Unlike all the previous films this last of director Peter Jackson’s contributions to the cinematic Middle-earth doesn’t begin with a flashback to help fill-in important information to the audience. This time it begins how the second of this forced trilogy ended: with Smaug the dragon flying to Lake-town to burn it and its inhabitants. As expected, Bard escapes from jail and dispatches the dragon with the last black arrow. This is a spectacular sequence, especially seeing it in 3D and IMAX formats. Since, Smaug doesn’t have anything else to do with the story this segment serves as the prelude to the film instead of a flashback. Bard is then hailed a hero and quickly becomes the natural leader of the survivors of Lake-town, which is his birthright. They make for the ruins of Dale, which was destroyed by Smaug when it originally took residence in the Lonely Mountain.
Now, Thorin (Richard Armitage) and his company of dwarves along with Bilbo (Martin Freeman) now have taken residence in the Lonely Mountain. All save Thorin look on with pity and grief as Lake-town burns. He is much more interested in his regained kingdom and, of course, the treasure it contains. This madness grows as the search for the Arkenstone becomes fruitless. We later find out that Bilbo did pocket the gem during his encounter with the dragon. He withheld it from Thorin for fear it would make his madness worse. His madness was bad enough when Bard and the other survivors of Lake-town ask for the compensation that was promised them, especially after the destruction of their home. The elves had also come, expecting to war with Thorin and company. And they were right, since Thorin refuses to help the humans and or give the king of the woodland elves, Thranduil (Lee Pace), back his jewels.
In the meantime, the Necromancer sent free a large army of Orcs heading toward the Lonely Mountain as well. This all leading to the event suggested in the subtitle.
It’s hard for me to pinpoint the exact time when this film bottomed-out for me. But, I’m guessing it was around the last hour. It was actually when the title battle began, to give you an idea. Before that time I was nuts for this film. Aside from the cringe-worthy love triangle with Legolas (Orlando Bloom), Tauriel (Evangeline Lilly), and the “cute” drawf, Kili (Aidan Turner), any changes or added material didn’t bother me. In fact, the added sequences involving the Necromancer and the rescue of Gandalf (Ian McKellen) are outstanding. We get to see Saruman (Christopher Lee) and Elrond (Hugo Weaving) kick Nazgul butt. And, Galadriel (Cate Blanchett) deals with the Necromancer nicely.
And, there were many more things that really was making me enjoy the film. But, once the battle begins the film begins to become thin. The last little bit of it is great. This part sees Thorin’s enviable confrontation with the pale orc, Azog (Manu Bennett), which was very satisfying. But, much leading up to this reinforces my brief that there was never a need for three films. And, this is the main problem with all the films. I almost did feel that this one was far too good to be attached to the previous films. But, in the end it fits perfectly well with them. And, that’s a pity really.–Charles T. Cochran Film Rating: 3 out of Five Stars