This is Peter Jackson's final time to display J.R.R Tolkien's Middle Earth in all its glory. Could he give The Hobbit the ending we all deserve?
The third instalment begins at the point where the second ended; Smaug has left the mountain to wreak death and destruction on Lake Town. The drab grey and blue screen is suddenly turned fiery red during his violent but short rampage.
The Smaug portion is dealt with quickly. At least we get to hear the smooth, dulcet tones of Benedict Cumberbatch one last time. Everything is solved within ten minutes which is disappointing but it does allow the film to concentrate on the five armies of the title.
If this film could have another subtitle then the first half would be 'The Madness of King Thorin'. Richard Armitage's dwarf king slowly descends into insanity while Bilbo and company can only look on. It is easy to turn on Thorin as he becomes power hungry and gold obsessed, but there are glimpses of the dwarf underneath in a couple of scenes he shares with Martin Freeman's Bilbo Baggins. It was touching to see the king smile when talking about the hobbit's plan to plant an acorn... simple but effective.
The second half presents the titular battle in all its glory. I won't say too much about it as I don't like spoilers but suffice to say that it looks amazing. Peter Jackson has had years of practice and does not let us down for the final part. The orcs, in particular, look incredible and the marching hordes are a spectacular sight.
There are so many strong characters; Lee Pace as Thranduil who veers from a figure of hate to a sympathetic father. Legolas, played by Orlando Bloom, who gets the best acrobatic moments as he did in The Lord of the Rings films. Tauriel has made me feel much more positive about Evangeline Lilly's upcoming Marvel role as she displays both action role capabilities and a powerful emotional presence. Luke Evans has faltered as a solo leading man, but in the company of other capable actors he shines as Bard the Bow Man. Christopher Lee and Ian McKellan prove that age does not stop the ability to kick butt as both wizards get involved in the fighting.
But it's the dwarves and their burglar, who are the stars. Armitage continues his wonderful portrayal of the dwarf king, from his descent into madness to his eventual redemption. His loyal followers are excellent although it is a shame that we never really get to know them all. I admit to looking at the gathering of dwarves and not recognising a few faces.
Martin Freeman has cemented himself as a genuine star with his role as the hobbit of the title. His journey, from timid creature to one of courage and strength, has been one of the main reasons why I have much preferred these films over the original Peter Jackson trilogy. The only complaint I have is that, being the creature of the title, we do not see as much of Bilbo as we might expect. However, as readers of the book will already know, this is not Mr Baggins' part of the story, so his scaled down involvement is understandable. When he is on screen, Freeman plays him to perfection.
The film contains little nods towards what is to come with several references to The Lord of the Rings, some more obvious than others.
There has been criticism over the liberties that Jackson has taken with the source material; adding new characters and changing certain plot points. However, taken just as a film, it is entertaining and the 144 minute runtime, making this the shortest movie of the trilogy, flies past.
It feels quite sad to finally say goodbye to these characters and this world, but The Hobbit: The Battle of the Five Armies is a fitting way to finish the series.