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Martin Freeman
Ian McKellen
Richard Armitage
Andy Serkis
Aidan Turner
Stephen Fry
Benedict Cumberbatch
Orlando Bloom
Evangeline Lilly.
Peter Jackson.
Phillipa Boyens
Fran Walsh
Guillermo del Toro
Peter Jackson.
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The Hobbit: The Desolation Of Smaug
The beast mastered

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To complete their quest to Erebor, Bilbo (Freeman) and the dwarves must pick their way through a phantasmal forest, navigate raging rapids and escape the clutches of Lake-town's corrupt Master (Fry). Then there's the small matter of a dragon...

The Hobbit: The Desolation Of Smaug
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You've seen his King Kong. Now prepare for Peter Jackson’s Donkey Kong. About an hour into the raucously entertaining middle slab of the Hobbit trilogy, having already tangled with hissing arachnids, a fearsome bear-man and sundry other perils, our posse of undersized heroes clamber into wooden casks and are lobbed into what’s not so much an action sequence as an unrelenting pile-up of lunatic, barrel-based gags. As they rocket down-river, pursued by elves and orcs (who are simultaneously waging war in the branches above), oak cylinders fly at the camera, plunge down fizzing waterfalls and bounce off rocks to scatter servants of evil like skittles. As rousing and inventive as Kong’s triple-T-Rex face-off, this multi-million-dollar flume ride is — with apologies — barrels of fun. And to think that at this stage in the last film, the dwarves were still loading the dishwasher.

While An Unexpected Journey had plenty of bucolic charm, it did, for a Middle-earth film, feel oddly inconsequential. The Desolation Of Smaug remedies that. Moody, urgent and, for want of a better word, Ringsier, it’s a much more satisfying film. If anything, it dispenses with early events with something approaching impatience: Beorn (Mikael Persbrandt), the aforementioned bear-man, is left behind before we’ve really had a chance to savour his peculiar brand of beastly intensity (though no doubt he’ll be back to claw up baddies in the Battle Of Five Armies), and the same goes for Mirkwood’s hallucinatory boughs, which have the company tripping balls in a variety of amusing ways.

One problem with the former film was that it re-trod too closely the footsteps of the Fellowship: it was difficult to share Bilbo’s awe at entering Rivendell, given that we’d already been there 11 years before. Here, you can feel Jackson’s relief at having entirely new worlds in which to play. The forest domain of the Silvan Elves has beauty edged with menace, plus it gives Lee Pace (great as the dagger-eyed Thranduil) an amazing elk-horned throne. But the real standouts are Lake-town and Erebor, contrasting but equally stunning showcases of production design. The former, a fog-shrouded, Dickensian burg that we’re informed “stinks of fish oil and tar”, is a new, pleasingly earthy flavour for Middle-earth. Like Edoras in The Two Towers, it was largely built for real and bristles with detail. Kingdom-under-the-mountain Erebor, on the other hand, is the kind of mad location that could only exist on a Weta mega-computer, its centrepiece a stash of wealth so vast it would give Scrooge McDuck a quacking fit.

As Bilbo (a still spot-on Martin Freeman) and co. near their destination, the film gets increasingly busy, splitting the group in two and intercutting between those strands and Gandalf (Ian McKellen), who’s off poking around the ruins of Dol Guldur. That storyline still hasn’t quite caught fire (it basically amounts to the wizard yelling at a giant, evil ink-blot), and it could be argued that more screentime might have been usefully given to the dwarves, who remain largely anonymous. Besides Thorin (Richard Armitage), whose facade of nobility is beginning to crumble, revealing baser motives beneath, the only one who gets much attention is Kili (Aidan Turner), vying with a returning Legolas (Orlando Bloom) for the attentions of auburn-haired elf ninja Tauriel (Evangeline Lilly). As love triangles go, it’s fairly rote — and might have been more dramatic were Kili not the one dwarf who looks like an elf anyway — but Tauriel, a character created for the film who’s already got some Tolkienites raging, fits seamlessly into the world and gets to execute several pleasingly brutal orc-kills: at points, the film’s one arrow-in-the-head away from turning into The Raid.

