We’ve had to wait a full year for the second part of Peter Jackson’s Hobbit trilogy, but it really is well worth the wait.
Picking up where the first film left off, we are almost immediately straight into the action with Bilbo (Martin Freeman) and Gandalf (Ian McKellen) as they accompany their dwarf friends back to the Lonely Mountain and the dwarf kingdom of Erebor, now the lair of gold-loving dragon Smaug (voiced by Benedict Cumberbatch).
There are plenty of adventures along the way and some new characters are introduced, as well as being visited by some old friends. While travelling through Mirkwood (those suffering from arachnophobia look away now because otherwise you are in for a really scary time) the dwarves fall foul of some elves including Legolas (Orlando Bloom reprising his role from Lord of the Rings) and a feisty she-elf (Lost’s Evangeline Lilly) who takes an immediate shine to dwarf Kili (Aidan Turner of TV’s Being Human). Then comes one of the most enjoyable sequences in the film as the dwarves escape the wood and a rampaging army of orcs by floating downstream in empty barrels, with Legolas using their heads as stepping stones as he battles the orcs.
From here we float down to Lake-town and more new characters in the shape of the slimy Master of Lake-town (a really unkempt-looking Stephen Fry) and Bard the Bowman (Luke Evans) who helps the dwarves on their way to Erebor. And this is the most impressive section of the whole movie as they enter the mountain and Bilbo tries to outwit Smaug.
The vast cavern of Erebor, filled with heaps and heaps of gold treasure, looks like an Aladdin’s cave and as Bilbo tries to escape the dragon it’s as if he is running down dunes of sparkling sand or drifts of golden snow. Then, just when you think Bilbo and the dwarves have bested Smaug and the action couldn’t get any more tense, the film comes to an abrupt end on a cliff-hanger of epic proportions.
The film runs well over two-and-a-half hours but it feels much, much shorter than that as you become totally involved in Bilbo and the dwarves’ quest. Martin Freeman is an inspired choice as Bilbo as his comic timing is impeccable, but the whole cast really give it their all – and Evangeline Lilly is a great addition. Whereas 3D can sometimes become intrusive, here it seems the most natural thing in the world and adds real depth to the CGI, especially the sinuous, sinister Smaug.
We are going to have to wait another year for the final instalment of The Hobbit and you’ll be wishing the time away until then, impatient to see how Bilbo, Gandalf and the dwarves get on.