'The Hobbit: The Battle of the Five Armies' is the least of the six films in epic series
‘The Hobbit: The Battle of the Five Armies’ is the least of the six films in epic series

I have a deep and abiding love for Peter Jackson’s Middle-Earth saga. “The Lord of the Rings” films are about as close to cinematic nerd perfection as you are ever going to get.

The final movie in the trilogy featured giant elephants and a ghost army and won Best Picture at the Academy Awards. That is bonkers-nuts if you stop and think about it.

“The Hobbit” prequel could only be disappointing by definition (if the first part was the best part then they wouldn’t have waited to tell it last. See: the “Star Wars” prequels).

Two critical decisions were made that put “The Hobbit” behind the orc-ball from the start. The first was when Guillermo del Toro had to step down as director requiring Jackson to jump back in to fill the hefty-bearded-horror-auteur void. Jackson had already said everything he could possibly say about Middle-Earth and del Toro promised a competent new look at the subject matter.

The other fateful decision was to split the movie into thirds. I love “The Hobbit” novel, but there is no way there is three-movies-worth of material there and the resulting films have unfortunately proven that out. You maybe could have talked me into two movies, but here we are at “The Hobbit: The Battle of the Five Armies” and we have reached that bridge too far.

This is not to say this is a lousy movie. It is entertaining, lively and I’m convinced no trip back to Jackson’s Middle-Earth could ever be a bad one. But “Battle of the Five Armies” is the least of the six movies, as it features one extended, cacophonous assault where our hero Bilbo (Martin Freeman) hardly factors into the action at all.

The battle royale between elves and dwarves and orcs and men is triggered when Bard (Luke Evans) manages to kill Smaug the dragon, leaving untold riches in the beast’s unattended hoard inside the Lonely Mountain, with only Bilbo and his small band of dwarf compatriots there to lay claim to it. That much gold is clearly going to attract some interested parties.

The meager amount of heart found in this movie involves dwarf leader Thorin (Richard Armitage) and his corruption by greed of the dragon’s treasure. Bilbo’s attempts to redeem this once noble warrior faintly echo the underlying themes that run strongly through “The Lord of the Rings” films.

Even with all of its flaws, there was a sadness to see “The Battle of the Five Armies” come to an end, putting a definitive final stamp on this epic film series. This was the last time we got to see Ian McKellen swing his staff as Gandalf or watch Orlando Bloom (who admittedly was getting a little long in the tooth for his role) defy gravity and fire a slew of arrows into a goblin’s face as Legolas.

But all journeys must come to an end and while we may never return to Peter Jackson’s Middle-Earth for new adventures, the bar has forever been risen for any movie that dares to whisk us off to some far-flung realm of the imagination. So here we sit, eagerly awaiting to take that first step in a new direction.

“It’s a dangerous business, Frodo, going out your door. You step onto the road, and if you don’t keep your feet, there’s no knowing where you might be swept off to.”

“The Hobbit: The Battle of the Five Armies” is rated PG-13 for extended sequences of intense fantasy action violence and frightening images.

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