At long last, Peter Jackson's unexpected journey through Middle-Earth comes to an end today, with the release of "The Hobbit: The Battle of the Five Armies."
The story of Bilbo Baggins and how he came into possession of the cursed one ring draws its final breath as war between men, dwarves, elves and orcs alike breaks out on all sides, resulting in the most action-packed "Hobbit" movie of them all — and that's saying something. But the spectacle isn't enough for some skeptical reviewers, who still aren't won over by the "Lord of the Rings" prequel series.
Here's what the critics are saying about the final "Hobbit" film, from the good to the bad:
"In the new movie, Jackson and his screenwriting colleagues Fran Walsh and Philippa Boyens begin with a Smaug alert. Escaping his lair, the dragon flies to Lake-town for a sensational blitzkrieg defended by the episode’s unsullied human hero Bard the Bowman (stalwart Luke Evans). The tragic figure here is the Dwarf king Thorin (a splendidly conflicted Richard Armitage) who, having recaptured his people’s ancestral cave of gold, is tainted and maddened by it. Asked by the Elf king Thrandull (Lee Pace) if he will have peace or war, Thorin bellows, 'I will have war!' and the five armies — Dwarves, Elves, men, Orcs and an unexpected fifth contingent — amass for a battle that consumes the last 45 mins. and nearly matchesThe Two Towers in its masterly visual choreography of sustained combat." — Richard Corliss, Time Magazine
The Calm Within The Storm
Jackson has paced the film nicely, so despite being dominated by a great deal of battles and action spectacle, it feels like we get plenty of quieter moments and asides. By spreading out the battles and letting the action move from one location to another as we follow the expansive cast of characters, the film avoids feeling bogged down in any single continuous mass of armed carnage. It’s funny that, after the length of the previous five films, this one feels brisk at nearly two and a half hours." — Mark Hughes, Forbes
Saving the Best for Last
"The final installment of the 'Hobbit' trilogy is the best, featuring more spectacular action scenes as well as the series' most emotionally resonant moments. … Though the two previous 'Hobbit' movies have not measured up to the grandeur of 'The Lord of the Rings' trilogy (to which these tales serve as prequels), this last chapter is almost on par with the 'Rings' film." — Claudia Puig, USA Today
Where's Bilbo Baggins?
"For all the characters it introduces across a numbing eight hours of super-sized story, the 'Hobbit' trilogy manages to marginalize the one that matters most: the hero of its title, whose gentle, faintly comic nature—perfectly conveyed by Freeman, MVP of these films—doesn’t quite gel with the over-long opus Jackson somehow built from Tolkien’s enchanting classroom staple. Bilbo fades into the sidelines of his own movie, and that may be why the mournful finale of Battle feels so canned, like a roiling tide of crocodile tears." — A.A. Dowd, The A.V. Club
A Missed Opportunity
"Tolkien completists and folks who just want two hours of mindless 3-D violence will probably find enough to enjoy in this mess. But now that it’s all (finally) over, Jackson’s ‘The Hobbit’ feels like a huge missed opportunity, one that stretched out its source material way past its breaking point for the sake of a huge financial windfall. The only interesting thing about ‘The Battle of the Five Armies’ is the fact that its entire story is motivated by greed. Everyone is fighting over the Lonely Mountain’s enormous treasure; characters repeatedly warn each other, with little success, to beware money’s destructive effect. Thorin ignores the warnings and is transformed by his lust for gold from a noble leader into a covetous scoundrel. But if there is a lesson to be learned here about the danger of extending thin stories out to maximize profits, it went unheeded by the filmmakers." — Matt Singer, Screen Crush
The Final Word
"A fitting conclusion to Jackson’s prequel trilogy and a triumphant adieu to Middle-earth. Now complete, 'The Hobbit' stands as a worthy successor to 'The Lord Of The Rings,' albeit one that never quite emerges from its shadow. Jackson has crafted a grand old tale to do Tolkien proud, and with a single, simple bow in the final moments, one that offers a far cleaner send-off than 'Return Of The King' ever did." — James Dyer, Empire
"The Hobbit: The Battle of the Five Armies" is in theaters now.