The Hobbit: The Battle of the Five Armies
Excellent (4 stars)
Rated PG-13 for intense violence and frightening images
Running time: 144 minutes
Distributor: Warner Brothers Pictures
“The Battle of the Five Armies” is the third and closing chapter in “The Hobbit” series based on the classic fantasy novel of the same name by J.R.R. Tolkien. The film also represents the finale in the sextet of Tolkien adaptations directed by Peter Jackson also including The Lord of the Rings trilogy.
Picking up from where the cliffhanger of the last episode left off, this action-oriented installment opens with protagonist Bilbo Baggins (Martin Freeman) and his dwarf pals fretting over having unwittingly awakened Smaug (Benedict Cumberbatch). For, the ferocious, fire-breathing dragon has left his mountain lair and begun venting his wrath upon the helpless citizens of Lake-town.
Fortunately, a savior eventually arrives in the person of Bard the Bowman (Luke Evans) an intrepid archer who takes aim at the seemingly-invincible Smaug’s Achilles’ heel. However, piercing the tiny bare patch of skin on the dragon’s vulnerable belly doesn’t settle the question of who gets the gold and priceless baubles still sitting inside the now unprotected Lonely Mountain.
As word spreads of the demon’s demise, greed gets the better of assorted individuals who proceed to descend upon the area to stake a claim on the vast treasure. Only the arrival of a horde of evil orcs doing the bidding of the avaricious Dark Lord, Sauron the Necromancer (also Benedict Cumberbatch), inspires the contentious masses to end their hostilities and join forces against a common enemy.
Clocking in at a mercilessly-brief 144 minutes, The Battle of the Five Armies is not only the shortest, but the most entertaining of Jackson’s Tolkien screen adaptations. Between an engrossing plotline and virtual non-stop combat, the picture proves to be just the perfect way to bring down the curtain on a storied fantasy franchise.