Way back in 2001, Peter Jackson started us on our journey through Middle Earth with The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring. Thirteen years, six films and two epic trilogies later, Jackson gives Middle Earth a fitting send off with The Hobbit: The Battle of the Five Armies.

There are some people who just want the whole Middle Earth affair to be over with and while I can see their point in saying there was no need for The Hobbit to be made into a trilogy after initial plans were for two films; I can't sit here and say I wasn't looking forward to as much Middle Earth as possible.

The Battle of the Five Armies picks things up exactly where The Desolation of Smaug left them, with the dragon Smaug (Benedict Cumberbatch) looking to destroy Laketown and its residents, leading to a showdown with Bard the Bowman (Luke Evans). 

Meanwhile, Bilbo Baggins (Martin Freeman) and the company of Dwarves, led by Thorin Oakenshield (Richard Armitage) have reclaimed the kingdom of Erebor, underneath the Lonely Mountain. In his search for the Arkenstone, Thorin is driven mad and his judgement is clouded by desire for the sacred stone.

When an army of men and Elves, led by Thranduil (Lee Pace) and Bard, march on the gates of Erebor, Thorin's madness leads him to declare war on them. However, when darker forces set their sights on the Lonely Mountain, the men, Elves and Dwarves must join forces to battle an Orc army, led by Azog the Defiler (Manu Bennett), and save the future of Middle Earth.

As a franchise, The Hobbit has taken a lot of stick because it doesn't live up to the high standard set in The Lord of the Rings franchise. It doesn't but they are by no means bad films because of this. 

The Battle of the Five Armies may not be as grand a finale as The Return of the King was but believe me when I say that Peter Jackson does everything possible to make it so. It really is an epic spectacle that needs to be seen on the big screen.

While An Unexpected Journey and The Desolation of Smaug both seemed to plod along at a steady pace, The Battle of the Five Armies grabs you from the opening sequence and doesn't let go until the credits start to roll. It once again proves that nobody does epic fantasy cinema quite like Peter Jackson.

Throughout his Middle Earth experience, Jackson has always had a cast (who must now all feel like family) he can rely on. That is no different here with the likes of Martin Freeman and Ian McKellen starring as Bilbo and Gandalf respectively.

This film however, belongs to Richard Armitage as Thorin Oakenshield. Through all three films, Armitage has been solid but in The Battle of the Five Armies the film hinges more on his performance and it is one of real presence and emotion.

My biggest gripe with not just this film but the franchise as a whole is some of the ghastly and obvious CGI on show. The Lord of the Rings combined state of the art CGI with real locations to give it such a grand feel however, The Hobbit films all look like they have been created on Adobe Photoshop. For 2014, it really is distracting and disappointing.

There is one scene, involving Legolas (Orlando Bloom) and some falling concrete blocks, that looked straight out of a video game and that is something that should not be happening in films like this. I know Legolas does some pretty ridiculous stuff in The Lord of the Rings but the difference is that in those films, it looks a hell of a lot less corny. I was literally shaking my head in disbelief at how tacky it looked.

As a whole though I would have to say that The Battle of the Five Armies is a satisfying end to a grand adventure. Jackson's emotional storytelling in this 'Defining Chapter' signals that he must have found it hard to say goodbye to Middle Earth but I think it is best that it comes to an end now and bows out on a high. As much as I love the adventure he has given us, any more films would be a mistake.

Verdict: 4/5


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