The Hobbit: The Battle of the Five Armies (12A)
Directed by: Peter Jackson. Starring: Ian McKellen
Rating: ★★★

What's the story?

When we last saw the intrepid Bilbo Baggins (Martin Freeman), he was holed up with the mighty dwarf King Thorin Oakenshield (Richard Armitage) and his band of fearless warriors inside the reclaimed kingdom of Erebor, along with mountains upon mountains of gold.

But all is not well with Thorin. Seduced by Erebor’s vast wealth, he has shied away from his duty to help defend the ordinary people of Middle Earth from an impending war fought out between Man, Elf, Dwarf and Ork.

Meanwhile, foul-tempered dragon Smaug (Benedict Cumberbatch) descends upon the helpless residents of Laketown with only the brave archer Bard (Luke Evans) willing to stand up against the might of the dragon.

And, with Gandalf (Ian McKellen) held prisoner at the mercy of the dark lord Sauron, the battle for Erebor and the future of Middle Earth is about to reach boiling point.

Any good?

A labour of love and devotion for director Peter Jackson, his padded out, laborious adaptation of JRR Tolkien’s The Hobbit reaches its concluding chapter with The Battle of the Five Armies, the final movie in a trilogy that’s been somewhat hit and miss.

For some, it is an unnecessary and bloated exercise designed to cash in on the huge success of the Lord of the Rings movies. Less an adaptation of Tolkien’s beloved children’s book, some view it as more of an indulgence for Jackson as he gets carried away with his lifelong ode to Middle Earth. While I understand such arguments against the validity of turning a relatively simple book into a grand, sweeping trilogy, you can’t argue against Jackson’s talent for bringing gripping action and battle sequences to clashing, thundering life on the big screen.

The man is an absolute master of his craft and, all credit is due as he has succeeded in creating a walloping, action-packed finale that neatly leads up to the beginning of The Fellowship of the Ring.

Yes, fans of The Lord of the Rings trilogy will not be disappointed and, while it’s quite clear that The Hobbit movies are not a patch on The Lord of the Rings, The Battle of the Five Armies is still an absolute joy, with everything from breathtaking battles and the wrath and terror of the fire-breathing dragon Smaug all beautifully rendered and brought to rich and colourful life on screen.

All the players are, unsurprisingly, on top form – Ian McKellen remains a commanding force as Gandalf, Martin Freeman is superb as the adventurous hobbit Bilbo and Richard Armitage casts a foreboding figure as the delusional, tortured Thorin Oakenshield.

Final word...

A fitting end to an entertaining trilogy, The Battle of the Five Armies will not disappoint fans of Peter Jackson’s all- encompassing vision.