I was sure the first Hobbit movie was my favorite. Even as I liked the second one. Still sure. Then I started watching the third. Again sure. Even moreso, at first. Really almost to the end.

I liked it, but suffered the CGI battle, after battle, after more battles fatigue. I really like Richard Armitage, but grew weary of his gold blinded Thorin Oakenshield going all Smaug on his band of brothers. I love Ian McKellen’s Gandalf, but even the noble wizard’s suffering grew a little tedious. Martin Freeman is so great as poor long, long suffering Bilbo, but long suffering has a shelf life limit.

Then once Thorin got his head straight, it was as if a logjam broke itself free like a bunch of bobbing dwarf filled barrels. Soon things were falling into place. Ends were being tied up in ways I’d waited for since Bilbo first set out on his great adventure.

By the end, once all the armies had done their thing, death was mourned, elves were emoted, and dwarves and Hobbit bantered themselves into a touching farewell, I was moved by all of it. The great spectacle of the little Hobbit and his grand adventure had become a wonderful story of courage and loyalty and friendship.

The very end going back to the beginning of The Fellowship of the Ring was the perfect touch, tying it all together as a six film series. I read that that’s how Peter Jackson thinks future viewers will regard The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings.

It’s interesting the way I put that. Back to the beginning. Because I watched LOTR first, my mind tried to think of that as the beginning. But of course chronologically within the structure of Tolkien’s creations, it starts with Bilbo as a young Hobbit.

It’s easy to get tangled up in the timeline, if you’re not paying attention, just as it is with Star Wars. No matter how secure I am in the knowledge that A New Hope is a middle child in the Star Wars universe, I always first think of it as simply Star Wars, the movie that changed everything. My personal Tolkien experience started when I read The Hobbit a long time ago, but I actually think of it as being when I discovered one of my favorite actors, Sean Bean, in Boromir’s death scene and was thrilled by meeting Aragorn and captivated on travelling to Rivendale. Regardless of where we started or what made us love Tolkien’s imagination, it’s cool that it’s now all laid out for us in light and sound and action.

While there are things I’m particularly fond of in each of the Hobbit movies, I think The Battle of the Five Armies emerged as my favorite, by a wisp of Smaug smoke. As swan songs for a dragon go, he met a thrilling end. Thorin finished a noble king. And Bilbo proved once again that the lowly Hobbit is a force to be reckoned with and a fine companion, whether snug in his Hobbit hole or off to brave and save some far flung corner of his world.

The Hobbit: The Battle of the Five Armies Teaser Trailer (HD)