The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug

Director: Peter jackson (2013)

This second part of The Hobbit trilogy is a brilliant combination of solid gold action and spellbinding fun.

It looks glorious – from the magnificent and enormous mountain kingdom to the tiniest gold coin. The furnaces and forges are massive, built on a Herculean scale worthy of my native Teesside. The music is thunderously epic, scenery stunning and the action fantastic.

On top of all this there are dark and scary elements. Paranoia, corruption and madness are never far from the surface in the script.

There are big changes to Tolkien’s book in the confrontation between Bilbo and Smaug, plus there is an entirely new character called Tauriel (Evangeline Lilly).

She’s a kick-ass elven warrior who supplies some welcome female warmth among the bushy-browed band of brothers though her story arc may be an invention too far Jackson.

Underpinning this amazing adventure are the captivating characters of Gandalf the wizard, Bilbo the hobbit and dwarf chief Thorin, portrayed with charm and talent by Ian McKellen, Martin Freeman and Richard Armitage.

The horde of squabbling dwarves are played by the same actors as in the previous film and Orlando Bloom returns as the elvish prince Legolas.

Gandalf goes off to investigate the mysterious Necromancer, meanwhile Thorin continues to lead his dwarves on their quest to rightfully reclaim their Lonely Mountain kingdom from Smaug the dragon.

The superbly animated fire-breathing monster, who rests on a hill of gold, is voiced with chilling reptilian menace by Freeman’s Sherlock co-star Benedict Cumberbatch.

In one of 2013’s best action sequences the heroes shoot down a river in barrels while being chased by both elves and orcs.

Bilbo and the dozen dwarves are attacked by giant spiders, imprisoned by elves and captured by men yet the ferociously paced Hobbit is still packed with humour.

They use swords, arrows, knives and axes to fend off orcs, wolves and giant bears while lurking at the end of their quest, a ferocious fire-breathing dragon.

With much enthusiastic slaying, smiting and beheading, our heroes, ride, run and fight their way through streets, forest and caverns, from the diseased and dangerous Mirkwood forest to the ramshackle Laketown and into The Lonely Mountain itself where it ends in a flash – of gold and fire.

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