It’s been a long time since I’ve done a Shuggie Says post, but I’ve decided to start again, and with a big one, the finale to Peter Jackson’s six film Middle Earth saga, the Battle of the Five Armies.

This was an important one, this film not only had to resolve the Hobbit trilogy, but also set up The Lord of the Rings films, a feat that BOTFA manages with remarkable ease, whilst still managing to be a spectacle on it’s own.

Battle of the Five Armies opens with probably the most incredible opening of any of the films, although I’m sure some will disagree, as Smaug attacks Lake Town resolving the end of the Desolation of Smaug. Although that’s my one concern, that it feels like the end of the previous film, not the start of this one.

However this is a key moment in the development of Bard’s character, from lowly lake town member to leader of men. And that’s a key theme throughout this film, the development of several of the main characters. Legolas and Thorin are the other characters that go through very noticeable changes in the film. Legolas has in particular has to go from the rough and moody elf of Desolation of Smaug to the one that we see in The Lord of the Rings trilogy.

However it’s Thorin that’s absolutely key to this film. I’ve said before that Martin Freeman’s performance as Bilbo was what held the first two parts of the trilogy together, but in this it’s Richard Armitage’s as Thorin. Having fallen victim to the ill’s of Dragon Sickness, where he becomes obsessed by his treasure, he turns from the leader that he has been into a gold crazied tyrant. But it’s the small nuances that he brings into his performance. This is particularly highlighted in two scenes he has with Bilbo.

After the battle with the dragon we see a lull in the action whilst the armies are moved into position, Jackson managed to keep this interesting through the ratcheting up of tension between the races, and especially the fact that Thorin can’t find the Arkenstone. But now to the important stuff, the battle. This is a battle that does try to replicate the huge scale of the likes of Helms Deep and the Pelennor Fields, whilst also keeping it much more personal and focused on the individual characters, something which actually works quite well and keeps it distinct from the previous battles in the franchise. It’s also important to keep this battle from becoming monotonous, as this doesn’t have other story lines to break up the battle.

Another interesting aspect to the film that hasn’t been seen before is the confrontation of Galadriel, Elrond and Saruman with the Necromancer at Dol Guldur. This gives us a real glimpse into the power that some of these characters wield, which really links into Peter Jackson’s idea of watching them as a six films set, because it gives extra significance to Saruman’s turn to evil and the scene where Galadriel is tempted by the ring.

Overall the Battle of the Five Armies does a sterling job of finishing off the Hobbit trilogy, whilst also setting up the Lord of the Rings films, and all the while it keeps the you thoroughly entertained through great character development and emotional and tension. For me this is probably the standout of the Hobbit trilogy, it didn’t have the grand set pieces of the Desolation of Smaug, nor did it have the far stricter adherence to the book that the Unexpected Journey did, but it had really heart and was truly moving.