Those of us who had seen the previous two Hobbit films were unsurprised when Smaug's attack on Lake-Town began the new film: really, if it hadn't extended the second film to humanly un-endurable lengths the attack would have been better at the end of the earlier film.
But the destruction of Lake-Town was a stupendous spectacle – especially in superb 3D – and then the film's title comes up and we settle in for part three, where the dwarves, inside the Lonely Mountain, get ready to defend it, and Smaug's massive treasure, from all comers.
Which is what most of the rest of the film is about. Graphic battle scenes shot superbly.
Tolkien aficionados will no doubt insist that his stories have a very complex "back-story" of well developed fictional cultures with complex languages and histories. The problem is that very little of this is evident in this film. What little dramatic development that occurs is how the lure of the treasure affects some of the protagonists.
But mostly we have edge of the seat battles, with the besieged dwarves reinforced by yet more dwarves led by Dain Ironfoot (memorably played by Billy Connolly channeling a belligerent Glaswegian) confronting two orc armies, and one elf army – making five armies in all.
There is plenty of imagination in this film, but it is mostly focused on the special effects, and on making hour long battles compelling. Add action above and beneath a frozen lake, and a collapsing tower becoming a bridge. Mix in orcs as always simultaneously repulsive and engaging. Stir in giant predatory bats swooping out of the screen menacingly and huge war beasts making the earth tremble.
If you welcome meeting all of the usual Tolkien suspects, enjoy superbly choreographed spectacle, and thrill to heroic conflict then this film is for you.
If, on the other hand, you are a Tolkien purist, then maybe not.