God, that's a mouthful. The movie opened in the US as of today. Spoilers after the jump!
So I liked it better than the second movie, which seems like an unpopular opinion from the reviews I've read. It felt like Battle of the Five Armies was the movie Peter Jackson wanted to make all along, instead of meandering around in the first two movies.
There are some serious issues with it, however. For one, it makes it very obvious that the second movie was stretched too thin. The first 10 minutes of the third movie could've easily been a proper ending of the second movie. The same is true for the White Council sequence, which gets resolved within 5 minutes. The reasoning behind the cliffhanger ending in the second movie might have been motivated by ticket sales, but from a storytelling perspective, it makes no sense. The third movie also suffers from a dire lack of plot. However, I feel like that allowed the movie to feel more focused. There were some gratuitous choices made by the writers. Thorin's fight with Azog, which should have been an epic, climactic fight, was hampered by a bizarre choice in settings, which was a floating block of ice. Awkward choreography in that sequence robbed the scene of its urgency. The same was true for Legolas's fight with Bolg, with heavy CG elements undermining the gravity of the situation.
There were some good decisions made in the movie as well. The third movie is more consistent with its tone, for one. The first movie had a serious tonal problem: it mixed casual gore, slapstick violence, and epic scores. There's hints of that in the third movie, but nothing too distracting (aside from one comic relief character who just refused to go away). Editing certainly was better. Minor plot threads were revisited from time to time, but the movie never dwelt on them as much as the second movie did. The third movie was simply easier to follow. Martin Freeman was absolutely phenomenal. The trilogy is rightly accused of under-utilizing Martin Freeman, and in the third movie he shines in every scene he's in. While I hate the romantic triangle that the writers forced on Tauriel, I do love sappy, tragic romances. It was a cheap way to raise personal stakes, but I thought it helped humanize some characters, albeit in the clunkiest way possible. And finally, NO CG HEAVY CHASE SEQUENCE!!! It was actually shown in the original teaser trailer, but thankfully, it was cut from the theatrical version.
So was it a good movie? Probably not, but I liked it. I can't wait for a good fan edit. Or maybe I'll make one myself.
Here's FrankN.Stein's impression of the movie.
Update: Pushed up once on 12/18 9:26 PST