The Hobbit: The Battle of Five Armies Director:
Ian McKellen, Martin Freeman, Orlando Bloom, Richard Armitage, Luke Evans
Often we are told of how third parts always spoil the whole franchise and it is not without cause (read Spiderman 3, Iron Man 3, Transformers). The only man to walk through the litmus test was Peter Jackson with Lord of the Rings: Return of the King and now again with The Hobbit: The Battle of Five Armies. It maintains the light and often humorous spirit of the prequel franchise and still manages to remind us we are coming close to the actual LOTR with its lessons in the sins of greed and avarice.
As far as the plot goes, those who have not read JRR Tolkien's epic masterpiece are in for a surprise. You may head into the theatre thinking that the whole 147 minutes will be about the dwarves trying to kill the evil dragon, Smaug (voiced by Benedict Cumberbatch) but the episode lasts mere 15 minutes. The real battle in this installment is not with the five armies the title talks of but with the self. With the fall of Smaug, Thorin Okenshield (played by Richard Armitage) can finally reclaim his land, the Lonely Mountain and the vast sea of riches that it holds. The gold-lust consumes Thorin more with every coin that he sees and his greed seems to resonate from what we earlier saw in the eyes of men in LOTR for the One Ring. He doubts his kin-men, puts the lives of other dwarves in danger by engaging in an unnecessary war as 'he will not part with a single piece of gold' even if the men are dying of hunger in front of his eyes. Nothing like the Thorin we (or anyone) knew so far. The Elves also head towards the mountain and so do the mortal men and women from the fishing town to claim their share in the gold but Thorin doesn't budge and denies them any part, calling for a war. Meanwhile, the Orcs are on their way to slaughter dwarves, elves or men on the mountain and take the gold. Do the dwarves and elves and men fight among themselves or join forces to fight the Orcs? Does anyone come to Gandalf's rescue? Does Thorin overcome his greed or will he be the cause of thousands of unnecessary deaths? Like in every other part, the most amazing stunts are reserved for Legolas (played by Orlando Bloom for the 6th time and he is so perfect, you can watch him in 6 more parts). His segment of utterly beautiful stunts will come very late into the movie but it will be every second worth the wait. His stunning silver hair, the graceful movement mixed with masterfully created special effects is the stuff LOTR movies are made of. As late as it might come, you will not miss Legolas at all. More moments of breathtaking beauty will not be rare to come by. Be it the scene where Bard slays Smaug, or Smaug lighting up an entire town in a whiff of his fiery breath or the moment we witness Lady Galadriel scaring Sauron shitless or Thorin's very CGI modified battle with his conscience. Nope, not rare at all. The only thing that I can hold against Peter Jackson could be how we see very little of Smaug. The last part ended with him flying towards the fishing town, all furious with no intension other than to wipe the city clean. Here, he manages that in just five minutes and is killed in the next five. But truth be told, I am seriously nit-picking (I think it is the 'greed' for more).