Walking into this movie, I had very high expectations being that it is a Peter Jackson adaptation of a Tolkien classic. I loved the Lord of the Rings Trilogy, and the first two Hobbit movies were actually pretty good (not amazing), despite my concerns that they would be mediocre at best. This is all assuming that you completely disregard the books that inspired this trilogy, of course.
Enter the Battle of the Five Armies. It was, in short, a great way to wrap up the trilogy and tie things back into the LOTR (the way the first Hobbit movie started). I thoroughly enjoyed it, but it wasn't without its faults as well.
Let's start with the good things.
First, the characters are all believable and relatable. Their behavior is expected given their personalities and qualities, and their development is actually very well done. There's not a point where you're left wondering "why did he do that?" or "would his character really say/feel/do that?"
The way that Thorin is corrupted by the greed and desire for the Archenstone and riches of the mountain is done is compelling. Richard Armitage's character portrayal of a hero falling from grace really impacted me because I rather liked the character of Thorin, both as a leader as well as a man of morals. At the same time, it wasn't overdone.
I also enjoyed and appreciated Thranduil and his relationship with Legolas and Tauriel. It was a complicated one, and Thranduil was a complicated character, but it was played well by Lee Pace and the relationships were developed believably and effectively.
Secondly, unlike previous Peter Jackson adaptations of the Tolkien stories, this movie had very little slow, painful parts. This was a problem that both the Return of the King, the Two Towers, and the Desolation of Smaug all suffered from: time wasted. Whether on characters we don't much care for or dragging situations out. There were still a few instances of that here, but it was on a MUCH lesser degree.
Speaking of pacing, they did an amazing job of keeping viewers engaged from the very beginning of the movie. It's constant action, in some form or another, but done in such a way that again, the viewer isn't bored. Thrown cleverly into the mix are also a fair amount of comedic and light-hearted moments that provide a welcome hiatus from the fast pace of the rest of it.
As with all of the Tolkien movies, to say that the CGI in this movie was on a massive and utterly impressive scale is a severe understatement. The creation of an entire world, a battlefield, a castle, and [Spoiler alert] five different armies battling it out was awesome and a visually just a joy to watch. This alone makes the IMAX worth it for this film.
This entire section is a spoiler, so read at your own risk.
I was really glad to see Hugo Weaving and Cate Blanchett's characters, Elrond and Galadriel, return for this movie, even if very briefly. They were welcome personalities on screen, and as usual, Galadriel's altered form was disturbing. Christopher Lee also was a welcome return, but less so because we know what he becomes later. That battle scene as a whole is very fulfilling though.
So, as with all things, there were a few issues I had.
While the this movie's pacing made it MUCH easier to watch, it was still a ridiculously long movie by any non-Peter-Jackson standards. You'll definitely want to visit the bathroom BEFORE you go see it.
So the Hobbit storyline is fairly set in the books, and this does indeed modify it a far amount. The problem I have is not with the story as a whole or how it flows (as was an issue in the previous movie). No, my issue here is predictability in the storyline and issues in a few key places. Read further for specifics.
The eagles. Again. Seriously.
If you're going to change parts of the story, change the right stuff and at least do it in an innovative way! I couldn't believe that the brilliant ending to this otherwise awesome movie was that the eagles have to come and kill everyone and turn the battle in the favor of our heroes. Now this doesn't affect the fates of several of the main characters, but still makes you do a facepalm and wonder how they snuck that one by when that was the ending to not only the Return of the King, but the first Hobbit movie as well! Not to mention that the eagles have made smaller appearances here and there to fix everything in various ways (think Gandalf escaping from Saruman's tower).
The other thing that bothered me is that when Azog is commanding his army using the signals from the top of the mountain. Did no one see him setting that ridiculously elaborate pulley-lever system up? The war wasn't going on the entire time. That to me was a huge plot hole that wasn't really adequately covered.
So in conclusion, I would say that The Hobbit: The Battle of the Five Armies was an epic thrill-ride that ended the Hobbit series very well and paid homage to J.R.R. Tolkien's classic with style. As I always try to do, I went into this movie with no real expectations, and I walked out quite satisfied. I would highly recommend anyone who is a fan of any of the previous movies to check this out. Even some who weren't might enjoy it as well, so check it out!
Scores (each out of 10 points)
Character Development: 8.5
Fun Factor: 8.5