Continuing where we last left in The Desolation of Smaug, the lake town of Esgaroth is set ablaze by the raging Smaug (Benedict Cumberbatch). Bard (Luke Evans) being one of the few courageous souls successfully kills Smaug with the black arrow. That happens within the first 15 minutes! With the death of Smaug, Thorin (Richard Armitage) and his company are able to reclaim the city of Erebor and its vast halls filled with treasures. Inflicted with the “dragon sickness”, Thorin orders his company to search for the Arkenstone, but Bilbo (Martin Freeman) who has stolen it from Smaug decides to keep it out of Thorin’s sight. Bard, then forms an alliance with the elf leader Thranduil (Lee Pace) to reclaim their shares from the Erebor treasure, in which the disillusioned Thorin refuses to give up. The three forces ultimately form an uneasy alliance when the Azog’s army comes attacking.
There is nothing much to complain about after having three more movies that showcase Peter Jackson's technical achievements for the franchise and for the whole Middle Earth saga. Once again, Jackson brings us into the absolute beautiful landscape and picturesque of New Zealand which serves as the canvass of the action setting that is simply breathtaking to watch. Jackson definitely knows how to frame them to fit into his highly physical, dynamic action-oriented story with plenty of amazing CGI spectacle, much like the Battle of Helm's Deep in The Two Towers, for which I think is a fair comparison to make. With the help of visual magic and trick, the substantial portrayal of dragon raining fire from the sky above, as well as the war and the horror it brought, could not be more accurate than this.
The storytelling department for this third chapter is still pretty much a dilemma and two-sided issue. From one positive angle, the grounded story which sets only in Erebor is nevertheless compelling and engrossing, with clear cut motivations and reasons to go around the characters, and is noticeably better written than the predecessors. The most interesting aspect of the narrative technique is how this movie alludes to reality – at least during Tolkien’s time about the greed, gold and war. It draws a fine parallel comparison to the existence of humanity. Unfortunately, the downside is that the hour long set-up and slowly building to the final battle can be very tedious for the impatient. The thin-layered storyline is the major concern that puts the whole trilogy in a fragile emotional investment and large scale storytelling, but is also duly understandable considering that it is adapted from the last few chapters. The obligatory romantic subplot is entirely unnecessary, but it speaks to a form of marketing strategy here. At least, some or much of Tolkien’s identity is preserved well.
The Hobbit trilogy finally comes to an end - with an engrossing, rich and a satisfactory closing chapter that is highlighted by amazing epic battle scenes and lean pacing, but also a notch down from The Desolation of Smaug. However, the fragile and limited storyline displayed throughout the trilogy poses little impact to the newer generation of tales from the Middle Earth. B+
Numerical Rating (In case you are also interested):