Alex Austein’s review published on Letterboxd:
Though I enjoyed the first two films in THE HOBBIT trilogy, THE BATTLE OF THE FIVE ARMIES is largely a mess. Relegated to covering only 70 pages of material in a nearly two and a half hour runtime, much of the film is spent laboriously, tediously covering a heavily-CGI'ed battle. The titular dragon of the second film, whom a cliffhanger was predicated on, is handled within 11 minutes, leaving a vast chunk of the movie to deal with combatting species, gold lust, and tepid greed hallucinations. At no point does THE BATTLE OF THE FIVE ARMIES convince the viewer to care about any of the armies in this gold-war, nor the consequences at stake. There are so many characters on screen, practically none whom I could name, and even fewer that I felt an emotional attachment to. Hence, being that this is the third film in the trilogy, dramatic high-stakes things have to happen: characters die, and other characters mourn; trusts are broken and comprised; groundwork is laid for the (FAR superior) Lord of the Rings trilogy. Beyond faint glimmers of action-y joy, this third entry really just left me cold. I couldn't make sense of a lot of the fanfare, until I figured a lot of it didn't have much meaning anyway. There are some hilariously bad CGI moments (Legolas jumping over those falling rocks), which really make you wonder why Jackson opted to use SO MUCH of it, instead of the better, more cinematic make-up and costume work he employed in the LOTR films. Also, Bilbo Baggins is hardly in this one, 'cause he's not a warrior dwarf obviously but also he's in the background of a lot of shots just looking at things and I guess that was funny.
Ostensibly, THE BATTLE OF THE FIVE ARMIES is most hindered by the lack of solid source material it had left to cover. It feels decidedly empty, long battle set pieces cascading into each other deliriously, with the few additional sub-plots added in only adding to the bore. I suppose its competently made, but its lack of style makes it feel like a grand work of tedium. A bad conclusion to a trilogy that was never more than just alright; they never felt like super necessary releases, instead drawing viewers in for a presumed spectacle. On these terms, THE HOBBIT trilogy marginally, just barely succeeds.