Film: "The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug"; Cast: Martin Freeman, Richard Armitage, Ian McKellen, Evangeline Lilly, Orlando Bloom, Lee Pace, Luke Evans, Ken Stott, James Nesbitt, Benedict Cumberbatch, Hugo Weaving, Sylvester McCoy, Aidan Turner, Manu Bennett, Dean O'Gorman, Graham McTavish, Peter Hambleton, Mikael Persbrandt, Adam Brown, William Kircher, Jed Brophy, Conan Stevens, Stephen Hunter, Mark Hadlow, Billy Connolly, Stephen Fry; Director: Peter Jackson; Rating: *** 1/2
If the first instalment of "The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey" was visually splendid, then "The Desolation of Smauga" is an optimistically exciting adventure opus with dollops of action scenes that include fights, chases and romance.
The film takes off from its first edition and hits the crux head on.
In a Tavern in Bree on the border of Shire, Thorin (Richard Armitage) gathers Gandalf (Ian McKellen) along with the 13 dwarves and Bilbo Baggins (Martin Freeman), the hobbit and inspires them to help him recover the ancestral treasures of Oakenshields, which include the precious Arkenstone. And thereby retrieve their underground former kingdom of Erebor from Smaug, the fire-breathing dragon who resides in the Lonely Mountain.
Guided by Gandalf, this formidable journey to the Lonely Mountain takes them through a path made treacherous with eerie and spine chilling encounters beginning with Beorn who alternates between a human and bear-like beast.
The initial stages of the journey drag but the last half of the film oscillates between sub-plots - the romance brewing between Elfin Tauriel (Evangeline Lilly) and Killi (Aidan Turner) with Legolas (Orlando Bloom) trailing behind, the battle between the Elfs and the Orcs in Lake town, Gandalf's quest to reveal much darker forces at work and Bard's personal journey.
Obviously Bilbo has a major hand in this grand adventure. Identified as the "ideal burglar" by Gandalf and with the 'Ring of Power', in his pocket, which cloaks him in invisibility, he encounters Smaug.
In the underbelly of the Lonely Mountain, lying dormant in the treasure trove, Smaug appears magnificent when he wakes up.
Director Peter Jackson performs the same kind of miracles with the digital Smaug that he did with Gollum in the "Lord of the Rings". As a digital creation, Smaug is magnificent, ominous and threatening. And Benedict Cumberbatch gives him a perfect voice to match.
The scenes between Smaug and Bilbo imbue this bloated 3D experience with a sense of character, purpose and nail-biting moments.
The casting and performances are excellent and production quality of the film is rich and faultless.
Every scene and frame has a fantasy feel to it, filled with energy and charm which could be termed as Jackson- Tolkien Style that brings us closer to nature.
The computer generated images seamlessly merge with cinematographer Ray Harryhausen's images. The landscape adds to the beauty of the narration bringing J.R.R. Tolkien's 1937 Children's novel "The Hobbit" to life.
If you are inclined towards adventure, then this film is definitely a must watch.