Peter Jackson went from obscure New Zealand director to world-famous filmmaker with The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring, back in 2001. Cut to thirteen years later and here we are, just a couple weeks away from the release of the final installment in Jackson's Middle-earth sextet, The Hobbit: The Battle of the Five Armies, which also concludes his Hobbit adaptation/Lord of the Rings prequel trilogy.
The Hobbit movies haven't received as much adoration as the Rings movie did; and at this point in time, there has been so much discussion about the reasons why it doesn't bear repeating. Battle of the Five Armies is the final brick in the wall that Jackson has built, with his cinematic rendition of the fantasy world imagined by J.R.R. Tolkien. And even after two comparatively less-beloved installments, these movies have formed an impressive legacy for its director and his collaborators.
So, the question is - does Battle of the Five Armies end Jackson's Middle-earth saga on a strong note... or is this chapter best forgotten? Well, the first wave of reviews have started to pour in for the film; have a look at the following excerpts to see what the critics think so far (click the respective link for the entire review).
TRAILER & REVIEWS
Variety - The result is at once the trilogy’s most engrossing episode, its most expeditious (at a comparatively lean 144 minutes) and also its darkest — both visually and in terms of the forces that stir in the hearts of men, dwarves and orcs alike. Only fans need apply, but judging from past precedent, there are more than enough of them to ensure that “Battle” walks off with the dragon’s share of the upcoming holiday-season box office.
THR - After six films, 13 years and 1031 minutes of accumulated running time (far more if you count the extended versions), Peter Jackson has concluded his massively remunerative genuflection at the altar of J.R.R. Tolkien with a film that may be the most purely entertaining of any in the collection (tellingly, it is also, by far, the shortest of the sextet).
The Wrap - “Five Armies” is a carefully controlled circus of freaks, marvels, grotesqueries, and high-flying pageantry. And like any circus, we're there to gasp and to laugh, but not to feel. “The Hobbit” movies have taken us there and back again, and I'm mostly just relieved the journey is now over.
Coming Soon - Minor issues aside, this is another grand spectacle that does a fine job wrapping things up without offering nearly as many of the memorable moments of its predecessor… or “The Lord of the Rings” as a whole.
The Guardian - [This] film is a fitting cap to an extended series that, if nothing else, has transformed Tolkien’s place in the wider culture. His books were once strictly for spotty teen nerds (I think we’ve all been there), and while The Battle of the Five Armies is unlikely to repeat the Oscar sweep that greeted the conclusion of Jackson’s first Tolkien trilogy, in truth it is just as enjoyable as each of the five films that came before it.
Screen Daily - The final chapter of The Hobbit proves to be very much of a piece with the trilogy’s first two instalments: It’s robustly entertaining, occasionally affecting, sometimes thrilling, not exactly groundbreaking... This satisfying Battle showcases Jackson’s still-potent skill for sculpting large-scale action scenes, even if the freshness of his vision has faded.
In summation, it sounds as though most critics so far (with exceptions, as always) feel that Battle of the Five Armies is a fine conclusion to the Hobbit movie trilogy, as well as Jackson's Middle-earth adaptations in general... even if it doesn't mark a high point, creatively-speaking, for this fantasy epic series.
Battle of the Five Armies is the leanest and most furiously paced of the Hobbit movies it seems (as Jackson had indicated), which should be all the more welcome news for those who've been hoping that Jackson and company would finish their latest race around Middle-earth sprinting, rather than trudging along.
The film serves as the bridge between Bilbo Baggins' story and the Rings trilogy; that responsibility, coupled with the foundation it was built upon, is why Battle of the Five Armies was always unlikely to top the emotional pitch achieved by Jackson's Rings finale, Return of the King. Nonetheless, as our "last goodbye" to Jackson's Middle-earth, it sounds as though Battle of the Five Armies will (for many) get its job done quite well enough.
The Hobbit: The Battle of the Five Armies opens in U.S. theaters on December 17th, 2014.