12/08/2013 11:45 | By Emma Roberts, editor, MSN Entertainment

The Hobbit: The Desolation Of Smaug - movie review

Will Peter Jackson's second Hobbit movie be able to top the first? Or would Bilbo have been better off staying in the Shire?

The Hobbit: The Desolation Of Smaug - movie review

Release date: Friday 13 December
Rating: 12A
Director: Peter Jackson
Stars: Martin Freeman, Ian McKellen, Richard Armitage, Orlando Bloom, Evangeline Lilly

What’s it about?
Anti-social, yet loveable Hobbit Bilbo Baggins (Martin Freeman) continues his quest to reach the Lonely Mountain and reclaim the Dwarves’ hometown Erebor from the fearsome dragon Smaug (Benedict Cumberbatch).

What did we think?
Like the priceless treasures which Smaug ruthlessly protects in the film, the second Hobbit movie is an absolute gem of a movie. With intense action, laugh out loud moments and some of the most stunning scenery we’ve ever witnessed on the big screen, if you only make one more trip to the cinema this year make sure it’s to see this.

We’re going to make like an ancient Elven sword and cut straight to the chase; The Desolation Of Smaug is the most exciting movie we’ve seen all year. In fact, it’s one of the most thrilling cinematic spectacles we’ve ever had the pleasure of sitting through.

While An Unexpected Journey plodded along like a hobbit stumbling over its own oversized feet, The Desolation of Smaug soars all the way through from start to finish, leaving little time for audience members to catch their breath.

Following on directly after the first Hobbit flick, The Desolation Of Smaug sees Bilbo Baggins and his company (which consists of a group of raucous dwarves and a greying wizard) continuing on their quest to rid the once mighty dwarven city of Erebor from its resident dragon, reclaiming the precious Arkenstone in the process.

We’re introduced to a host of interesting folks along the way, most notably Evangeline Lilly’s Tauriel. A completely new character created for the movie, Tauriel is a talented, yet inexperienced wood elf who is an absolute delight to watch in the battlefield. Seriously – she’s pretty much the elf version of Bruce Lee.

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Yes, some may raise eyebrows at her blossoming romance with dwarf Kili (Aidan Turner) but we found the love triangle storyline between the unlikely pair and Legolas added another element of charm to the film. And who says a dwarf and an elf can’t make a go of things? Not us.

Talking of Legolas, Orlando Bloom is back on top form as the rather rude, yet strangely likeable elf. Generating some of the biggest laughs in the movie, Legolas finds himself unintentionally helping the dwarves and Bilbo on their quest and he also sees his fair share of orc-killing action along the way.

And boy is there action. While An Unexpected Journey only had a stingy sprinkling of tense fight sequences scattered throughout, The Desolation of Smaug is filled to the brim with them. Whether it’s the dwarves battling orcs, elves fighting gruesome oversized spiders or Gandalf (Ian McKellen) coming face to face with the Necromancer, there not one dull single millisecond in the movie.

That’s without even mentioning Bilbo’s final showdown with the scaly Smaug. Peter Jackson’s crew have done a wonderful job at bringing J.R.R.Tolkien's greedy dragon to life, with Benedict Cumberbatch’s vocal talents fitting the character flawlessly. The final action-heavy scenes of the film are truly tense to watch; we were so far on the edge of our seats, we were practically standing.

"Peter Jackson has triumphed with The Desolation Of Smaug"

That’s not just to say that there isn’t a fantastic story to support all the weapon-wielding though. Fans of the book will know that the second movie sees Bilbo struggling to keep his precious little gold secret, while Thorin (Richard Armitage) becomes recklessly obsessed with recovering his family’s beloved treasure, the Arkenstone.

What’s more, we’re also introduced to Luke Evans’ character Bard, a resident of the derelict dwelling Lake Town. With Bard desperately trying to stop Bilbo and the gang from awakening Smaug in fear of the dragon destroying the town, a tense yet fantastic friction between the characters is introduced.

Middle Earth has never looked better than it does in The Desolation Of Smaug. With a plethora of mesmerizing locations, the film is best lapped-up with a pair of 3D glasses planted firmly on your peepers. Similarly, the soundtrack is also an utter treat for the ears and is woven seamlessly throughout the film.

Peter Jackson has triumphed with The Desolation Of Smaug. Feeling more like a Lord Of The Rings movie than its predecessor, the film effortlessly transports you slap-bang in the middle of a vibrant, deadly and jaw-dropping adventure. One you're going to want to be part of.­­

Five stars

Verdict: Everything we were hoping for and more, The Desolation of Smaug is one of this year's must-see movies.

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