*/**** Image A+ Sound A- Extras B-
starring Ian McKellen, Martin Freeman, Richard Armitage, Orlando Bloom
screenplay by Fran Walsh & Philippa Boyens & Peter Jackson & Guillermo Del Toro, based on the book by J.R.R. Tolkien
directed by Peter Jackson
by Walter Chaw During the first ten minutes of the first day of Peter Jackson's The Hobbit: The Battle of the Five Armies (hereafter Hobbit 3), Smaug dies. I don't intend this to be a spoiler, because, you know, the book's been around for almost as long as this movie runs, and Rankin & Bass already adapted it (somehow squeezing Tolkien's slim volume into one 77-minute animated flick)--but if you don't read and live under a rock: the dragon dies. This acts as prologue. A better prologue would recap what the hell happened in the first two Hobbits; I appear to have scrubbed them completely from the ol' memory bank in a heroic act of self-defense. This prologue, by the way, is the key moment in the book, meaning that although the CGI fireworks never let up, the rest of Hobbit 3 is the decline in action to the conclusion.