This review includes a lot of spoilers. All the spoilers.

This is hard to write. It brings the Tolkien epic movies to an end. Now that I’ve seen all three movies, I can state with certainty that they could easily have condensed it into two films only. I understand the appeal of having two trilogies, but there were a lot of scenes in the first two that could’ve been cut. Not this one, though. This movie was like being on a roller coaster. You were plunged over the edge at a certain point, and it’s filled with constant action and so much tension. I squirmed in my seat a few times, just because there’s so many uncomfortable scenes, but I love that. It made me feel: I was angry and frustrated and sad. It was a bittersweet ending, which is funny considering this book was supposed to be for children. Technically it’s the most fatal of them all, and since we knew how much strife was to come, it didn’t even end in a positive way. Sure it all worked out eventually, but how much pain came first? I remember reading this as a child, and I didn’t think about harsh the ending was. He wrote it in a fable-like style that easily appealed to children without getting into the details. I steadily realized just how much it was going to hurt this time. And it did. This is going to be a long review so feel free to go ‘You have a problem’ and skip to the end.

This is your final warning: There are spoilers for the end of the series. If you don’t want to be spoiled, go watch the movie ASAP.

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Previously in The Hobbit, Bilbo Baggins agrees to join a company that will attempt to give the dwarves back their ancestral home. The leader Thorin Oakenshield is technically the King, but years ago his mad grandfather lost all the gold and the Arkenstone – the stone of the royal house – and they were exiled from their home by a powerful dragon Smaug. Gandalf the wizard inspired Thorin to make a dash for the mountain and attempt to regain control. They go through many adventures on the way, including running into the wood-elves. There the movie added two major things: Legolas appears in this, although he wasn’t in the book, and an original character Tauriel. She had a shoe-horned in romance subplot with the dwarf Kili and it continues here. It is a little forced, but I think the actors do their best with it. Tauriel disobeys her King, because she is certain that a dark shadow has fallen over the world, and they have to go out into the world to stop it. Legolas follows her. The dwarves make it to Lake-town where poor humans live, controlled by a greedy man the Master, and their secret hero is Bard. His family attempted to kill Smaug and failed. Bard agreed to help the dwarves, and they gave their word in exchange for help they would give the town some of the gold.

The group made it to the mountain and Bilbo figured out the riddle to get them inside. There he confronted the dragon Smaug and found the Arkenstone, but the dwarves fought the dragon and he decided to take his rage out on the town. Also important to note is that Bilbo has the ring of power, stolen from Gollum, and he can be invisible with it. But it corrupts him. Gandalf disappeared from the company to track down the dark power growing, and realized it was Sauron, and Sauron was building an army of orcs and goblins to attack the mountain. He was captured at the end, but considering we all know where this series is leading, we were well aware he was going to get out. Get it? Got it? Good.

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This movie starts up exactly after it ends. Smaug attacks the city and everyone tries to scramble to survive. Tauriel, Kili, Fili, and the dwarf I never know the name of try to get out with Bard’s children. Smaug is taken care of quickly, which I knew was going to happen, by Bard’s black arrow. This is something I think they could’ve easily just taken care of in the second movie. Granted the end of the second one was great with Smaug flying to destroy everything, but there’s a lot going on here. Everyone manages to survive, and Bard decides to take the people up to the castle by the Lonely Mountains. He believes that Thorin will follow his promise and help them get money for food and to rebuild. The dwarves head off to the mountain, Kili now fully healed, and he begs Tauriel to come with him. He gives her the lucky stone his mother gave him, and she goes off with Legolas instead. He believes something is going on with the orcs and goblins, so they head off to handle that. An elf army shows up at the army led by Legolas’ father Thranduil. He too has riches he wants from the mountain, and he plans to take it by force. There’s bad blood between him and Thorin from way back, because Thranduil abandoned the dwarves during the last fight.

Meanwhile Thorin legitimately is losing his mind. He’s infected with the dragon sickness, which isn’t really explained well, but it’s the same thing his grandfather went mad with. In that case it was flat out the power of greed and gold. It leads Thorin to obsessively search for the Arkenstone, suspect and get hostile with the others, and refuse to help Bard or anyone else. He has them all lock themselves inside and sends for a dwarf army. Bilbo has the Arkenstone, but he realizes that Thorin’s completely out of control. They have a few touching scenes, and he decides to sneak out and meet with the others. By this time Gandalf has been saved by Elrond, Saruman, and Galandriel. Galandriel shows her true power by banishing Sauron, and Saruman is like “leave this to me,” and we all know how that turned out. Gandalf returns to the city to warn them about the orc army. Bilbo hands over the Arkenstone to Bard and Thranduil, thinking that might keep the war from happening since Thorin would do anything to save it. After finding out the truth of this, Thorin tries to strangle the hell out of Bilbo, but the others save him. His dwarf army arrives and war is definitely about to start up, but then the orcs attack, giving them a common enemy. Things look pretty dire as the armies separate to attack them by the mountains and in the city.

