The Hobbit: The Battle of the Five Armies ★★

Here we are at last, at the end of all things! What was originally envisioned as a two-part film adaptation of J.R.R. Tolkien's The Hobbit eventually finishes as another trilogy in the Middle-Earth saga despite the fact that unlike The Lord of the Rings, this novel would've sufficed as a single feature & certainly wasn't vast enough to warrant three films; a mistake that became pretty clear when the first chapter was criticized by many for its bloated length.

For me however, An Unexpected Journey was still an impressive commencement of The Hobbit film series for it closely followed the events of the book, kept the changes within the realms of Tolkien's spirit & was a largely satisfying cinematic experience despite its obvious flaws. The journey downward began with The Desolation of Smaug which absolutely slaughtered the novel in a manner that was plainly insulting to Tolkien & added even more insult to injury by abruptly ending at one of cinema's most frustrating cliffhangers.

And so after a wait of another year, we come to the third & final instalment of The Hobbit film series but instead of a satisfying closure, what we get is a terribly written & horribly executed premise inflated to epic proportions which, apart from confirming that expanding this single-film story into three features was indeed a stupid move by the filmmakers, also brings the Middle-Earth franchise to its all-time low for there is nothing in this second sequel that works out in its favour.

The Hobbit: The Battle of the Five Armies begins with what should've been the ending of The Desolation of Smaug & wraps up the fiery wrath of Smaug even before the film's subtitle appears on the screen. The plot then follows Bilbo Baggins & the Company of Dwarves who after reclaiming their kingdom prepare for an impending war against elves n men who just want their share of the treasure but when a greater threat arrives at the Lonely Mountain, they all are left with the choice to either unite against their common enemy or be destroyed.

Helmed by Peter Jackson for one last time, the final chapter in the franchise is also the weakest as the director completely abandons all the core elements of storytelling to rely solely on a series of eye-popping visuals & CGI-laden battles to carry its story forward. The screenplay continues the slaughter of its source material by stuffing the narrative with needless fillers while the remaining contents of the novel are either presented in an overly exaggerated fashion or discarded in its entirety.

Coming to the performances, it's only Martin Freeman & Ian McKellen as Bilbo Baggins & Gandalf the Grey, respectively, who leave a better impression than the others but their role is somewhat limited in the finished product. The most unexpected disappointment comes from Richard Armitage who played Thorin Oakenshiled amazingly well in the previous two chapters yet here he seems pretty much clueless for the most part & delivers a laughable performance.

The supporting characters are handled so poorly by the writers that even after three films, which totals over eight hours of runtime, many will have trouble in recalling the correct names of all the dwarves or what their purpose was on this quest. The first half of the film also deals with the corrupting power of greed which is pretty ironic considering that the very existence of this third chapter is a result of greed on the part of its creators. The only aspect which didn't turn out to be a letdown is Howard Shore's epic score.

On an overall scale, The Hobbit: The Battle of the Five Armies is far from a fitting conclusion to The Hobbit trilogy & is a disappointment in every manner. Poorly directed, terribly written, needlessly bloated, overflowing with excessive CGI, lacking in substance & featuring some cringeworthy performances, there's so much one can complain about this finale but where this film or The Hobbit film series as a whole fails is exactly where The Lord of the Rings triumphed gloriously; its faithfulness to the works of J.R.R. Tolkien.

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