First things first: there are no songs, no washing up scenes and no fucking eagles in The Hobbit: The Desolation Of Smaug, which immediately makes it a better film than its predecessor. The eyeball-molesting increased frame rate of An Unexpected Journey has also been, if not dropped, then less loudly trumpeted for this film, which is another blessed relief. You'd almost be fooled into thinking that Peter Jackson has been listening to his critics, were it not for the fact that Desolation is still an obscenely long, slightly dull, inferior version of a Lord Of The Rings film.
Presumably by now you'll all have seen the photos of Benedict Cumberbatch covered in mini ping pong balls, contorting his face like a trooper in order to provide motion-capture for Smaug, the dragon in The Hobbit. Now I don't mean to be a killjoy, but... this is a wind-up, right?
So we're back to the familiar LARPing territory of Middle Earth then. With wizards and elves and dwarves and huge CGI monsters and big sweeping shots of the New Zealand countryside. The Hobbit may be a different story to The Lord Of The Rings - an independent story that came first, with its own characters and dangers and adventures - but there is really nothing all that unexpected about this journey. Oh apart from the singing. That’s a bit of a shock.
After seeing how Warner Bros and Lionsgate doubled their profits from the final books in the Harry Potter and Twilight series by splitting them into two films, Peter Jackson has gone one better and split JRR Tolkien's The Hobbit into a trilogy, averaging around 99 pages per movie. We investigate after the jump, then in more detail after another jump.