Film review: The Hobbit – The Desolation of Smaug leaves you wanting more

Martin Freeman as Bilbo, Jed Brophy as Nori and the "real star" Richard Armitage as Thorin. Photograph: Warner Bros / Mark Pokorny
Martin Freeman as Bilbo, Jed Brophy as Nori and the "real star" Richard Armitage as Thorin. Photograph: Warner Bros / Mark Pokorny
Martin Freeman as Bilbo, Jed Brophy as Nori and the “real star” Richard Armitage as Thorin. Photograph: Warner Bros / Mark Pokorny

Review: The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug | 2hr 41min‎ | ‎Rated 12A
Venue: Now showing at City Screen, Reel and Vue in York

It’s hard to keep away from spoilers when you have a year between films and their sequels, but the whisperings, behind-the-scenes screenshots and promo pics that I did stumble upon were both appealing and confusing.

A female elf? Positive. Legolas? Strange but appropriate. Sneak-peaks of Smaug the terrible? Enticing. So when I ventured into the cinema late on Saturday night, I was hoping for the best.

Without spoiling too much, The Desolation Of Smaug pretty much starts where it left off from An Unexpected Journey: our dwarfish company running away from orcs and landing themselves in a pickle.

There are a lot of parallels to Lord Of The Rings in this film, from a very similar scene to Aragorn’s introduction showing Thorin meeting Gandalf for the first time in the Prancing Pony, to Gandalf battling dark forces on rickety-looking bridges. But all in all, as a fan, there’s nothing not to like.

To those who resent how the film deviates from the book – ie the creation of Tauriel – remember she is the one and only female character. Evangeline Lily is a welcome addition to the lineup, providing some brilliant fight scenes and rare emotion to a very action-packed movie.

Evangeline Lilly as Tauriel, a welcome addition to the original
Evangeline Lilly as Tauriel, a welcome addition to the original

Also a commanding on-screen presence is Lee Pace as Legolas’ father Thranduil who, hands down, has the best headgear and withering looks around.

Richard Armitage (Thorin) is the real star here, with the beautiful contrast between a heart-stoppingly sad moment when he realises he might not be able to succeed in his quest, and a brash retort to the Elf-king where he proves to be proud rather than pragmatic.

Martin Freeman is fantastic as usual, although Benedict Cumberbatch voicing Smaug fails to convince me Andy Serkis couldn’t have done a better job.

What this film lacks in character development and depth it makes up for in some amazing action sequences – one cannot help but enjoy the famous barrel escape from Mirkwood – and there is some comedy if you squint. Blink and you’ll miss it.

For all its flaws, The Hobbit 2 doesn’t disappoint. It’s a typical middle trilogy instalment: done with introductions but leaving you wanting more.