STARRING: Martin Freeman, Richard Armitage, Ian McKellen, Ken Stott, Graham McTavish, William Kircher, James Nesbitt, Stephen Hunter, Dean O’Gorman, Aidan Turner, John Callen, Peter Hambleton, Jed Brophy, Mark Hadlow, Adam Brown, Orlando Bloom, Evangeline Lilly, Lee Pace, Luke Evans, Manu Bennett and Benedict Cumberbatch
After successfully crossing over (and under) the Misty Mountains, Thorin and Company must seek aid from a powerful stranger before taking on the dangers of Mirkwood Forest–without their Wizard. If they reach the human settlement of Lake-town it will be time for the hobbit Bilbo Baggins to fulfill his contract with the dwarves. The party must complete the journey to Lonely Mountain and burglar Baggins must seek out the Secret Door that will give them access to the hoard of the dragon Smaug. And, where has Gandalf got off to? And what is his secret business to the south?
Business picks up right after the events of the first with the fellowship (or we still referring to them as a party? group?) continuing the journey of heading towards the Lonely Mountain so the dwarves can reclaim their homeland and also get rid of a dragon named Smaug that happens to occupy it. Yeah that sounds like it should be a piece of cake.
The issue I had with An Unexpected Journey (and I’m sure many had) was that it was just so bloody slow. All I can remember literally is it taking forever for them to begin the journey, Gandalf/Saruman political debate, very long/CGI heavy Troll underground sequence and Manu Bennett’s Azog chasing them with an army of Orc’s….and giant eagles not just dropping them off at the bloody Lonely Mountain. Basically the film as a whole was a three hour prologue.
Thankfully the sequel is a huge improvement, yet still a bit long in some scenes but the pace is a lot quicker in moving the plot forward and some of the fight sequences are very well done. I mean, the barrel scene worked out really well and I thought it was going to look as bad as the underground Troll sequence in the first film, but it was the opposite. Granted the film still feels half an hour longer than it should’ve been but the only time that it feels wasted is during the action/fight sequences such as the barrel scene, the spider scene (for obvious reasons I disliked this) and the last thirty to forty minutes on the main attraction. Yep, Smaug and christ is he massive (heh, that’s what she said).
Not much was given away of Smaug other than a glimpse of an eye here and a head there during the trailers but nothing can match how impressive in scale Smaug is when he is revealed in his full scaly form, I mean jesus, that’s a massive dragon. Benedict Cumberbatch has a field day as Smaug, taunting Bilbo (in one of the scenes that takes too long before the action sequence begins). Martin Freeman does another great job as Bilbo, this time being more vulnerable and tormented by the possession of the ring and getting stuck into more action scenes with the sword. Ian McKellen, well, is Gandalf, simple as, and gets more of a meaty role in this in the film sub-plot heading to Dol Guldur, but yet removes the time from the main fellowship/party/group story. As in the film wouldn’t have been left with such a cliffhanger.
Nice to see Orlando Bloom back in the mix as I did like Legolas and it’s the only role I could stand Bloom in. Evangeline Lily is very good as Tauriel, a total badass elf that happens to be stuck in a weird love triangle with Legolas and Kili (with Aidan Turner getting more screentime). Speaking of badasses – Thorin. Richard Armitage plays the role very well, especially in his moments when the rest of the group question his decisions the closer they get to the Lonely Mountain. Luke Evans is also a nice addition as Bard, the human that smuggles them into Laketown, then tries to reason with them about the dreaded consequences of entering the Lonely Mountain.
As noted the film ends on a major cliffhanger and only Peter Jackson and Co. could get away with this because it’s The Hobbit. Least the final part will start with a bang. Nice cameo appearances to from Stephen Fry and especially Stephen Colbert in a blink and you’ll miss it part.
The sequel moves quicker and faster than An Unexpected Journey, yet still some scenes could’ve been cut short. Worth it all for the final act. Solid performances all round. 8/10