Peter Jackson’s sprawling tripartite telling of J.R.R. Tolkien’s The Hobbit comes to a close next week with the release of The Hobbit: The Battle of Five Armies. As part of this week’s cover story—written by an up-and-coming freelancer named Stephen Colbert—EW got its hands on a couple of exclusive images from the third and final film.
When we last left our company of vertically challenged protagonists, they had just unleashed fiery death and ruination upon the citizens of Lake-town in the form of the dragon Smaug. “We wanted to save the destruction of Lake-town for this movie so we could start with a bang,” says Jackson, who can be seen giving direction to actor Lee Pace in the image above. But dragon fire isn’t the only thing running hot—once Smaug is dispatched and the dwarves are returned to the mountain keep of Erebor, the armies of the title start moving into position for the epic, climactic battle for the stronghold. On top of all that, the leader of the dwarves, Thorin, begins to succumb to a powerful lust for gold, a generational avarice that only exacerbates tensions leading into the grand melee.
And yes, there will be casualties. “This is the one where I finally get to kill some dwarves,” Jackson says.