Following the underwhelming An Unexpected Journey, Peter Jackson revs up the action and intrigue with The Desolation Of Smaug. The second offering in Jackson’s adaptation of J.R.R Tolkien’s The Hobbit, the Kiwi director cuts out the ephemeral dawdlings which marred the first film to deliver a more considered representation of the novel’s fantastical milieu.

Jackson is largely faithful to Tolkein’s mythical universe with a few convenient additions, notablyOrlando Bloomreprising the role of Legolas and the appearance ofEvangeline Lillyas Tauriel. Despite the added star power, what really steals the show is the widely-lauded CGI masterpiece, dragon Smaug (voiced by the poshBenedict Cumberbatch).

Beginning in the eerie Mirkwood forests, we follow Bilbo Baggins (Martin Freeman) and the band of dwarves, led by the increasingly aloof Thorin (Richard Armitage), in their attempt to find a mythical hoard of treasure underneath the mountain in Erebore. With Gandalf (Ian McKellen)leaving the group to attend some urgent wizardry business – hanging out in the ancient ruins of Dol Guldur – the group are first attacked by gargantuan spiders, saved by the beautiful Silvan Elves who live in the forest, and then taken captive by the suspicious elves. This all happens in the first half hour or so helping to establish the film’s frantic pace.

The highlight of Jackson’s Tolkien adaptations have always been the mesmeric production design andDesolationdoesn’t disappoint, seamlessly moving from the eerie Mirkwood forests, to the squalid tenements of Laketown to the finale, Smaug’s glittering dragon lair. Despite the animated mastery of Smaug’s character, his devilish charisma shines through best in the pivotal scene where he attempts to coax Bilbo out into the open. Realising that Bilbo is not alone, but accompanied by his favourite companions, dwarves, Smaug launches into a furious tide of anger, which brings him out of the mountain and ready to destroy whatever comes across his path. Ending with Smaug heading to Laketown to unleash his fury, the film does well to drum up anticipation for the third and final instalment.

For fans ofThe Lord Of The Ringsseries this will be ––––another fantasy ‘hamburger’ to pig out on – you can forget about the scones-and-tea-taste left by the firstHobbitfilm.Desolationis a dazzling visual spectacle and by delving into new parts of Tolkein’s Middle-Earth, Jackson gives his trilogy a much-needed boost.

The Hobbit: The Desolation Of Smaug is in cinemas nationwide.

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