Break this bad Hobbit
In the prologue to this second instalment of Peter Jackson’s sweeping Tolkien trilogy, the director makes a brief cameo, wandering night-time streets on the borders of the Shire.
It’s a fleeting glimpse – a rare moment of brevity that, sadly, eludes the rest of this over-bloated epic.
Admittedly, there is a greater sense of urgency to The Desolation Of Smaug than its prequel, by virtue of a time limit imposed on characters reaching Lonely Mountain before the last light of autumn to locate a secret door to the dragon’s lair.
None of which stops Jackson and his co-writers padding the script, introducing a gung-ho female elf, who doesn’t appear in the book to establish a love triangle presumably resolved in next year’s final chapter.
Legolas (Orlando Bloom) also becomes embroiled in skirmishes, even though he doesn’t appear in Tolkien’s source text.
The treading of narrative water is particularly noticeable during the climax when Bilbo (Martin Freeman) comes face to snout with the dragon (voiced by Benedict Cumberbatch), and we have to endure 10-15 minutes of verbal to-and-fro before the first bursts of fire across the screen.
Jackson is a gifted director of action sequences and he orchestrates breathless rough and tumbles.
Technical aspects are impeccable visual effects crisp, even in 3D. As an emotional roller-coaster, the second film is also more satisfying than its predecessor.
Yet, for all its grandeur, this instalment doesn’t touch the heart in the same way the Lord Of The Rings films do.