(out of 5)
Continuing the bombastic, pompous affair he began the previous year with the first chapter An Unexpected Journey, Peter Jackson again tries to reclaim the joys of the Lord Of The Rings trilogy with this continuation of Bilbo Baggins’ adventures towards the mountain where his dwarf companions’ treasure resides. On this part of the journey they encounter their fair share of obstacles including imprisonment by the admirable but mysterious elves, a visit to seedy Laketown run by treacherous men, and, at the narrative centre, the giant dragon Smaug (voiced richly by Benedict Cumberbatch), whose awe-inspiring wingspan and crafty personality enjoy a lengthy Frost/Nixon tete-a-tete with our little hero. Any time Jackson runs out of conflicts or plot tangents, which is pretty much every five minutes, he throws in an excuse to have elves shoot arrows at endless Orc extras. The whole thing is pulled off with the same energy and technical flair that have been the highlight of this entire series, with meticulous production design and astounding visual effects (especially in the execution of Smaug, who is truly magnificent), but there’s no getting around how bloated the whole thing is. What was a charming and whimsical novel, one that has understandably captivated the youngsters for decades, has been converted into a needlessly dramatic mess that just feels like deleted scenes from the first trilogy. Richard Armitage holds his ground as the leader of the dwarves, but his role amounts to little more than looking noble while complaining, and Martin Freeman‘s opaquely ambivalent Bilbo has little more characterization than to just second guess everything he says and does. It’s a lot to take for three hours, though it moves with slightly more efficiency than the last one.
Directed by Peter Jackson
Cinematography by Andrew Lesnie
Music by Howard Shore
Production Design by Dan Hennah
Film Editing by Jabez Olssen
Academy Awards: 2013