Peter Jackson’s magnum opus adaptation of Tolkein continues with the latest ‘Hobbit’ instalment hitting the small screen.
Bilbo Baggins (Martin Freeman), wise wizard Gandalf The Grey (Sir Ian McKellen) and the company of dwarves led by Thorin Oakenshield (Richard Armitage) head towards the Lonely Mountain to reclaim their lost gold from the dragon Smaug (voiced by Benedict Cumberbatch).
En route, the travellers encounter a shape-shifter called Beorn (Mikael Persbrandt), who aids them on the quest. When orcs storm Mirkwood, elves led by King Thranduil (Lee Pace), Legolas (Orlando Bloom) and fearless Tauriel (Evangeline Lilly) repel the invaders, allowing Bilbo and the dwarves to venture onwards. They cross a vast lake with the help of Bard the Bowman (Luke Evans).
Meanwhile, Gandalf discovers the identity of the necromancer in Dol Guldur.
‘The Desolation Of Smaug’ picks up where ‘An Unexpected Journey’ concluded and fans of ‘The Lord Of The Rings’ trilogy will experience a nagging sense of deja vu.
Jackson and his collaborators, including cinematographer Andrew Leslie and composer Howard Shore, have cast this second film in the mould of ‘The Two Towers’, replete with cliff-hanger ending that sees the forces of evil marshalling an army and preparing for war.
Freeman fleshes out his role as the ring continues to exert its pernicious control over Bilbo while McKellen is reduced to growling one-liners that state the obvious: “We have been blind and in our blindness our enemy has returned”.
Jackson is a gifted conductor of action sequences and he orchestrates some breathless rough and tumble as Bilbo and co escape a pack of orcs by travelling downriver in barrels.
There is also a skin-crawling encounter with giant spiders, guaranteed to have arachnophobes quivering in their seats.
‘The Hobbit: The Desolation Of Smaug’ (Cert 12, 161 mins, Warner Home Video, Fantasy/Action/Adventure/Romance, also available to buy DVD £19.99/Blu-ray £24.99/3D Blu-Ray £29.99/Limited Edition Steelbook 3D Blu-Ray £34.99)
Starring: Martin Freeman, Sir Ian McKellen, Richard Armitage, Evangeline Lilly, Orlando Bloom, Luke Evans, Lee Pace, Mikael Persbrandt and the voice of Benedict Cumberbatch.