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All throughout Peter Jackson’s retelling of J.R.R. Tolkien’s The Hobbit, I have mildly complained about the notion that it took three filmed installments to present what amounts to the shortest book in the whole Middle Earth saga. But I should emphasize that my objections have been quite mild because, despite my assertion that these three movies have been massive cash grabs, I knew from the start that Jackson’s heart and vision were most assuredly in the right place, and his conclusion — The Battle of the Five Armies — is an epic and fitting end to his time in Tolkien’s rich and densely fashioned world.

The film is complete with large-scale battle sequences overflowing with effortless swashbuckling and enough peril to force audiences to sneak peeks through their fingers, while also wisely focusing on intimate character-driven exchanges guaranteed to make us cherish each and every one of our favorites along the way. Besides completing his Middle Earth series, Jackson has lovingly crafted a very human epic out of this magical world. (PG-13) Grade: A-