Liverpool Sound and Vision Rating 9/10
Cast: Ian McKellen, Martin Freeman, Richard Armitage, Ken Stott, Orlando Bloom, Evangeline Lilly, Benedict Cumberbatch, James Nesbitt, Sylvester McCoy, Lee Pace, Stephen Fry, Luke Evens, Graham McTavish, William Kircher, Stephen Hunter, Dean O’ Gorman, Aiden Turner, John Callen, Peter Hambleton, Jed Brophy, Mark Hadlow, Adam Brown, Mikael Persbrandt, Ryan Gage.
There is no better way to round off an outstanding year in cinema that too return to the Lonely Mountain, through a forest of spiders and a tangle with the web that Elvish Men weave and via one of the finest dialogues captured throughout the whole of the Lord of the Rings trilogies and a journey involving a reluctant thief, a Wizard and a gang of Dwarves than to immerse yourself fully into the world of The Hobbit, The Desolation of Smaug.
Carrying on from the crucial ending to the first part of the new trilogy in 2012, Sir Ian McKellen, the ever increasing force of acting genius that is Martin Freeman, Richard Armitage and Ken Stott emerge to continue the quest that had begun in The Hobbit and now takes the journey into the very heart of the story, the meeting with Smaug and the rise of Sauron.
For fans, devotees, of J.R.R. Tolkien’s work, this must surely rank as the moment that the new trilogy matched the intensity and magnificence of The Battle of Helm’s Deep, the gut wrenching near pivotal moment in the Lord of the Rings trilogy which had audiences spell bound. This though was not due to any ensuing battle, although the visual effects of the skirmish that ran between The Dwarfs and The Orcs after leaving the Elvish kingdom was as stunning as it was a cinema goer’s dream, it was more to do with the meeting between the put upon Hobbit, who came of age in the darkness of the mountains and the destructive, slithery, dangerous power of the Dragon. The dialogue that ran between actor and computer generated Lizard, voiced by the sublime and equally silvery tongued Benedict Cumberbatch was enough to make any other fantasy based conversation almost dull by comparison.
It may well have helped the film reach a level of maturity that cannot be taken away from the overall gigantic feel of Peter Jackson’s immense imagination. The moment of discovery, the way in which Martin Freeman matched the acting talent surrounding him in the film was one in which the film goer should applaud. To have the same gravitas on screen as Sir Ian McKellen, Sylvester McCoy and Richard Armitage takes someone unafraid to become the person on screen, to be fully immersed in a character so beloved by millions and throughout this second instalment it was possible to see Martin Freeman be a true acting talent.
There was also something of a revelation in the character of Tauriel, portrayed by the superb Evangeline Lilly. Ms. Lilly may well be more known for her tenacity and spirit as Kate in the much appreciated television programme Lost but her portrayal as the loyal and adventures Elf was bordering on the outstanding. In a role that is as important for women as the magnificent Cate Blanchett, Ms. Lilly dominated the screen in every scene she was in.
For the detractors who suggest that the running time is far too long, to many scenes fleshed or even padded out from Tolkien’s books, the point gets lost for a story is a long as it needs to be told and some moments need to be taken further to be fully enjoyed.
December 2014 and the final part of The Hobbit seems so long away.
Ian D. Hall