Stephen Fry and Ryan Gage give good sleaze in their brief appearances as Lake-town’s venal Master and his aide, Alfrid. Luke Evans is surprisingly Welsh as hero-in-waiting Bard The Bowman. But the standout new character is, predictably, the titular beast. He’s played Khan; now Benedict Cumberbatch draws on Shere Khan for his performance (vocal and mo-cap) as the blazing-eyed, honey-voiced, spike-helmed “serpent of the north”. We’ve seen many a dragon on screen before, but nothing with this much personality: Smaug is a startlingly well-executed creation, toggling between arrogance, indolence and rage as he uses his wyrm-tongue to try to draw out Bilbo. And once he does, the film kicks into full throttle for an immense, half-hour finale that threatens to bring down the mountain itself. It’s Jackson once more at the top of his game; God knows what he has in store for part three.

Middle-earth's got its mojo back. A huge improvement on the previous instalment, this takes our adventurers into uncharted territory and delivers spectacle by the ton. And in case you were wondering, yes, someone manages to say the title as dialogue.

Reviewed by Nick de Semlyen

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Average user rating for The Hobbit: The Desolation Of Smaug
Empire Star Rating

On the page the tone of the Hobbit is completely different to the Lord of the Rings and I for one would have loved to see the Hobbit on film embrace those differences by racing along at a breakneck speed from one action set piece to another, a kind of Raiders for Middle Earth if you will. However with the potential revenue on offer it was always unlikely that the Hobbit would be a stand alone film, but I do believe that three films is pushing it somewhat with the inevitable padding feeling mo... More

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Posted by Uncle_Ethan at 21:20, 10 August 2014 | Report This Post

Hugely entertaining. A vast improvement on the first. Although, at times, the CGI seems to take over making it a little bit tricky to watch, the incredible sequences, story and introduction of new characters makes this a stand alone film in an already incredible franchise. ... More

Empire User Rating

Posted by danfacey711 at 16:32, 20 April 2014 | Report This Post

No way

It was better than the first one (faint praise) but NO WAY is it a five star film! ... More

Posted by bendoofus at 21:53, 11 April 2014 | Report This Post

A big mess

Seriously, what happened? A far cry from what made the LOTR top of the genre. ... More

Empire User Rating

Posted by rich at 18:39, 11 April 2014 | Report This Post

RE: It's a Joke, surely?

L: Oroborous Empire should be ashamed, what an ill-concieved embodiment of unprofessionalism to offer up such a high rating to this film. Giving this 5 stars is a direct, blatant and unjustified insult to The Lord of the Rings trilogy, and consequently, to ayone who holds those films dear. This is genuinely and unexaggeratedly pathetic. o because someone likes a film more than you it makes them unprofessional? Jesus wept. ... More

Posted by horribleives at 16:24, 11 April 2014 | Report This Post

RE: It's a Joke, surely?

L: Oroborous Empire should be ashamed, what an ill-concieved embodiment of unprofessionalism to offer up such a high rating to this film. Giving this 5 stars is a direct, blatant and unjustified insult to The Lord of the Rings trilogy, and consequently, to ayone who holds those films dear. This is genuinely and eratedly c. eally? No exaggeration at all?* In all fairness, I came away disappointed after seeing it in January. I'll re-evaluate it when it reaches Netflix although I d... More

Posted by FoximusPrime at 16:02, 11 April 2014 | Report This Post

RE: It's a Joke, surely?

Empire should be ashamed, what an ill-concieved embodiment of unprofessionalism to offer up such a high rating to this film. Giving this 5 stars is a direct, blatant and unjustified insult to The Lord of the Rings trilogy, and consequently, to ayone who holds those films dear. This is genuinely and unexaggeratedly pathetic. ... More

Posted by Oroborous at 13:35, 11 April 2014 | Report This Post

It's a Joke, surely?

