Travis Lytle’s review published on Letterboxd:
Rousing, muscular, and theme-rich, Peter Jackson's "The Hobbit: The Battle of the Five Armies" is a triumphant final chapter to his second Middle-earth trilogy. An action oriented spectacle replete with heart and soul, Jackson's film soars and easily finds a place in the canon of fantasy greats.
Adapting and expanding on the final chapters of J.R.R Tolkien's "The Hobbit," Jackson's film tells the story of dwarves, elves, hobbits, orcs, and men as they collide in an epic battle over homeland, riches, and, eventually, freedom. While Jackson and company's script takes liberties with the source material, adding characters, subplots, and adventures that go unseen in the literature, these liberties are reverent. The screenwriters steward Tolkien's world and words, fleshing them out in exhilarating and meaningful ways.
The story, here, is lean and packed with up-tempo action beats. Underlying it all, however, are the themes of Tolkien's core narrative. Through dialogue and deed, Jackson weaves a tale of individuals wracked by destructive greed yet emboldened by legacy and the promise of reclaiming lost homelands. He tells a story of the importance of allegiance and the utmost need for friendship. As with the five films before, this is a story that promises even the smallest person can make a difference and that love and friendship are life's imperative driving factors.
Jackson, once again, creates a world that is immersive. His Middle-earth is dangerous, cold, and murky; but it is also vibrant, robust, and alive. The film is a symphony of fantastic designs and beautifully rendered landscapes, sets, props, and costumes. Every artist and technician working on the film has a hand in molding something memorable. Jackson's camera swoops and stalks, capturing a world that is brilliantly rendered.
Jackson's cast build characters that are just as well rendered. They are fantastic beings of all shapes and sizes, yet they are recognizably human. From Martin Freeman's put-upon Bilbo and Richard Armitage's glowering Thorin, to Ian McKellen's wizened Gandalf and Evangeline Lilly's powerful Tauriel, these are characters ideally communicated by their actors. They breathe life into Tolkien and Jackson's now-iconic creations.
The film is swift and never sags. It moves from bold heights of heroism to moving moments of quiet sacrifice. It is whimsical, moving, and inspiring. Though its plot beats cover only a handful of pages from Tolkien's tome, the beats never feel over-stuffed or unnecessary. Jackson, guided by the essence of Tolkien's work, creates something thrilling, entertaining, and meaningful.
It is with a heavy heart but tone of good cheer that Peter Jackson ends his excellent second Middle-earth trilogy. Though the events of these films may be trite compared to those of Jackson's first venture into Tolkien's realm, they are just as stunningly realized. "The Hobbit: The Battle of the Five Armies" is a fully engrossing, fully enchanting, and fully spectacular experience. It is an ideal and bitter-sweet send off for Tolkien's beloved characters and a stellar end-note for Jackson's six-film magnum opus, narratively dovetailing with effortlessness back into Jackson first cinematic journey to Middle-earth and creating an amazing fantasy saga.