The Hobbit: The Battle of the Five Armies (12A)***

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Almost 13 years to the day since director Peter Jackson first transported us to Middle Earth, the Oscar-winning New Zealand filmmaker completes his tour of duty of JRR Tolkien’s novels.

It has been a long and sometimes gruelling slog since The Lord Of The Rings: The Return Of The King.

Undated Film Still Handout from The Hobbit: The Battle Of The Five Armies. Pictured: Ian McKellen as Gandalf. See PA Feature FILM Film Reviews. Picture credit should read: PA Photo/Warner Bros. Pictures WARNING: This picture must only be used to accompany PA Feature FILM Film Reviews. PPP-140812-151921001

Undated Film Still Handout from The Hobbit: The Battle Of The Five Armies. Pictured: Ian McKellen as Gandalf. See PA Feature FILM Film Reviews. Picture credit should read: PA Photo/Warner Bros. Pictures WARNING: This picture must only be used to accompany PA Feature FILM Film Reviews. PPP-140812-151921001

Giddy expectation has crashed and burned, with only a few smoldering embers for ardent fans to stoke in the hope that Jackson might redeem himself with this concluding chapter of The Hobbit trilogy.

Alas, The Battle Of Five Armies bids farewell to the hobbits, dwarfs and elves with a whimper rather than a bang. Jackson’s mastery of action sequences is beyond doubt – the two set pieces, which bookend this film, are executed with flair, precision and a miasma of impressive digital effects.

However, all that technical sound and fury without comparable emotional heft makes for increasingly wearisome viewing.

We should be thankful this concluding jaunt is the shortest of the six: a mere 144 minutes.

The company of dwarves led by Thorin Oakenshield (Richard Armitage) including Bilbo Baggins (Martin Freeman) watches in horror as the mighty dragon Smaug (voiced by Benedict Cumberbatch) incinerates Laketown.

As the fate of Middle Earth hangs in the balance, Thorin sacrifices everything in his selfish pursuit of the mythical Arkenstone.

The Hobbit: The Battle Of Five Armies follows a similar template to earlier pictures, resolving plot strands including the forbidden romance of Tauriel (Evangeline Lilly) and Kili (Aidan Turner) as the blood flows in brutal fight sequences.

Comical interludes with Alfrid (Ryan Gage) seem to jar with the darker tone that pervades this chapter, including the inevitable loss of at least one hero in the melee.

Freeman’s performance provides a flimsy emotional fulcrum while co-stars battle with their characters’ demons or hordes of bloodthirsty orcs.

As the end credits roll, accompanied by an original song from Billy Boyd who played Pippin in The Lord Of The Rings saga, we feel a sense of relief rather than sadness.

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