I feel like I should start this review with “Previously on ‘The Hobbit’ …” since we’re picking up where Peter Jackson decided to leave us last year.
The action begins almost immediately with Bilbo (Martin Freeman) scurrying across the landscape with his dwarf pals about as quickly as their furry little feet can carry them, with those lovely orc dudes in hot pursuit (btw, they need a better dental plan). Gross!
Gandalf (Ian McKellen) knows a guy nearby who can protect them (notice how he always “knows a guy.” He’s like a Middle Earth mobster).
They eventually make their way to a dark and disturbing forest filled with giant spiders, get acquainted with the local elves (including a hot she-elf) and shoot the rapids in whiskey barrels in an attempt to reach Lonely Mountain, the former home of the dwarves and the current domicile of one ticked-off dragon named Smaug.
Gandalf takes off early in the film to go deal with a mysterious evil that rivals his powers, leaving the crew to fend for themselves through some fairly treacherous situations. Thanks, big fella!
However, as you’re beginning to guess, this is a much busier, action-packed, moviegoing experience now that the introductions have all been made, but I do miss some of the character development, especially Bilbo’s growing courage and cleverness that was so beautifully illustrated in the first film.
I also like that they’ve introduced a female to the group, even though she’s not in the Tolkien novel. It’s a gutsy move and purists will likely moan and groan, but I thought she was a welcome addition to this all-boys club.
There’s even a cool village on a lake that has fallen on hard times. The people there are painfully aware of the sleeping dragon in the mountain lair nearby. He’s paid them several visits in the past, with disastrous results, but their interaction does give us a hint to the dragon’s one vulnerability that I’m sure will play a prominent role in the last of the trilogy.
And hats off to Benedict Cumberbatch, who provides great voice to the menacing dragon, and the special effects wizards that put scaly flesh on his massive frame. Very cool.
You should also be prepared for a cliffhanger finish (or stopping point) that rivals the one we just saw in “The Hunger Games: Catching Fire.” This one is even more pronounced and had nearly everyone shouting at the screen “No!” despite the fact we’d been sitting there for more than two and a half hours.
Can’t wait until December 2014 for the big finale!