Peter Jackson continues his pursuit of bringing Middle Earth to the screen in as much detail as possible, with this the difficult middle film of the Hobbit trilogy.
The first Hobbit film received a solid if not spectacular critical reception, with some complaints about the long set up and just “too much singing”. Box office of $1 billion plus, suggested critics had been too harsh.
This film has no need for lengthy exposition so we are straight into the action as the group continue their quest towards the Lonely mountain and a confrontation with a fire breathing talking dragon with a penchant for shiny treasure.
All the regular cast members are present and correct, the production values and costumes are as usual top notch. with special effects arguably the best in the world courtesy of Weta workshops, we are in safe hands here.
Having dispensed with big feasts and washing up malarkey, this time Bilbo (Freeman) gets to meet giant spiders, Elves, Lake dwellers, many, many Orc’s and of course the titular Smaug guarding the treasure trove.
The dwarfs are again acted by well known faces, including Thorin (Richard Armitrage), Balin (Ken Stott) and Kilin (Aidan Turner) all made dwarf size through a combination of effects and simple perspective and camera tricks. Ian Mckellen of course takes on the Gandalf role and Orlando Bloom gets to do his hero, swashbuckling thing, dispensing Orcs, like he has never been away. Which of course is odd, as he has not reached the point where the LOTR Fellowship is even a consideration.
It is well known that Tolkien stinted on female characters, so Jackson and writers Walsh and Boyle neatly side step this omission by creating a feisty female Elf Tauriel (Evangeline Lilley), who is more than a match for Legolas. We even get a glimpse of romance and sexual tension with a possible, elf, dwarf love triangle in the offing.
Martin Freeman again anchors the enterprise with a comic yet human performance, it is difficult to imagine anyone playing this better. There are numerous action sequences including a thrilling barrel ride down a cascading river chased by despicable Orc’s, with South Island NZ doubling beautifully for Middle Earth yet again.
Following the assistance of smuggler Girion (Luke Evans) we also get Stephen Fry as the leader of Lake town which seems an odd choice and arguably this sequence is weaker for this addition.
Overall a real return to form for director Jackson and the team, which places the series on firm ground for the final film. This is a rollicking adventure with thrills, spills, action, adventure and elements of humour whenever the going gets tough.
True, there are still many references to doom-laden scenarios that may mean little to non-Tolkien aficionado’s but no matter, on whatever level you wish to approach the material, this is a resounding success.
Highly enjoyable thrilling romp through Middle Earth in company of the characters we have come to care about. This strips back some of the unnecessary fripperies and delivers on the original promise.
After watching both Hobbit 1 and 2 in 3D this will be the last time in that format. For this reviewer live action in 3D especially HFR, appears to expose the falseness of scenes. In future we will stay with 2D unless the whole film is CGI, where the true 3D benefits can be seen (i.e. Toy Story 3) – IMHO