Scott Anderson’s review published on Letterboxd:
Yet again, a Peter Jackson helmed trilogy ends with the same result: my favorite installment being the one in the middle, my second favorite being the first, and my least favorite being the conclusion.
This is the only comparison I will make between The Hobbit: The Battle of the Five Armies and The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King, because frankly they otherwise aren't even on the same playing field. The latter is a brilliantly entertaining epic that only falters because PJ refused to end it, and thus it dragged a bit. This new film, The Battle of the Five Armies, is not some sort of terrible miscalculation or massive let down. It is a good film, one that I enjoyed, but not once did it feel great.
If you entered the cinema a bit tired, the early wake up call of the film picking up right where The Desolation of Smaug left off was a thing of beauty, a grand display of carnage and chaos left in the wake of the beast let loose on nearby Lake-town. At this point I had high hopes for the film, as at the very least it seemed to be a thrilling and excitable picture that would leave a smile plastered on my face. Unfortunately, the early rewards could not be fully sustained, as too many issues with the storytelling popped up throughout to earn any sort of overwhelming praise.
One of the most important aspects of dramatic storytelling is the fact that comic relief is often times a necessity, and when it is done and timed right it can be an excellent piece to an otherwise serious film. I have absolutely no comprehension as to how the character named Alfrid ever got a chance to appear in this movie as much as he did. A gag or two, fine, and then move along, but this constant need to go back to this completely unfunny character working with lifeless comedic material as if it adds anything to an already bloated adaptation of a single book? I just don't understand. I had already had enough well before this, but a scene in which he dresses as a woman was when I really questioned how writers as talented as Peter Jackson, Philippa Boyens and possibly Guillermo del Toro (not sure how involved he was) could have allowed these moments to stay in the final cut.
Another key issue I have with the film is its bizarre tendency to throw references to the Lord of the Rings trilogy in, which served absolutely no purpose and instead felt cheesy and simply placed into the screenplay to get a reaction from the audience, but what reaction were they looking for? Was there anyone seeing this film not already aware of its relation to those other three films? These moments didn't add anything to the connective tissue of one trilogy to the next, they just seemed out of place and shoehorned in to serve as some sort of talking point as friends exited the theater.
"Hey, did you notice the Saruman and Sauron thing?".
"Whoa, they mentioned Strider!".
Wasn't it plenty to just follow the fact that Bilbo carried the ring with him throughout the journey? Isn't that enough as a means to lead from one story to the next?
I know I am doing a lot of complaining, but I honestly did like the film overall. It didn't feel grand and important and epic like it probably should have, but it certainly had its moments, and I not only would I watch it again, I will. All six of these films will be important pieces to my collection, ones I will want to revisit on a cold day with a shit load of time to kill. It just surprises me that the same minds who hit every single beat with sublime precision over 10 hours of work on the first trilogy could make some of the strange decisions that made this journey a flawed one.