Once again we come to the end of our time in Middle-earth. Like the Lord of the Rings movies before it, the Hobbit trilogy—adapted from the predecessor to the Lord of the Rings novels—is, with the release of The Battle of the Five Armies, now complete. But is the finale worth five and a half hours of lead-up? 

The Lord of the Rings and Hobbit movies have all been long, ridiculously so when the “extended” versions are taken into account, so it’s no surprise that The Battle of the Five Armies clocks in at two and a half hours. But in this case it doesn’t feel drawn out or overlong—for a change. The only part that feels at all extraneous is the several minutes at the beginning spent wrapping up the cliffhanger from the end of The Desolation of Smaug. It’s an exciting, stand-out scene, full of suspense and property damage, but it feels like it should have been the climax of the previous movie instead of the beginning of this one. 

Apart from that one matter of movie-to-movie pacing, though, The Battle of the Five Armies is easily the best of the trilogy. The first one wandered a bit, feeling at times like a collection of anecdotes rather than a cohesive journey. The second one was better in that regard but showed a little of the bloat of stretching a single book out into a trilogy and then left off on a cliffhanger instead of a proper ending. The Battle of the Five Armies takes the time to linger on its characters but never drags or feels artificially drawn out. It feels like a properly cohesive story, or at least the ending to one. It couldn’t stand without the other two, especially since it tosses you straight into the ending of The Desolation of Smaugwithout offering explanation or a chance to catch up—You aremarathoningthese, it seems to say, or at the very least you rewatchedthe last one the night before seeing this, right?—but as all the various plotlines come together the disjointed feeling from the previous movies dissipates. Perhaps they’re better watched as a marathon after all. 

From any other source I’d criticize dwarves being so straightforwardly dwarfyand elves being so utterly elfy, but this is Tolkien, the father of modern epic fiction, and the very tropes associated with those races are largely his creation. In that context it’s a joy to see dwarves outfitted in super-typical dwarf armor and elves dashing about bleeding sparkly blood and being snobby to “mortals”. Such unapologetic immersion in Middle-earth culture feels gleefully, almost decadently geeky. And the humans of Lake-town are perfectly scruffy, diverse, and humany. The titular battle is thrilling and skillfully directed, and the distinct look of each army makes it easy to tell what’s going on. 

It was a long journey to get here, but The Hobbit’s final installment, The Battle of the Five Armies, is an enjoyable final visit to Middle-earth. Here’s hoping something else comes along to fill the void of cinematic epic fantasy left in its wake.