As I walked out after The Return of the King (still a little brain-bending to think that was 11 years ago) I wanted more. I couldn’t wait for the Extended Editions on DVD, I wanted to see all the bits that had been cut, I wanted as much Tolkien on screen as I could get.
When I walked out after The Battle of the Five Armies I wanted less. It’s definitely the weakest of the Rings films and feels stretched and disjointed. I guess the way to look at it is that this isn’t a Hobbit trilogy, it’s part of a wider Middle-Earth saga: a six film Ring cycle in which Peter Jackson gives us his nearasdammit complete Middle-Earth. Even in that context it’s stretched: it’s a lot of fighting and it’s very little Hobbit, but it bridges the gap between the two trilogies and it ties up its threads.
What I want to see now is a two-film cut, worry a bit less about setting up LOTR, keep the fun action sequences (trolls, goblins, spiders, barrels), but cut down some of the extended chases/battles. There’s a cracking 5 hour Hobbit story somewhere in there just waiting to have some of the fat trimmed.