MEANWHILE, back in Middle- earth, everyone is displaying worrying symptoms associated with the dreaded plight known as “middle- fi lm syndrome”.
Yes, part two of The Hobbit trilogy, The Desolation Of Smaug, is now upon us. There will be Dwarves. There will be a dragon. A few Elves. Many Orcs. And a standing invitation to lie back and take a quick nap whenever you like. It is no use moaning any more about how one slim book by J. R. R. Tolkien became three fat feature fi lms by Peter Jackson.
The fi rst Hobbit outing, An Unexpected Journey, laid down one simple ground rule about the way things would be with Jackson’s latest take on Tolkien. The slow and scenic route will be followed at all times.
You should know by now whether you care to stick around for the whole of the marathon trek.
Therefore, it is very much business as snoozual in The Desolation Of Smaug. Proceedings begin with a gentle reminder that the great Thorin Oakenshield ( Richard Armitage) and all those other fi ne fi ghting Ian McKellen as Gandalf the Grey in dwarves are still some distance off reclaiming their lost homeland of Erebor.
The crucial crossroads up ahead will be found at Lonely Mountain, where a vicious dragon named Smaug ( voiced with a venom both sinister and sarcastic by Benedict Cumberbatch) resides, surrounded by more gold than a rapper’s entourage. Before they get there? Much meandering on the part of the Dwarves, as well as their tagalong Hobbit mate Bilbo Baggins ( Martin Freeman). As for Gandalf the Grey ( Ian McKellen), he has to nick off at the end of the fi rst act to deal with some nasty Orc business happening elsewhere.
Speaking of the Orcs, it must be stated that we should all be thankful for their constant presence in The Hobbit trilogy.
If the Orcs weren’t chasing, hassling and dissing the dwarves all the way to Erebor, it would have taken Jackson six movies to wrap the whole saga up. Strategically placed among the many boring bits of The Desolation Of Smaug are a few very good bits.
The introduction of a new character never mentioned by Tolkien in his book, an Elvish warrior heroine named Tauriel ( Evangeline Lilly), livens up several dull sequences.
It doesn’t really matter that this one- woman combat machine belongs in a Hunger Games movie. The Hobbit movies could use a few more like her.
Also worthy of notable mention is an extended scene where Bilbo and the dwarves escape the clutches of the orcs inside a fl eet of barrels being rolled down a raging river.
It is a virtuoso piece of fi lmmaking from Jackson that takes one’s breath away. Another set piece staged inside a cursed forest full of over- sized spiders is almost as strong.
Once he is done with The Hobbit, Jackson just has to do an all- stops- out action movie. It could really be something.
As for the ending of The Desolation Of Smaug, well, it isn’t really much of anything.
All Jackson does is lean forward and hit the pause button at a cliffhangery juncture of his choosing.
Same time next year then?
THE RAILWAY MAN ( M) Adoration D Anchorman 2 B America Hustle A Carrie B Delivery Man B Frozen A Gravity A+ One Chance C Railway Man B Rush B The Hobbit: Desolation of Smaug B Hunger Games: Catching Fire A The Secret Life of Walter Mitty A A B A C - B A+ B A+ A - B A+ B B A B - B A B A A+ - B A