So, a year after our collective bottoms were numbed and spirits were dimmed by the first instalment of Peter Jackson’s “Hobbit” trilogy, does this second of three visits back to Middle Earth cleave any closer to the glories of the “Lord of the Rings” series?
TL:DR version? It does, but not without the continuing suspicion that the length of these cinematic adaptations makes them better suited to home viewing and comfy couches than the unforgiving confines of your local movieplex.
When we last saw Bilbo and his compatriots, their journey to the former Dwarven stronghold of Erebor had been rudely interrupted by the unwanted attentions of Orcs led by Azog the Defiler, a big chap with a grudge against Dwarven prince in exile Thorin Oakenshield.
This time around, our heroes journey through the chattering, skittering unseen horrors of Mirkwood forest, meet up with some old enemies and Bilbo finally gets his burglar on when he visits Erebor’s current incumbent, the ancient and crafty dragon Smaug.
I’m happy to say that the pacing and eventful nature of this film greatly improves on the langour of “An Unexpected Journey”: there’s a stand-out action sequence which builds on the wine barrel escape from Tolkien’s novel, replete with Elven intervention which reminds you that Jackson can create cinematic action to rival the best and that he’s not afraid to reconfigure the novel’s events.
And by ‘reconfigure’, I mean to say that Jackson merrily interjects events and characters in order to make the tale fit into the film saga he’s spent a major part of his film career creating on screen. Purists will quail, as well they might, but I suspect it’s fair to say that audiences eager to revisit this fantasy realm will be happy that a combination of nerdy enthusiasm for the source material and money grubbing corporate suits have met in the middle to realise this new trilogy.
Be warned that this second film ends on the mother of all cliff-hangers – suffice is to say that you may find yourself darkening your multiplex’s doors next Christmas season if you’ve been unimpressed by Jackson’s “Hobbit” trilogy to date, if only to see how things ultimately resolve themselves…