That being said, I was fairly disappointed with the second installment, The Desolation of Smaug, although very entertaining and with great spectacle ( and good pacing), I felt it lacked the heart and character driven moments from the first film. ( not to mention the bad CGI and the absurd over the top finale at Erebor)So, after that film, I was worried that the third film would also be something of a let down, well, after having seen it last night I can happily say this is far from the truth. The heart and emotion from the first film are heightened in The Battle of the Five Armies, while watching the film I felt that Jackson was channeling, well, himself, in the LOTR days, creating a huge battle with the focus on the characters personal dramas, in a way, I think he was aiming for this film to be this trilogy's Return of the King, with is both a bad and a good thing, it's bad because this trilogy doesn't have the same caliber as LOTR, and will always exist on its shadow, but at the same time is good, because it brought up the best that Jackson has to offer as director this time around, which makes this the best film of this trilogy.
The passing of some of the main characters is done beautifully, in an extremely emotional way, each character has it's moment in the film, but it's Bilbo and Thorin's relationship that is the emotional core of the film, but there are also some very emotionally charged character arcs, like Tauriel and Kili's, let me just say that their "romance" is treated in a much more profound way this time around, there are also some touching moments with Bard and his children. I also thought that the visual effects in this film were the best of trilogy, I always disliked Jackson's decision to not use those beautiful miniature models like in LOTR, and instead creating some of the locations digitally, strangely I felt that the locations, especially Erebor and Dale, didn't look as artificial as in the first films, from some angles, Dale in this film reminded me a little of Minas Tirith. There is also a scene when Legolas and Tauriel arrive at Gundabad, an evil fortress, just in time to see a large army of orcs march from inside the fortress towards Erebor, accompanied by a huge flock of giant monstrous bats, that scene reminded me of when Frodo, Sam and Gollum arrive at Minas Morgul in ROTK, and witness the Witch king of Angmar leading an army towards Gondor. Speaking of the Witch King, die hard fans such as myself will have a major geek moment in the first hour of the film, when Galadriel, Elrond and Saruman face off against the Nine, the Ringwraiths, and Galadriel single handedly faces off against Sauron himself, I had goosebumps.
There is much to love in this film, especially if you are a fan, the final framing device with old Bilbo in the Shire felt wonderfully nostalgic, it makes one want to watch Fellowship of the Ring right afterwards. I believe Jackson has achieved what he was aiming at, creating a trilogy that is a worthy prelude to LOTR and at the same time a compelling story on its own.