The Hobbit: The Battle of the Five Armies: C+
If you were hoping that the third chapter in this bloated and completely unnecessary trilogy would deliver Smaug the dragon as the epic antagonist the first two films promised, throttle your expectations. His fate is a 20-minute pre-credits “let’s get this over with” rather than a satisfying dramatic payoff. Instead, director Peter Jackson revs up the gears of war so that he can breathlessly pit dwarf against elf against orc against giant bat against eagles in a glorious mosh pit of military skirmishes. Every supporting character has his overwrought day in the sun, and Thorin Oakenshield (Richard Armitage) battles the albino orc with one hand for what seems like days.
There’s little doubt that Jackson remains a master myth-builder, constructing a spectacularly rich and entertaining world. But the three films never build momentum — dramatically or emotionally. More unforgivably, they gradually sideline their titular hero, the hobbit Bilbo Baggins (Martin Freeman). That seems a betrayal of the vision of J.R.R. Tolkien, who deliberately chose to keep The Hobbit a children’s book after the worldwide success of The Lord of the Rings. It seems that quaint notion is no match for studios eager to lighten the wallets of devoted fanboys.
Rated PG-13, running time is 144 minutes.