The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug (M)

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The ViewAuckland Review

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Review byMatthew Turner12/12/2013

Four out of Five stars
Running time: 160 mins

The second part of Peter Jackson's Hobbit trilogy is a vast improvement on the first: a rollicking, non-stop fantasy adventure that delivers sizeable thrills, amazing action sequences and spectacular special effects, with terrific performances and jaw-dropping production design work.

What's it all about?
Directed by Peter Jackson, The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug is the second part of the trilogy of films adapted from JRR Tolkien's beloved children's story The Hobbit. Pausing only for a brief flashback, the film plunges straight into the action as Bilbo Baggins (Martin Freeman) and the thirteen dwarves battle the giant spiders of Mirkwood before getting captured by a familiar-looking wood-elf (Orlando Bloom as Legolas) and his feisty companion (Evangeline Lilly as Tauriel), whereupon they are imprisoned in the wood-elves' dungeon.

After escaping the dungeon, Bilbo and the dwarves find themselves pursued by vicious orcs and encounter the human inhabitants of desolate Lake-town before facing off against the fearsome dragon Smaug (voiced and mo-capped by Benedict Cumberbatch) in the Lonely Mountain. Meanwhile, Gandalf separates himself from the group and investigates the ruins of Dol Guldur, accompanied by Radogast the Brown (Sylvester McCoy).

The Good
After some of the longueurs of the first film (including a lengthy sequence involving the dwarves doing the washing up), it's a relief to discover that the second instalment is pretty much non-stop, no-holds barred action. Highlights include the genuinely terrifying spider attack sequence (small children and arachnophobes may require blindfolds), the nail-biting climactic confrontation with Smaug and the film's undoubted show-stopper, a brilliantly conceived and utterly thrilling chase/fight sequence as the dwarves escape from the elves' dungeon in barrels, riding a series of white-water rapids and being pursued by blood-thirsty orcs, who in turn are being chased and attacked by Legolas and Tauriel (both showcasing some frankly jaw-dropping orc-killing skills).

Once again, Freeman is perfect as Bilbo and there's terrific support from Armitage, alongside likeable turns from Lilly (playing a crowd-pleasing character created especially for the film) and Luke Evans as Bard the Bowman. That said, with the exception of Kili and Ken Stott's Balin, the other dwarves rather fade into the background this time round.

The Great
The script is a huge improvement on the previous film, ditching the dodgy comedy dialogue moments that seemed out of place and maintaining a cracking pace throughout. Even the running time has improved – it's half an hour shorter than the previous film.

On top of that, the film boasts state-of-the-art special effects (eclipsing the memory of the video-game style opening sequence of the first film) and some stunning production design work, particularly in the Lonely Mountain sequences (you'll believe a dragon can fly, etc). That said, it's fair to say that the 3D adds very little to the experience, aside from a bit with a couple of bees.

Worth seeing?
The Desolation of Smaug is a hugely enjoyable fantasy adventure with thrilling action sequences, pacey direction, state of the art special effects and terrific performances. Highly recommended.

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The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug (M)
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Content updated: 18/10/2018 06:22

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