Just got back from seeing The Hobbit: The Battle of the Five Armies (in IMAX 3D no less). I'd ordinarily wait until tomorrow morning, but I'd like to put my impressions to paper before they fade.
Smaug attacks Laketown and Bard the Bowman disposes of him in the first ten minutes or so. But with the dragon dead, everybody wants Erebor now, either for its gold or for its strategic position. And so four armies (the fifth will be revealed in due time) converge on the Lonely Mountain...
*The movie is all about the battle and the battle sequences are awesome. Smaug Dresden-ing Laketown (complete with some trash-talking in Benedict Cumberbatch's awesome voice when he finally notices Bard shooting arrows at him) and his ultimate death starts out the movie with an impressive bang. Then the White Council battles the Ringwraiths and Sauron himself in a supernatural kung-fu battle of awesomeness. And then comes the Battle of Five Armies itself, the fantasy equivalent of the film Gettysburg.
*The Orcs get some character development, with Azog displaying an extremely cunning battle strategy and averting Hollywood Tactics bigtime by using horns and flags to coordinate his troops. That the Orcs, whose battle strategies tend to revolve around burying their enemies with their numbers, display the most strategic and tactical sense of any of the races in this film is pretty impressive. And it's confirmed that Bolg is Azog's son, although we don't really see any familial interaction between them.
*We see Thorin going mad with greed and comparisons are drawn between him and Smaug. It's very well-done.
*The Dwarves display some actual military tactics on multiple occasions themselves--they form a pike-shield wall against the oncoming Orcs and later something resembling a svinfylking to breach an Orc battle-line.
*There's a fair bit of humor in the film, especially from the out-of-control faux-Scottish Dwarf warlord Dain Ironfoot. This is a man who rides a giant pig into battle and kills his foes by alternatively wielding a hammer as big as he is and headbutting them.
*Saruman has no problem dealing with the Ringwraiths, but is visibly intimidated by Sauron. This might explain his actions in The Fellowship of the Ring, since in the movie-verse he seems driven by fear to become Sauron's vassal rather than pretending to deal with him while plotting to take over the world himself (as is more obvious in the books).
*For the defeat of Smaug I expected to see Bard crowned the king of Dale, yet that issue is not handled well. Granted, they kind of had more important issues to deal with at the time, but that might've been a good ending.
*Kili's romantic dialogue with Tauriel before the battle starts made me laugh, and not in a good way.
*The survivors of Laketown seem to only number in the dozens if not the low hundreds and they visibly recoil from the menacing Dwarf troops under Dain Ironfoot despite being nigh-surrounded by allied Elves, yet they do a heck of a lot better than they have any right to in defense of Dale against the Orc armies. Especially since most of them don't have armor.
*And even though the Orcs are armored quite impressively, it doesn't seem to be worth a damn.
*When the White Council battles Sauron and the Ringwraiths in Dol Guldur, Galadriel bounces around from nigh-unstoppable to lying around semi-conscious. And Gandalf seems to have romantic feelings for her, which are most assuredly not in the book. Gandalf is an incarnated angelic being and Galadriel is an elf--plus she's also married.
*Some uber-creatures that aren't in the book are used to facilitate the movement of Orcish armies but don't actually fight in the Battle of Five Armies themselves. It's never explained why, even though they'd almost certainly be battle-winners for the forces of darkness.
*In the battle with the White Council Sauron claims the Age of the Orc is coming, but that's not what Sauron is about. Sauron wants to prevent the incipient Age of Men, but he doesn't want to replace humans with Orcs. The Age of Men is about man's dominion over Creation and Sauron wants to have that dominion for himself. He's fine with being worshiped by Men as well as Orcs and other races.
*The phrase "bred for war" gets bandied around a lot.
See it and then see the extended edition that's no doubt coming. 9.0 out of 10.