So we come to the second part of the trilogy that no one asked for –The Hobbit!
Following on from the events of An Unexpected Journey, Bilbo and the dwarves fall foul of Orcs, Elves and giant spiders as they prepare to meet their most dangerous foe yet-Smaug the dragon.
Ok first the positives. There are some great set pieces in this film, such a very scary-especiallly for arachnophobes like me-encounter with some giant spiders, and the part where the dwarves and Bilbo escape from elves and Orcs in wine barrels down a river. The fight scenes are good. Although he may have been shoehorned into The Hobbit films it was still good to see Legolas again and I remembered how much I enjoyed seeing Orlando Bloom fighting Orcs with a bow and arrow in a blonde wig. Martin Freeman again is brilliant as Bilbo and when he is the centre of the action the film really shine. Newcomers Evangeline Lily (Elf Turiel) and Luke Evans (Bard the Bowman) fare well enough in the mix of all the action and Lily in particular is great in her fight scenes. And as you expect from Peter Jackson Middle Earth looks as beautiful as ever.
On the downside it’s soooooo long. There is so much padding in this film you could easily have cut out several scenes and it would make no difference to the overall film. Freeman’s Bilbo is a great central character but it sometimes feels like Peter Jackson has forgotten this film is called The Hobbit as there are so many characters vying for attention. I have no problem with the adding of some much-needed estrogen with the inclusion of Turiel but I do have a problem with her being saddled with such a lame love triangle with Legolas and hot dwarf Kili (even if it does mean we get to more screen time for the lovely Adian Turner).
Although I love Jackson’s take on Tolkien I can’t help but think during this film that it would have been good to see another filmmaker’s take on Middle Earth. Everything just feels so familiar here. It was always going to be tough to follow The Lord of The Rings films but its a constant shadow over The Hobbit films that I think it would have been better if another director had given us his version of The Hobbit. Imagine what the Guillermo del Toro version would have been like.
Luckily there were enough good parts to keep me interested in the film and the Smaug (excellently voiced by Freeman’s Sherlock co-star Benedict Cumberbatch) and Bilbo encounter was worth the long wait. I shall still be looking forward to the final part of the trilogy, but with lower expectations this time.
Rating 3/5-a mixed bag but it’s worth a another visit to Middle Earth
(PS. As I’m mentioning Freeman and Cumberbatch, I have to just say that I saw the new episode of Sherlock last night and although a few bits annoyed me, generally I thought it was a great episode. Cumberbatch and Freeman play against each other so well. The opening was especially brilliant-and I bursted into uncontrollable laughter when Derren Brown appeared on the scene.)