For those of you heavily invested in the years and years of J.R.R. Tolkien cinematic adaptations, extended DVD editions and rereading of the massive tomes, "The Hobbit: The Battle of the Five Armies" is surely a must see, a culmination of an epic amount of work by director Peter Jackson and his army of actors and crew.

For the casual movie goer? The best thing I can say is that at 144 minutes, it's much shorter than all the previous films.

"The Battle of Five Armies" is pretty much what the title promises: lots of battling, lots of armies and, of course, a hobbit.

This film picks up with the dragon Smaug unleashing his fury on Laketown and the dwarves, who are now rich with gold.

Thorin Oakenshield (Richard Armitage) -- the head of the band of dwarves tasked with accompanying Bilbo Baggins (Martin Freeman) -- has "dragon-sickness," which comes from lots and lots of gold. He's becoming increasingly angry and untrusting, which doesn't bode well for the elves, wizards, race of men or orcs.

Soon begins a massive battle scene that goes on and on and on. Having experienced these kinds of epic, large-scale wars in previous Tolkien adaptations, it's a bit old hat.

The final showdown between Thorin and the orc Azog brings some refreshing excitement to the film with an inspired face-off.

The film is fleshed out with tons of other story lines with an elf-dwarf romance, camaraderie and long, wistful talks against the grandiose scenery. It all leads to setting up the "Lord of the Rings" trilogy.

Like the other entries into the Tolkien universe, this is a well-crafted film that plays to the appeal of fans but will leave the rest of us wondering when it will end.

 

The Hobbit: The Battle of the Five Armies

2.5 stars

Directed by Peter Jackson

Starring Martin Freeman, Ian McKellen, Richard Armitage, Evangeline Lilly, Lee Pace, Luke Evans, Orlando Bloom

Rated PG-13