Question marks were left hanging over The Hobbit trilogy after An Unexpected Journey hit our screens asking if this three-part series was simply a means to flesh out the narrative and make some extra dolla. Holding a hopeful light for The Hobbit, I seated myself in the theatre with mixed feelings of foreboding excitement and trepidation for the second instalment to keep Peter Jackson’s reputation renowned.

The Desolation of Smaug sees the company resuming their voyage to the Kingdom of Erebor through Mirkwood, Esgaroth and the human settlement of Dale to retrieve possession of the Arcenstone to proclaim Thorin Oakenshield (Richard Armitage) as rightful King of Erebor. Bilbo Baggins (Martin Freeman) remains as their shining beacon of hope as the stealthy burglar to pocket the Arcenstone from the terrifying clutches of Smaug who lies inside Lonely Mountain amongst the bare desolate landscape.

This film is so pleasingly rich in the sense that actors have complete and utter control of their character’s personality. From Bilbo’s quizzical playfulness to Thorin’s stern cunningness a feeling of familiarity is created with the company, especially with the personalities of the posse of ironically larger than life unruly Dwarves. The development of the characters is the jewel of this film. Bilbo is beginning to understand the power of The Ring and becoming assertive and ever comfortable in his new-found courage. I also felt slightly let down by Gandalf (Ian McKellen) as he did not present himself as the almighty honourable wizard that we know him to be – he seems to have his own mysterious business to attend to as he sets off on his own solitary mission to Dol Guldor. Maybe he should be given a break because he hasn’t yet deserved his promotion to White Wizard, but I did still feel that he was a little blundering and even slightly elementary! Get it together Gandalf!

The unforeseen love triangle between Tauriel (Evangeline Lilly), Legolas (Orlando Bloom) and Kili (Aidan Turner) which suddenly crops up out of nowhere doesn’t actually bare any relevance to the story line but adds a lot of heat and a modern touch. The addition of Tauriel doesn’t correspond to the narrative and caused a lot of uproar amongst die-hard fans but the tension between her and Legolas is great to watch and she brings female energy to the story.

Smaug is voiced by the “deliciously sneering” Benedict Cumberbatch, and it was absolutely perfect. The dragon was wonderfully terrifying and yet the film still remained ever jubilant even in its’ darkest parts as Bilbo grimaces at Smaug’s bad breath. Stephen Fry as the disgusting, diseased looking Master of Lake Town was a superb surprise and his servant Alfrid (Ryan Gage), was hugely reminiscent of the slimy Grima Wormtonge.

The scene of an open barrel floating is played out to the maximum and is completely over the top but is delightfully comical and triumphant, a recurring theme against the darkness throughout the trilogy. Loyalty for the audience is maintained through in-jokes hinting at the emergence of Gimli, foreshadowing his Lord of The Rings role.

With the usual sweeping visual landscape shots and ever enormous journey, The Desolation of Smaug teetered on the edge of being a series of encounters, however the ending finally saw the company encounter Smaug dramatically and thankfully lifted it out of becoming an endless expedition. Ever rich in energy and lightness of touch, you’ll be left gasping for the third and final leg of this epic fantastical adventure.

★★★★

To check out film times for the Merlin Cinema in Falmouth go to: www.merlincinemas.co.uk/cinema/1/falmouth-phoenix-cinema.html

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