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Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug, The (3D) (DQ)


Stars: Ian McKellen, Martin Freeman, Richard Armitage, Benedict Cumberbatch (voice), Evangeline Lilly, Lee Pace, Luke Evans, Stephen Fry, Ken Stott, James Nesbitt, Orlando Bloom, Mikael Persbrandt, Sylvester McCoy, Aidan Turner, Dean O'Gorman, Graham McTavish, Adam Brown, Peter Hambleton, John Callen, Mark Hadlow, Jed Brophy, William Kircher, Stephen Hunter, Ryan Gage, John Bell, Manu Bennett, Lawrence Makoare

Director: Peter Jackson

This rollercoaster Tolkien adventure looks stunning, and its sets are awesome, perhaps the most imposing since Hollywood's golden age. But by cracky this second part of the Hobbit trilogy doesn't half go on a bit.

Still, the quest to reclaim the lost dwarf kingdom and the Lonely Mountain, wherein dwells the gold-hoarding dragon Smaug, continues apace, as the 13 dwarfs and Bilbo the hobbit (Freeman, perfectly cast) endure narrow escapes from the giant Mirkwood spiders - stomach-churningly well realised - the wood-elves led by Legolas (Bloom), and the burghers of Laketown (headed by an unkempt but preening Fry), not to mention continual harassment by murderous orcs, few of whom ever actually seem to claim victims, despite snarling a lot to show their decaying fangs.

The dwarfs' flight from the elves and orcs (who are also fighting each other) in barrels down a raging river is, although a trifle protracted, a thrilling highlight of the frequent action.

Naturally, Bilbo is the hero in all this, forever saving the day, even if fiercely possessive of the Ring he pinched from Gollum in the first film.

Meanwhile, Gandalf the grey wizard (McKellen) is off on his own adventure to confront the source of evil and, as we near the end (of part two at least), Bilbo similarly confronts Smaug (Cumberbatch: an unholy reunion for TV's Holmes and Watson) and there is action against the orcs back in Laketown, with the story switching dazzlingly, if a trifle frustratingly, between all three segments.

The dragon is great but, like the orcs, there's a little too much of him. Familiarity breeds a furtive look at one's watch. This episode seems to get pretty near the end of the book as I remember it, but doubtless director Jackson has another 160 minutes up his sleeve.

David Quinlan

USA/New Zealand 2013. UK Distributor: Warner Brothers. Colour by deluxe.
160 minutes. Widescreen. UK certificate: 12A.

Guidance ratings (out of 3): Sex/nudity 0, Violence/Horror 1, Drugs 0, Swearing 0.

Review date: 11 Dec 2013