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Thorin comes out of his madness after a real struggle, and realizes he has to help his people fight. Then he decides he has to take on the leader of the orc army to stop it. He attacks with Fili, Kili, and Dwalin. However, Legolas and Tauriel show up saying there’s yet another army coming, and they were trapping Thorin. They try to get there in time to save them, but unfortunately this is only going to end in tears. A lot of tears. First Fili is killed in front of Thorin, and his body falls by his heartbroken brother. Kili goes to get his revenge, but he’s distracted when Tauriel shows up and gets in a dangerous position. Trying to save her, he is killed next. Legolas manages to protect her, and he dispatches Bolg, but throws Thorin his sword so he can fight Azog. Thorin has a vicious battle with the orc, in which he allows himself to get stabbed so he can finish him off. Everyone  wins, but Bilbo finds a dying Thorin and has a touching farewell. Tauriel cries over Kili’s death, and finds unexpected solace from Thranduil. Legolas leaves and his father directs him toward Aragorn. By the way, Aragorn is in his 80s  in Lord of the Rings. It was in a deleted scene, Kings live longer than other humans. That seemed to confuse people.

Bilbo says goodbye to the others but he doesn’t stay for the funeral. He goes home and finds they’re selling off his things, since he was declared dead after thirty months. He gets back his belongings and settles in, and the movie jumps forward to the start of the Fellowship of the Ring. That was a good transition, so much better than the 20 non-endings in the original trilogy. I love this tale. It’s a little unfortunate 90% of the movie was CGI fights only, I’m getting a little CGI weary. I wanted some more of those quiet, emotional moments, the ones I got were great. I always found Thorin’s storyline absolutely fascinating. Here’s a main character who we want to root for, but he goes antagonistic in a big way here. Yes he’s driven mad, but he admits fairly readily that it was his greed, it’s not as simple as being tempted only. He let himself be seduced, sort of like how Boromir struggled with the ring. It’s the true kindness of Hobbits that keeps them mostly impervious to the darkness in others. Thorin’s story is immensely tragic, because he really destroyed his own lineage; Kili and Fili were his only heirs. The movie didn’t shy away from the reality of how Thorin’s decisions hurt himself and other people. I like that. It’s harsh, but it’s true. He had a fatal flaw, an Achilles heel, we were warned about it from the very first movie. So here’s where it came to fruition. His farewell is very emotional, and Bilbo’s heartbreak is easy for the audience to share.

Visually it was stunning, but like I said above, I get a little tired of it. You see one crazy giant battle, it’s impressive, you see ten of them, ehhhh. I did enjoy seeing Galandriel school Sauron. That was fun. This movie I think I wouldn’t cut much, outside of moving Smaug’s story to the second movie. It had a quick pace and I didn’t feel like it was overlong. I really have to highlight the acting here. Martin Freeman is incredible. His acting has always impressed me. Bilbo is the heart of this story. I really love Tolkien’s love of hobbits and how he designed them to basically represent this sort of natural, basic kindness. You can’t help but be emotionally attached to someone that sweet, thrown into extraordinary circumstances. Richard Armitage is also amazing, walking that fine line between hating and loving Thorin. Or just being frustrated with him and wishing he’d wake up. I think that Evangeline Lilly and Aidan Turner did their best, but the love story was a liiiiittle under developed. Come on, they knew each other for ten minutes. But I appreciated the quiet scene with her and Thranduil at the end. Legolas’ story about his mother was interesting, but did seem a little out of the blue. I think all those emotional scenes were my favorite. It was agonizing to watch Fili, Kili, and Thorin die. I knew it was coming, but it was still difficult to watch. I can’t imagine having no idea it happened, and being shocked to see it.

I usually say that I prefer books to movies, but this is an exception. I love the Tolkien series, don’t get me wrong, and there are a lot of things they do better. But at the same time, his writing can get difficult in places, and oh my god does he go on and on about lineage. I think the epic scale of these movies is what makes them so popular. I love being able to see this world, and Peter Jackson is a mastermind in a visual sense. I hesitate to tell people to read the books because I don’t feel like the emotional impact is as strong reading them, and I hate saying that. I love the books. But I stand by it. Read them. Just don’t be surprised if you feel more drawn to the films at the end of the day. I will miss looking forward to these. Great acting, great direction, a truly tragic story, and a fitting end to it all.

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