There are many things I don’t understand: quantum mechanics, car commercials, who put the bomp in the bomb bah bomp bah bomp. But chief among the perplexing unsolvables to me remains how people who loved writer/director Peter Jackson’s Lord of the Rings trilogy don’t like the current Hobbit series. Better acted, more personal and possessed of better visuals and 100% more Evangeline Lilly, the only way in which this series is lesser than its predecessor is if you measure in “amount of Viggo Mortenson. ( ”

Picking up on the tail end of the dragon battle from the last movie, The Battle of the Five Armies starts with Bard (Luke Evans) taking on Smaug (Benedict Cumberbatch) as his whole town burns. Because it’s hard to sleep in piles of ash, the former residents of Lake Town amble towards the Lonely Mountain. Except, the head dwarf in charge of said mountain, Thorin (Richard Armitage), has become a total dwarfen prick. The cursed treasure is driving him mad, much to the chagrin of Bilbo (Martin Freeman).

Thorin and his dwarf peeps dig their heels in and wait for reinforcements to arrive. Unfortunately, the elves, led by Thranduil (Lee Pace), get there first and join up with whatever fighting forces former Lake Towners have left. Right as the pointy ears are about to lay the smack down on some dwarf ass, an Orc army shows up, led by Azog (Manu Bennett). Nobody listens to Gandalf (Ian McKellen), so it becomes a massive battle orgy that lasts for the majority of the film’s entire second half.

Theory: People who prefer the Lord of the Rings trilogy to this one are really big fans of characters scowling while slowly talking about ancestors with silly names doing things in places with sillier names. That does not happen here. From the opening bout of Bard v. Smaug to army-on-army-on-army violence to the epic mano-a-mano UFC match between Thorin and Azog, Battle is almost all action. Sure, there’s a light love triangle between Legolas (Orlando Bloom), Tauriel (Lilly) and Kili (Aidan Turner), but even that plays out while they’re straight-up murdering Orcs. Unlike some of the previous films, this is all kinetic movement, stacking action on action until Bilbo goes home.

This isn’t to say there aren’t a few Hobbit holes. For a series dedicated to the dwarfs reclaiming their home and who would rule it, not showing who is the new “King under the mountain” makes no sense. Furthermore, Gandalf doesn’t get much use here, a shame because McKellen’s performance is a fantasy hall-of-famer. Oh, and the opening dragon duel feels like the end of another movie…because it should have been.

Jackson’s Middle Earth opus, taken as a whole, is a six-film saga like no other. It’s a monumental achievement none thought possible when he undertook it. Because haters gonna hate, let me take a firmer stance when comparing the two trilogies: The Hobbit series is ultimately superior to the Lord of the Rings series, and Battle is the final proof.

Grade = A-

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