Newspaper article The Evening Standard (London, England)

Enter the Dragon; Film of the weekFans Won't Be Disappointed by the Latest Action-Packed Tolkien Instalment, as Martin Freeman's Bilbo Goes in Search of Fire-Breathing Benedict Cumberbatch

Newspaper article The Evening Standard (London, England)

Enter the Dragon; Film of the weekFans Won't Be Disappointed by the Latest Action-Packed Tolkien Instalment, as Martin Freeman's Bilbo Goes in Search of Fire-Breathing Benedict Cumberbatch

Article excerpt

Byline: David Sexton

THE HOBBIT: THE DESOLATION OF SMAUG Cert 12A, 161 mins THE Lord of the Rings, released between 2001 and 2003, was the most profitable film trilogy ever, grossing $2.91 billion at the box office, perhaps double that when merchandising was taken into account (or so the Tolkien Estate estimated when it sued for a greater share of the profits).

The incentive, then, to make the movie version of The Hobbit as similar to that of The Lord of the Rings as possible was clear -- never mind that it's so much shorter a book, written specifically for children. The director Peter Jackson has delivered in full, stretching the story out into another trilogy of very long films (this one is 161 minutes), packed with extra fighting and chase sequences on a grandiose scale, and bringing back as many characters -- and the actors who played them -- from The Lord of the Rings as possible, whether or not they feature in Tolkien's book.

The strategy has worked. The first instalment, The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey, which was released in this same week last year, has already taken over $1 billion; this second one will do at least as well, if not better. If you liked the LOTR trilogy and the first Hobbit, you won't be disappointed; on the contrary, you'll surely be thrilled, and left impatient for the finale, scheduled for next December.

The Desolation of Smaug (the title refers to the destruction the dragon has wrought on the locality, rather than a melancholy temperament) opens with a rapid recap, showing deposed Dwarf Prince Thorin Oakenshield meeting up with Gandalf to plan the attack on the Lonely Mountain in a pub, nine months previously. Then straight away we're back with Bilbo (Martin Freeman again) and the 13 dwarves where we left them last time, mid-quest, hard pressed by hideous orcs mounted on bounding wargs.

They shelter for a night with "skinchanger" Beorn, a giant, played by Swedish actor Mikael Persbrandt, sometimes a ferocious bear, sometimes a bristly man. Luckily, he hates orcs even more than he hates dwarves.

Then, after Gandalf (Ian McKellen, in that great big silly hat again) has disappeared on a mission of his own, the troop get lost in Mirkwood, where they are attacked by horrible giant spiders, entirely CGI but none the less putting this film out of the question for the estimated three to six per cent of the population who suffer from arachnophobia. Luckily, they are rescued by Wood-elves in the form of Legolas (Orlando Bloom, brought back from LOTR without any textual warrant) and novelty elfin hottie Tauriel (Evangeline Lilly, from Lost).

The Elvenking Thranduil locks up the dwarves in his palace, but Bilbo, using the invisibility ring snitched from Gollum (alas, Andy Serkis doesn't appear in this film), evades capture and frees the dwarves, who escape by hiding in barrels in which they go whitewater rafting downriver in the most spectacular sequence -- a promising ride for the eventual Hobbit theme-park -- harried again by orcs, although Legolas and Tauriel pitch in on their behalf. …

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