Five stars? Really? Iv'e never been so angry at the end of a film. No, actually Iv'e never been angry at all at the end of any film. This is Jackson's Phantom Menace, an infuriating mish mash of missed opportuniies, poor decisions and seduction by pixel. Where was Bjorn? Oh I blinked and he was gone. Where was Legolas? Bloody everywhere! Why are dwarves impervous to molten heat? What was all that gold statue malarkey?What was the point of the dwarf/elf love trangle stuff? I have the first film... More

Empire User Rating

Posted by ericcoyle at 14:48, 08 April 2014 | Report This Post

Little more than a CGI action film

The film is 3 hours long. But that isn't the problem, the longer a film is, the more you can fit in it, right? Well you would think so, but The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug does little in its long running time. Don't get me wrong, stuff happens, but nothing really happens. Things move in front of your face in substandard 3D, there is action, sentiment, interesting characters, even a cliche 'insert' romance. But ultimately it boils down into a sloppy, overfilling, vague-flavoured CGI soup. I... More

Empire User Rating

Posted by MADLEMONZ at 20:22, 07 April 2014 | Report This Post

RE: A bigger snooze-fest than the last one

You use the word "nothing" a lot, whick kind of makes it funny, that there is no arguments whatsoever in your post. There's no explanations, no reasons. There's ... More

Posted by beautiful_night at 09:21, 27 February 2014 | Report This Post

RE: Woah

I finally got around to watching part 2 of this adventure. It was quite spectacular and I liked the dragon. The romance was sweet. It was a bit long to sit through, but then again I'm heavily pregnant and needed to go to the bathroom from time to time. Funnily enough I was pregnant when I watched the first one too, so I guess I should expecting my third with the next movie, haha. ... More

Posted by Lisamoviegeek at 05:27, 09 February 2014 | Report This Post

RE: Woah

L: Drone L: 7eke What film were you watching Nick? I guess we'll always have the LOTR trilogy. ot sure if that was a response to me but I'm not Nick, unless that's some odd slang I'm not aware of. As fantastic as the LOTR films are, I don't feel they are aging as well as they could - maybe I have seen them once too often, and as a hardcore advocate of the books (there is not a bigger Tolkien/LOTR nut on the forum than me) I believe there will be a more definitive screen... More

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Posted by 7eke at 18:09, 06 February 2014 | Report This Post

RE: the hobbit

Haven't read the book. Liked the film. But still LOTR is my favourite ones. ... More

Posted by m_er at 10:01, 19 January 2014 | Report This Post

RE: The magic is gone

L: Hillsman Spot on. I'm not sure where yer man was coming from, but your original post was sensible and reasonable: your follow-up more so. I firmly believe myself that there was enough material in the book and the appendices for 3 strong films - particularly if ALL key scenes were indulged in a similar fashion to the Unexpected Party and Riddles In The Dark. With the Necromancer sub-story also available, it should have been a blinding trilogy. I really enjoyed the fir... More

Posted by jackflaps at 01:20, 14 January 2014 | Report This Post

RE: Middle-Earth Is Back, But Not Entirely For The Better...

L: londonnut ink] < sums up why I just can't connect with The Hobbit so far . I am so over TRYING to like these films; seeing DoS at the weekend finally killed it for me. LOTR on the big screen is still my most exhilarating cinema experience (with only Gravity coming close since) but The Hobbit films may as well be fully animated (thinking about it, it probably would've been a better way to go). Wheras LOTR was rooted in real environments, practical sets, bigatures and g... More

Posted by kumar at 21:15, 12 January 2014 | Report This Post

RE: Hobbit : desolation of Smaug Full Movie Watch now

Of what I read, Orlando Bloom had trouble with the contacts whilst filming LotR. So I'm guessing they just used CGI instead. ... More

