The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug: Blu Ray Review
It's the second part of Peter Jackson's Hobbit trilogy, and all eyes are on the film to ramp up the action and introduce some new characters (one a woman in the form of the elf Tauriel, played by Lost star Evangeline Lilly) as well as move the story on.
At the end of The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey, Bilbo and the company of Dwarves had survived being attacked by Azog and the Wargs and were heading East to the kingdom of Erebor.
But trouble was awaiting them in the form of the sleeping dragon, Smaug, voiced by Sherlock star Benedict Cumberbatch, who was awakening from his slumber in the Lonely Mountain to take on any who would enter...
In The Desolation of Smaug, Bilbo and the Dwarves face yet more peril, as they continue their journey to the Misty Mountain. From a dangerous skin-changer, swarms of giant spiders in Mirkwood and being captured, the Company face threats they could never have imagined. However, it's when they find themselves at the Lonely Mountain that danger lurks - the dragon Smaug.. The second part of the trilogy brings the action - and then some.
It's a great pay-off when compared to the slightly more sedate pace of the first Hobbit movie, which saw some criticise Jackson for stretching the story as far as it could go, without actually doing anything.
But what you come to realise is just how much Jackson invested - and forced you to invest - in the journey of the Company of Dwarves as the Desolation of Smaugplays out. It begins with a prequel in Bree, on the edge of the shire (complete with a cameo from a certain director) and then doesn't let up until its final scenes leave the audience screaming for an immediate conclusion, as the threads dangle precariously in the wind.
As the film zips along, overcoming its narrative constraints (two sequences see the Dwarves captured by different factions, leading to fears of repetition), the world Peter Jackson, J RR Tolkein and Fran Walsh have created is expanded with a rich resonance that's hard to deny. New characters thrive in this second film, which brings tragedy and ominous consequences to the fore - despite occasionally stuffy dialogue being uttered by some (chiefly, Lee Pace's Elven King Thranduil).
However, the finest part of the film comes nearly two hours in - and when it does, you realise just how much you've been waiting to see it - the dragon Smaug. Previously glimpsed in trailers and hinted at, this creature is a marvel of technology, a computer generated serpentine lizard that's as much a symbol of greed as it is a creature of cunning and deviousness. With Benedict Cumberbatch's rich tones adding a sinister and slimy texture to the character, the scenes with Bilbo trying to charm the dragon while finding his booty are rich with menace and ooze impressiveness.
The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug ends on a cliffhanger with the stakes raised incredibly high and Martin Freeman's Bilbo asking "What have we done?" and with you knowing there's at least another 12 month wait to find out. The simple answer though, Bilbo, is that you've created a fantasy film that once again soars above expectations, delivers a magical journey in spades and effortlessly commands and rewards your attention through its 161 minutes run time.