Reviews for the "Hobbit" sequel, "The Desolation of Smaug"are trickling out and if you were among those upset by the first prequel installment than you'll be happy to learn that most critics thoroughly enjoy director Peter Jackson's return Middle Earth.
Bilbo Baggins (Martin Freeman) returns on his journey with Gandalf (Ian McKellen) and a pack of 13 dwarves to reclaim their treasure from the dragon Smaug.
Despite the groans of turning a singular book that doesn't cross 300 pages into a three-part film, "The Hobbit" is a cash cow for MGM and Warner Bros. Last year's "An Unexpected Journey" made more than $1 billion at theaters.
(Of course, fans will know Jackson is also using material from unfinished J.R.R. Tolkien tales to supplement the movies.)
And if you're wondering, yes, it will still be shown in the high-frame rate, meaning you'll see double the images on screen as you normally would at once (48 frames per second vs. 24).
We're seeing the film tonight and will offer up our initial thoughts afterward.
For now, here's what you should know before seeing the film:
Everyone agrees — it's better than the first.
"Nearly everything about The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug represents an improvement over the first installment of Peter Jackson's three-part adaptation of J.R.R. Tolkien's beloved creation."
"Clearer and more engaging than its predecessor, this second installation in the “Hobbit” trilogy deftly brings out the human side of dwarves and elves while upping the action quotient."
‘‘'The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug'’ is not much shorter — 8 minutes, to be exact — but it feels brisker, lighter, funnier."
The film is again being shown in 48 frames per second, but this time around, it's not such a dizzying experience.
"The distractingly vivid images provided by the 48 frames-per-second in the first film appear to have been massaged properly this time, and there is a notably lower-than-average reduction in image brightness when using the 3D glasses."
Benedict Cumberbatch is great as not one, but two villains.
"It’s fun to hear Benedict Cumberbatch, as Smaug, hurl seething epithets at Bilbo, and Freeman is at his most pluckily adorable."
"He’s easily the year’s most magnificent beast. He has a way with a fearsome one-liner too, and Benedict Cumberbatch hisses out his words with cold-blooded vitriol."
But his performance doesn't please everyone ...
"Too unnaturally deepened and electronically modified to afford pure enjoyment of the actor's menacing readings."
Apparently, the big bad dragon's arrival isn't even the best part of the film. Critics are raving about a scene involving the dwarves in barrels which sets Jackson apart as a visionary.
"In pure action terms, the picture’s indisputable high point arrives when Bilbo leads the dwarfs on a daring escape from Mirkwood, floating downriver in barrels while fending off some particularly vicious orcs."
"One involved set-piece with dwarves in wine barrels spilling down a river while Orcs and elves chase them is positively thrilling, matching and surpassing the visually dazzling sequences in Steven Spielberg’s panoramic “The Adventures of Tintin.”
However, if you don't know them all by now, you'll still be confused by the many dwarves in the film.
"More screentime might have been usefully given to the dwarves, who remain largely anonymous. Besides Thorin (Richard Armitage), whose facade of nobility is beginning to crumble, revealing baser motives beneath, the only one who gets much attention is Kili (Aidan Turner)."
"The Dwarves fall victim to their numerousness again, with the majority of the 13 falling by the wayside, and even Bilbo and Thorin lack arcs."
The addition of a new female elf, Tauriel, played by "Lost" alum Evangeline Lilly adds a needed bit of estrogen to this film. The Wrap:
"As it turns out, Tauriel gives the film an emotional core that reminds the audience that, even among dragons and elves and Orcs and dwarves, all of their feelings are completely human."
"The one character of any substance in the picture ... Tauriel actually cares about people in need of help (including dwarves, the sworn rivals of elves), so it’s her internal conflict that gives the movie its only shallow of humanistic depth."
It's not all good ... the dangers that come with making this a three-part film: It feels like more of a setup than a singular movie in itself.Indiewire:
"‘Smaug’ is about almost absolutely nothing. 'The Further Adventures Of Chasing Gemstones That Mean Something Or Other To The Dwarves' might be a better suited subtitle as it is simply designed to keep this behemoth franchise moving forward and nothing more … it’s all narrative teases that amounts to TUNE INTO THE NEXT EPISODE TO FIND OUT WHAT REALLY HAPPENS."
"Even the staunchest Tolkien loyalists may feel they’re on an overly protracted journey to an inevitably less exciting destination."
Overall consensus: See it!
If you were disappointed by "The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey"— we'll admit, it dragged a bit — think back. "The Fellowship of the Rings"— the first "Lord of the Rings" installment — was pretty slow, too. The whole entire point of "The Hobbit" book is to arrive at the dragon in the Lonely Mountain. Bilbo's big confrontation with the dragon Smaug will happen in this film. For "Sherlock" fans, it's a nice little onscreen reunion for stars Martin Lawrence and Benedict Cumberbatch before the series return in January.
It may not be "The Two Towers"— the second film in "The Lord of the Rings" franchise — but the return of Legolas (Orlando Bloom) and the addition of eye candy in Evangeline Lilly ("Lost") make it worth giving the franchise another go.
Check out a trailer for the film: