Damned as the third and most inert installment of an already stretched out film adaptation of a novel barely as thick as a pamphlet, Peter Jackson’s The Hobbit: Battle of the Five Armies (C-) is the uninvolving conclusion of a most perfunctory trilogy. Coming alive only in an epic dragon village battle and an inventive swordfight atop a sheet of lake ice, the film contains beautifully rendered special effects but doesn’t connect in terms of emotion or storytelling. You’re left to reflect on lingering questions: Was Martin Freeman even the least bit compelling as a protagonist? Was Lee Pace’s elf character the spitting image of Chloë Sevigny with resting bitch face? Was it a cost saving measure to introduce virtually zero new worlds or landscapes? And maybe the dwarves singing in the first installment weren’t really the series’ low point? With the biggest threat in the trilogy slayed in the prologue, what was a post-Smaug epic intended to accomplish? The film’s central fight over the treasures in the mountain is prolonged into about a hundred mini-fights that we’ve definitely seen before in this milieu. This isn’t the worst movie prequel about trade negotiations, but it may wear a lamentable crown of being altogether unnecessary. Perhaps now that he’s milked all the funds from this cash cow of diminishing curds, Jackson can dream up something different and return one day as a king of imaginative moviemaking.