treasure and a mountain of treasure is a temptation for just about anyone in Middle Earth.  Dwarf KingThorin Oakenshield (Richard Armitage) becomes so overwhelmed by the hoard that he develops gold madness. Somewhere within the treasure is a special jewel called the Arkenstone.  Bilbo (Martin Freeman) has pinched the magical jewel as his share of the loot.  Thorin wants it to claim his birthright. 

In the other part of the plot, Galdalf (Ian McKellen) hangs in a gilded cage.  Eventually, he is rescued but in a weakened state.  He knows that he must get back to protect Bilbo.  An army comes from the North that wants the treasure.

As the dwarves fortify their stronghold, the people of Laketown look to the mountains to survive the winter.  Bard wants nothing to do with the dragon gold, believing that it is cursed.  He just wants to keep his family safe and his people protected.  

Part of the treasure is a necklace of white gem belonging to the elves.  The leader of the elves Thranduil (Lee Pace) wants the treasure back and forms an alliance with Bard to bargain with Thorin.   An army of elves shows up for battle to get back their property.

And in the hub of all of these different groups is our little hobbit who just wants to go back to the shire.  He still has the ring of power that can make him invisible.  These are just parts of the set-up to one of the biggest battles ever put on a screen.  Jackson sets up his cinematic pieces on this giant board and lets them go at it.

This film delivers on so many levels.  As an action piece, the film brings a knockout punch of simple adventure.  There are battles upon battles, with a melee of swords and shields.  For the action junkie, this is the best adventure flick of the year. 

But more than just a battle, there are characters that the audience can identify with on different levels.  Everyone can understand how the love of money can lead to great evil.  We see gold coins weaken friendships and test different members.  Alliances are tested again and again as the battles ebb and flow.

The special effects take the center stage to the human actors.  With such a large cast, it is hard to make an impact.  In the end, the film feels more like a CGI style video game and the people aren’t given much to do other than battle. 

Peter Jackson has delivered another achievement of cinema with this film.  Where the first two films feel padded, this one keeps a very brisk pace.  It the work would have been crafted as a two-part film, the entire exercise would have worked better.

While The Hobbit is not Lord of the Rings, it is a much better entry than the first two Hobbit films.  It is a fitting end to the series and it does link to the Lord series.  One of the best films for the holiday season. 

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