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'Five Armies' Wraps Jackson's Tolkein project

"The Hobbit: Battle of the Five Armies" is the shortest and most efficient of the Tolkein movies, but it's still mostly for fans.

TURNS OUT YOU weren't the only person who got tired of the computer-generated battle scenes in the latter entries of Peter Jackson's "Lord of the Rings" trilogy.

Also tired of them: Peter Jackson, who admitted while doing press for "The Hobbit: The Battle of the Five Armies" that he and his effects crew went overboard with artificial orcs in "The Two Towers" and "The Return of the King."

He further conceded that audiences have grown "jaded" with CGI effects in general, and he's certainly right about that.

So, in making his final J.R.R. Tolkien movie, he keeps things more focused on the characters and events that really matter. To that end, this is his shortest Tolkien adaptation to date - 2 hours and 24 minutes, or about as much time as it takes an elf to knit a holiday Mithril sweater.

You see Jackson's renewed interest in brevity right away. Smaug the dragon drives out the people of Lake Town with fire, and Jackson keeps the spectacle in check to move the story along.

Humans retreat to the dragon's nearby fortress, now occupied and defended by dwarfs who wish to control the cavern's massive pile of gold. Dwarf King Thorin (Richard Armitage) has begun to suffer from "dragon sickness," a proximity to gold that creates an insatiable lust for it that drives him to the point of madness.

Or maybe's he's not mad, not any more so than any senior VP at Goldman Sachs. Humans, who've been promised a portion of this vast store of gold, point out that there is "more than enough for everybody," which is obviously true, and raises economic questions beyond the scope of the movie.

If the value of a commodity - particularly a precious metal like gold - is tied to its relative scarcity, and if there is suddenly more than enough for everybody, then the gargantuan stockpile of gold in "Five Armies" is not worth much. Only by hoarding it can Thorin maintain its value.

And even if the humans succeed in breaking the dwarf's gold embargo, they'll still be hungry. The starving people in this movie are fighting for gold, which at this point in the narrative is actually more plentiful and therefore less valuable than food.

They shouldn't be fighting. They should be fishing.

Of course, that's a good rule of thumb for life in general.

Where was I?

Oh, right. The battles.

Each character gets an individual Orc-ish adversary to fight. Tauriel (Evangeline Lilly) fights to protect her dwarf boyfriend (and vice versa) and Legolas (Orlando Bloom) fights for Tauriel, after telling off his elf king father.

Each character gets a scene and a concise send-off.

But as efficient as "Five Armies" is, the unindoctrinated will find the movie baffling at times.

During the battle, everybody makes a big deal about the appearance (on the side of the bad guys) of some "Tremors"-like worms. "OMG," cry the dwarfs during the battle, "it's a bunch of giant worms." We see a few of these worms slithering along, and that's it. They have no apparent effect on the battle.

Just as all the hue and cry over the shiny Arkenstone - which Bilbo (Martin Freeman) conceals at the risk of his life - leads nowhere.

Fans will get it, the rest of you will not, and that's been the nature of the series since "The Two Towers." Jackson has always been respectful of the text, perhaps to a fault.

But perhaps to the series' advantage.

The Tolkien books were a gold mine.

A lesser fellow might have succumbed to dragon sickness.