The Hobbit: The Battle of the Five Armies (2014) ****

The third and final installment in the film trilogy The Hobbit is directed, as its previous parts, by Peter Jackson to a screenplay by Jackson, Fran Walsh, Philippa Boyens, and Guillermo del Toro. It stars, as its predecessors, a long line of actors including Martin Freeman, Ian McKellen, Richard Armitage, Evangeline Lilly, Lee Pace, Luke Evans, Benedict Cumberbatch, Ken Stott, James Nesbitt, Cate Blanchett, Ian Holm, Christopher Lee, Hugo Weaving and Orlando Bloom.
Here is the gist of it: if you are a J. R. R. Tolkien fan and feel that Jackson’s depiction of Middle-Earth and the various characters it inhibits are true to the source, this film is for you. It is lively, full of action, and expands in details well beyond the book, as Jackson interjected into the material appendices that Tolkien wrote as add-ons to the original story (published in the back of The Return of the King). Jackson continues to make brilliant use of special effects to recreate this fantasy world, allowing us to get sucked right in. Being that I personally completely buy into the world Tolkien dreamed up and Jackson constructed on the big screen, I should mention that some critics felt this film suffers from prolonged battle scenes that add nothing to the thin plot of this third installment. I can see their point but as I am a Tolkien junkie, I don’t mind.
The cast all feature fine acting -- as good as in any of the previous films in this series (Lord of the Ring included). I especially liked the use Jackson made of the characters’ eyes that seem to be the focal point in many of the film’s scenes. Go watch at the theater if you are a Tolkien/Jackson fan, or else wait for the DVD if you only half curious.