Much of the criticism directed towards The Hobbit trilogy revolves around the films’ faithfulness to the source material; the irony of the concluding chapter is that Jackson and company aren’t even faithful to their own narrative inventions; the film might more properly be called “Battle of the Unresolved Plot Threads”. The various set-ups, given so much emphasis and screen time in the previous two chapters, are dropped off into the cliffs of insanity like so many of the orcs in the film. As just one example, the entirety of the invented lore surrounding the Arkenstone, from its corrupting influence to its value as a symbol to unite the various dwarven kingdoms, goes absolutely nowhere. Thorin goes mad from the cursed gold and the “dragon sickness” instead, and the Iron Mountain dwarves show up on cue because that’s what happens in the book! As far as I recall we do not even see who ends up with the Arkenstone.
Jackson’s worst impulses as a filmmaker, which are present to a lesser degree in his Lord of the Rings and to a greater degree in King Kong, are unleashed here. His propensity for improbable physics-defying action doesn’t so much strain credibility as it does pound it into oblivion. If you thought Legolas skateboarding down the steps of Helm’s Deep was silly, just wait until you see him driving a troll using an arrow in its brain as a wheel.
Preposterous, incoherent, and – with the exception of Martin Freeman’s performance as Bilbo –ultimately uninvolving, Battle of the Five Armies at least has the courtesy to take a new generation of fans not only there, but back again, to the books, where they will always and forever remain as they are.