Keith Staskiewicz
July 18, 2014 AT 04:00 AM EDT

The Hobbit: The Battle of the Five Armies

Current Status
In Season
144 minutes
Wide Release Date
Richard Armitage, Cate Blanchett, Martin Freeman, Ian McKellen, Hugo Weaving, Elijah Wood
Peter Jackson
Warner Bros.

We gave it a B

Ending a three-film, eight-hour-plus saga isn’t easy. The makers of The Hobbit: The Battle of the Five Armies, the final entry in director Peter Jackson’s second Middle-earth trilogy, understand that. After all, the capper to their last trilogy, the Oscar-winning The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King, was notorious for its multiple fake-out finales. There won’t be any of that this time.

The Hobbit team wants to ensure audiences don’t accidentally start gathering their belongings with an hour left to go. ”A lot of people forget what happens in the book,” says Philippa Boyens, co-writer of all of Jackson’s J.R.R. Tolkien adaptations. ”People think, ‘Oh, yeah, the dragon dies and they get the mountain, right?’ But it’s not the end, not by a long shot. So the hardest thing is making sure it doesn’t feel like you’re restarting the story.”

The new film picks up where last year’s The Desolation of Smaug left off, with the giant dragon Smaug (again voiced by Benedict Cumberbatch) heading off to destroy Lake-town. Along with that carnage, the film promises one of the series’ most intense combat sequences, the eponymous free-for-all for the dwarven treasure of Erebor. ”It moves along at an incredible pace,” says Boyens, ”and that battle is going to be jaw-dropping.”

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