141221hobbit-battle-five-armies-bilbo-posterDwarves, elves, orcs, eagles and humans – there’s a slough of monsters and men to battle in “The Hobbit: The Battle of the Five Armies.”

The real bad guy in the film, however, is no character so easily named, but just as easy to identify: the lust for money.

With pivotal lines like, “Don’t underestimate the evil of gold,” and, “Treasure will be your death,” and most prominent, “If more people valued home above gold, this world would be a merrier place,” it’s hard to miss the moral of the story being explained to audiences over and over as if to children.

And, of course, that’s been the problem with the whole “Hobbit” trilogy of movies, as compared to the “Lord of the Rings” trilogy: The “Hobbit” film seems to be director Peter Jackson’s attempt at making the story for children. Absurd battle scenes that look more like a video game than true fantasy, ludicrously comic characters like a wizard with bird poop in his hair (yes, I said “poop” – now Jackson expects you to giggle hilariously), a cheesy love story and more make the movies far, far too silly.

Thankfully, “Five Armies” tones down some of the silliness that made the second film in the trilogy a scoff-worthy farce. Though the levity is still painfully present, “Five Armies” gives J.R.R. Tolkien’s classic story a more mature treatment, which is a good thing, but alas, no more faithful of a treatment.

I’ve already heard from Tolkien devotees bemoaning with torch and pitchfork Jackson’s deviation from the original “The Hobbit” novel. I’ve even heard the movie described as a fantasy action film that simply has characters with the same names as those in Tolkien’s book.

All that may well be true.

As a movie irrespective of its source material, however, this third film is significantly more entertaining and engaging than the second in the trilogy, roughly on par with the first. Most non-purists, I imagine, will enjoy it and feel it redeems the series with a thrilling and satisfying conclusion.

The movie opens with the dragon Smaug, awakened from his slumber in Lonely Mountain by the dwarves, wreaking wrath upon the people of Laketown. When the dragon is killed, however, the people, the elves, the orcs and just about every critter in Middle Earth descends upon the dwarves to claim a share of the mountain’s treasure.

Lots of fighting ensues, the classic story reaches its climactic conclusion and the last chapter of “The Hobbit” sets up viewers nicely for “The Lord of the Rings” films, which follow chronologically.

Some, notably, may feel the almost non-stop violence a bit too heavy for their tastes, but those with stomachs not easily turned will likely enjoy the action, pacing and gorgeous imagery – all of which provide plenty of thrills and eye candy, even if they mask a script that doesn’t bring much to the table.

I suspect, had the makers of “The Hobbit” films kept faithful to the classic books, Tolkien may have given us a story with depth and intrigue and thought-provoking messages.

As it is, however, we get an action-packed movie that moviegoers will likely enjoy, but with no more significant message than, “Greed is bad.”

Content advisory:

  • “The Hobbit: The Battle of the Five Armies,” rated PG-13, contains neither obscenity nor profanity, save for a couple of instances of the word “buggers,” which is considered obscene in some cultures.
  • The film has no sexuality, save for a male character who disguises himself as a woman and jostles his dress’ fake breasts.
  • The movie is loaded, however, with nearly non-stop violence, fire, swordplay, scenes of battle, dozens and dozens of beheadings and other deaths. The gore that would accompany such violence is notably downplayed and even absent, but there is an early scene with some mildly gruesome, decayed bones.
  • The film’s religious/occult content includes some ghost-like, undead characters and wizards casting spells, though their words are indecipherable. An elf at one point uses a magic item to banish an evil, spirit-like being.

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