Posted by Ref at 17:38, 11 January 2014 | Report This Post

RE: Hobbit : desolation of Smaug Full Movie Watch now

L: Mr Gittes Well, I went to see it anyway (after quickly checking out AUJ), and I really enjoyed it. Far from perfect*, but a lot better than the good-but-heavily-flawed first movie. I'm certainly glad I jumped and saw it at the cinema. Smaug was amazing. *The CGI - whilst superior to the stuff in AUJ - was still excessive, those GoPro shots were horribly distracting, I hated the Ed Sheeran cover at the end, and e sweet hell did they do to Legolas' eyes? For the whole film, he... More

Posted by musht at 14:48, 11 January 2014 | Report This Post

RE: Top-draw cinematic joy

the movie dragged on for me. too much stalling, then finally the exciting part and it ends. ... More

Posted by owlfall at 01:55, 11 January 2014 | Report This Post

RE: Hobbit : desolation of Smaug Full Movie Watch now

L: Mr Gittes Hmmm, I'm in a dilemma now. You see, originally I was going to just wait until all three were released on blu ray, and then simply watch them all for the first time back-to-back, like one extremely long film; thus I didn't go see An Unexpected Journey. But now all this excitement and praise surrounding Desolation Of Smaug has got me thinking - should I scrap this plan? I mean, if it's really as good as they say, I don't want to look back in the future and think ... More

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Posted by Mr Gittes at 21:16, 08 January 2014 | Report This Post

RE: The Hobbit: The Desolation Of Smaug

Gorgeous Smaug. ... More

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Posted by spamandham at 16:44, 07 January 2014 | Report This Post

RE: The magic is gone

Overall it was ok, three main problems, 1 It's too long, 2 Dwarves are so unsympathetic and useless I ended up rooting for the Dragon (beginning to suspect he had his reasons for attacking the dwarves). 3 Cartoon physics are a distraction, first three movies Middle Earth felt like a real place, this time round it often feels like I'm watching a computer game. ... More

Posted by blackduck at 09:25, 06 January 2014 | Report This Post

RE: The magic is gone

L: Hillsman People are paying for an adaptation - not some loosely faithful version of events. o they're not, they're paying to watch an entertaining film. Despite being the 6th most popular book, or whatever it was, the vast majority of cinema goers e book. They don't care how faithful it is, only a small minority have those quibbles. I'd be happy if they made it into 10 films, as long as those 10 films were entertaining and didn't just feel like padding out a load of bo... More

Posted by jonson at 08:12, 06 January 2014 | Report This Post

RE: The magic is gone

L: jackflaps What utter twaddle. First off, you'll note that nowhere in my post did I claim to be head-over-heels for the LOTR films. I merely commented on the difference in methods regarding special effects. As you brought the subject up, I may as well state my opinion that I'm very mixed on the LOTR films. I appreciate some of the things they did, and genuinely enjoy Fellowship as a film, but overall would say they are highly flawed films with wonky characterisation. I don't ac... More

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Posted by Hillsman at 22:12, 05 January 2014 | Report This Post

RE: re the desolation of smaug yawnfest

The films are family friendly fantasy entertainment (you can tell who the target audience is by the fact that they got Ed Sheeran to do an accompanying single) and as such, they're fantastic. I'd imaging my 8 year old self would fucking love The Hobbit films so far. I'm older now though and they just don't do it for me which is much more a personal thing. The tone is just so vastly different from that of the LotR films I really struggle to imagine these adventures as part of the same franc... More

Posted by musht at 00:33, 05 January 2014 | Report This Post

RE: re the desolation of smaug yawnfest

L: AxlReznor I do think everything that i] be built full-size in real life was, though. Peter Jackson isn't George Lucas. ote] No he isn't, but give it time. A couple more films on current form and he'll be there (and I'm not talking about reliance on CGI either). ... More

Posted by superdan at 09:22, 04 January 2014 | Report This Post

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