The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug ***1/2

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“The Hobbit: The Desolation Of Smaug” is an improvement on “An Unexpected Journey” but it still does not reach the heights of the “Lord Of The Rings” trilogy. On it’s own terms it is a rousing fantasy adventure film with some dazzling action sequences, vibrant visual effects and some wonderful performances. It is not without it’s flaws though I am afraid.

The film picks up right where the first chapter left off. Bilbo and the dwarves are roughly half way to the lonely mountain. Before they can get there they must battle their way through car sized spiders in Mirkwood forrest, unfriendly Wood Elves as well as a party of Orcs. The spider sequence made me jump out of my seat. It certainly does not help that I suffer from arachnophobia. After escaping from the Elves, they are pursued down a river in an energetic chase as the dwarves hurdle through rapids and Orcs in barrels.

Eventually they reach Esgaroth with the help of Bard played by Luke Evans. Esgaroth is an old creaky town that is built over a lake. It resides at the base of the Lonely Mountain. After some rather uninteresting drama, the Dwarves make their way to the mountain where Bilbo enters and confronts the dragon. This sequence is the best of the series so far.

Smaug is a great towering beast. He is a glorious creation from his tremendous size to the his amazing facial expressions. The thunderous voice of Benedict Cumberbatch brings him to glorious life. His confrontation with Martin Freeman as Bilbo is simply priceless. You get the feeling that Bilbo fully underestimated the sheer intelligence that this beast possesses. Eventually the dragon battles the dwarves with force and fire.

Director Peter Jackson is a great director but I think he has sort of forgotten where he came from. The “Rings” trilogy was great and I think it was because they were working with a limited budget. They were forced to come up with creative ways of doing the impossible. Here he has an unlimited budget. He trades practical effects for CGI. I am no longer confused as to why this is three films. It is three times the profit. The results have been mixed so far. I am looking forward to the third part but part of me is just wanting it to be over.

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