If only The Hobbit had been written by that other fantasy writer with the initials R.R.
Just as with An Unexpected Journey the expansion from short young adult novel to blockbuster trilogy leads to pacing problems, particularly action sequences that continue for much too long, even though beautifully shot and choreographed with plenty of humour – the barrel ride is so good the length is almost forgiveable. It doesn’t help that no-one important is in real peril, we know the main characters will all survive at least until the next film, a criticism that doesn’t tend to get levelled at the work of the other R.R. quite so often.
Another problem for R.R. but not for R.R. is gender balance: I commented on the absence of female roles in An Unexpected Journey and it seems Peter Jackson heard my cries of pain.
A romantic side-plot has been pulled from thin air in order to give an interesting role to Evangeline Lilly as warrior elf Tauriel. This jars with my memories of the novel but I am thankful: there is such a thing as being too faithful to the source.
Even if it drags in places, The Desolation Of Smaug is more enjoyable than An Unexpected Journey. Both films feature outstanding performances from the all-star cast which now includes Evangeline Lilly, Benedict Cumberbatch as a distinctly Sherlock-like dragon, and a bizarre but highly amusing cameo by Stephen Fry.
Incidentally I should stress that I saw The Desolation Of Smaug in 3D/24FPS so I cannot comment on the additional frames included in the HFR version which could well take the film in a whole different direction.