The Hobbit – The Desolation Of Smaug continues where The Hobbit – An Unexpected Journey finishes.
As the film opens, we see Gandalf (Ian McKellen – X-Men, Lord Of The Rings) and Thorin Oakenshield (Richard Armitage – Captain America, Robin Hood) at the Prancing Pony Inn in Bree, where Gandalf persuades him to hire the services of a “burglar” to retrieve The Arkenstone, that he may unite the dwarfs and retake their homeland beneath the Lonely Mountain from the dragon Smaug, who has taken up residence on the horde of gold assembled by the King.
One year later and our strange party consisting of lots of Dwarves, a Wizard (Gandalf) and Bilbo Baggins the Hobbit (Martin Freeman – Hot Fuzz, Love Actually) strike out to find the secret door to The Lonely Mountain, visible only in the last light of Durin’s Day.
The party are being pursued by orcs, led by Azog and are forced to take shelter at the home of Beorn (Mikael Persbrandt) a shape-shifter who can take the form of a bear and who protects them overnight.
After leaving the house of Beorn, and being escorted to the edge of the Mirkwood, Gandalf receives a message from Galadriel (Cate Blanchett – The Curious Case Of Benjamin Button, Lord Of The Rings) and leaves to investigate the tombs of the Nazgul, with the assistance of Radagast (Sylvester McCoy – Doctor Who), where they realize they are beginning to awaken.
True to form, as soon as they are not being supervised, things begin to go wrong for the party and they find themselves ensnared, first by spiders and then by Wood Elves, led by Legolas (Orlando Bloom – Pirates Of The Caribbean, Lord Of The Rings) and Tauriel (Evangeline Lilly – Lost, The Hurt Locker).
All of this leads to one of the most entertaining scenes I have ever seen, which fans of The Hobbit will be eagerly awaiting, that of the Dwarves floating off down the river in barrels, absolutely brilliant and just as I had imagined it.
The finale to the film is just as exciting as you would expect it to be, Smaug (Benedict Cumberbatch – Star Trek Into Darkness, Sherlock Holmes) is quite terrifying and extremely well done and they leave you with enough of a cliff hanger to guarantee you have to watch the last film.
If you are expecting this to be word for word as the book was, then you will of course be disappointed, quite a lot of changes have been made, but they serve to tie The Hobbit to the Lord Of The Rings trilogy more firmly and bring the whole thing up to date very well. The addition of named Wood Elves in the form of Legolas and Tauriel (to add a love interest) works really well and the changes have been sensitively made and are quite unobtrusive. The spirit and overall feel of these adaptations remain the same as the original story and in my book, that is all that really matters.
Filmed in New Zealand the backdrops are seriously impressive and all the sets and locations feel like they really are in Middle Earth. There are also a whole host of great performances which really bring the story to life, including James Nesbitt – Bloody Sunday) and Stephen Fry (V For Vendetta).
Included is also a second disc, containing lots of special features, as the director Peter Jackson (Lord Of The Rings) guides you through the filming of the most pivotal sequences in Mirkwood, Lake-town and Dale. Watch production videos, behind the scenes as the film is being shot and finally, New Zealand: Home Of Middle Earth, Part 2.
This film is well worth adding to your collection and is a must-own for all fans of The Lord Of The Rings trilogy and the first Hobbit film alike.