War rages in epic main trailer for The Hobbit: The Battle of the Five Armies

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Nov 6, 2014, 3:45 PM EST (Updated)

Peter Jackson's Hobbit films have been met with no shortage of criticism, snark and often flat-out nerd rage, and they'll be met with plenty more in the weeks leading up to the release of The Hobbit: The Battle of the Five Armies. Yes, the films seem unnecessarily bloated and stretched. Yes, the magic of The Lord of the Rings doesn't exist in these films for many viewers. Yes, it often feels less like an adaptation of J.R.R. Tolkien's fantasy adventure for children and more like a Rings prequel. There's plenty to pick at here, but one point that the marketing for this film is really stressing adds a certain aura of gravity to this release that the other films didn't have: This is the film where we go to Middle-earth at the movies "one last time."

When we go see The Battle of the Five Armies next month, it will be the end of an era that began in 2001 when The Fellowship of the Ring was released. It's an era that made Jackson and stars like Elijah Wood, Orlando Bloom and Viggo Mortensen household names. It's an era that garnered new respect for fantasy storytelling on the big screen, something that perhaps culminated in the 11 Academy Awards earned by The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King. Sure, there are low points in there, too -- some would argue three films' worth of low points -- but it's been a wild ride, and unless the Tolkien estate warms to Hollywood again sometime soon, this is very likely the end of it. 

So it's fitting that the just-released main trailer for The Battle of the Five Armies is as world-spanning and high-stakes as it is. We get plenty of glimpses of the titular battle, said to take up 45 minutes of the film, but there's plenty more to unpack, too. We see the weight of reclaiming Erebor and its effect on Thorin and his company of dwarves. We see Thranduil facing off with Gandalf. We see Legolas discovering menacing new enemies as something darker than the battle at hand grows in the East. Perhaps most strikingly, we see the White Council assembling at Dol Guldur to face the darkness there, led by the great Christopher Lee reprising his role as Saruman. And then we get a very fitting final shot featuring the One Ring. 

Check out the trailer:

This trailer, more than any other piece of marketing for the film we've seen so far, really stresses that Five Armies feels like almost equal parts Hobbit conclusion and Rings prequel, which is part of why it's being billed as the "defining chapter" of Jackson's Middle-earth adventures. Jackson's also spoken in the past about building to a darker, more Lord of the Rings tone with this installment, and though the final film might not live up to that amibition, it's definitely showing here. It's easy to be cynical about this film, given the two that preceded it, but perhaps Five Armies will rise to the occasion and send us out with a bang. 

The Hobbit: The Battle of the Five Armies hits theaters Dec. 17. What do you think? Will it be the best of the trilogy?

(Via Warner Bros.)