The much anticipated third installment in "The Hobbit" series, "The Battle of the Five Armies," wraps up Bilbo Baggins' fine adventure with two-and-a-half hours of personal and political drama. Gandalf anchors the multifaceted conflicts-- fighting the enticement of gold and power, struggles with morality, the critical importance of friendship and one's word--in short, dedication to good over evil.
The second films of three are often the weak links, but not "The Desolation of Smaug." Sure, exposition is chunked into the first 20 minutes just to fill in the plot and references to "The Lord of the Rings" are forced. The second of this series is uneven but exciting.