Rating: 3.5 / 5
Last year's ‘The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey’ made news for many reasons. It was the first movie to use High Frame Rate 3D, which caused quite a buzz.
It was also the first of three movies that will serve as the prequel to the ‘Lord of The Rings’ trilogy.
This time round, the hype leading up to the second instalment, ‘The Desolation of Smaug’, has been rather muted in comparison, but that doesn't mean that expectations have been lowered.
The movie picks up right where the previous one left off.
Bilbo (Martin Freeman), after his encounter with Smeagol (or Gollum), is now in possession of the One ring, and continues to journey on with Thorin and his company of Dwarves on their quest to reclaim their lost city of Erebor from the dragon they call Smaug (voiced by Benedict Cumberbatch).
Meanwhile, Gandalf (Ian McKellen) has to separate from the group to confront the emerging evil that is the Necromancer (also known as Sauron, voiced by Cumberbatch again; more menacing this time) at Dol Guldur.
The Elves of Mirkwood play a much bigger part this time around, with King Thranduil (Lee Pace) finally showing up for more than five seconds.
Femme favourite and Thranduil's son, Legolas (Orlando Bloom), also makes his first appearance in this trilogy, along with newly created character, Tauriel (Evangeline Lily). There is even a romantic triangle involving these two and Kili (Aidan Turner), a Dwarf.
The Elves have their hands full from the Orcs, who aren't just hunting down the Dwarves, but also rapidly growing in numbers, thanks to the Necromancer.
Like ‘An Unexpected Journey’, there are many teasers to what will come chronologically in the future, and fans of ‘Lord of the Rings’ will surely appreciate.
If you catch the 3D screening, Middle-earth is extremely rich in details –
waterfalls, mountains and multi-coloured forests were all so vividly real that you will be tempted to reach out and touch them.
Director Peter Jackson's big, action set pieces also benefit from the plot where the Dwarves are separated from Gandalf. And there are more than a few instances.
There is also outstanding choreography in the fights involving the elves, presented in fluid, eye-popping 3D.
And probably the most jaw-dropping moment of the film is when the gang finally encounters an awakened Smaug. That dragon is truly magnificent on screen.
Truth be told, this 160-minute film contains almost all of the hallmarks that people enjoyed from Jackson's ‘Lord of the Rings’ films.
Unlike ‘An Unexpected Journey’, which seemed to take a remarkably long time to get going, ‘The Desolation of Smaug’ moves along with much more urgency.
Yet, it still feels very much like a placeholder movie.
The disadvantage of prequels is that the audience already knows a big part of the later story, robbing it of some dramatic tension. ‘Desolation’ almost does nothing to combat that.
Even with the spectacular fights and pretty images, there is almost nothing on the emotional front to distract you from the sense that this movie feels like it absolutely cannot wait to get done with itself so that it can move on to the final chapter.
It is not helped by an ending that doesn't resolve or reflect on anything that has happened in this film.
Bilbo once again shows that he is a really brave, stand-up Hobbit, but we already learnt that in the first one.
‘Desolation’ fails to overcome the “middle chapter problem” that plagues many other similar movies, and its attractive appearance may be a cover-up that it really doesn't have anything important to say.
Next one, please.