Those of you who know me will find it no surprise that the Hobbit has quickly become my favorite film of the year. As soon as you first hear those familiar notes of music and see the landscapes of Middle Earth you cannot help but feel anything other than, ‘we’re back’. And we most certainly were, the Desolation of Smaug built upon the good start that the first Hobbit provided and made a truly great adventure film in my opinion.

First off, and completely unsurprisingly, given the first four films (LOTR trilogy and the Hobbit), The Desolation of Smaug looks absolutely incredible. Everything from the beautiful landscapes, to the incredible sets and the superbly choreographed action sequences is absolutely top draw. A particular highlight is the great work done on the barrel sequences. For those who have read the book, it has been made far more exciting and cinematic, with great moments for kids (particularly some vintage Legolas moments) and a superb look to it as well. Now I’ve said that the scene where Bilbo mer Gollum (Riddles in the dark) was potentially my favourite movie sequence of all time, well the confrontation between Biblo and Smaug in this film could potentially rival that, or even surpass it, I haven’t yet decided (Although it did feel a little like Sherlock with around 20 minutes straight of Benedict Cumberbatch talking and Martin Freeman occasionally interjecting).

The performances in the Desolation of Smaug, and particularly the central performance by Martin Freeman, are wonderful. Obviously there is the large range of returning character in this, Bilbo (Freeman), Gandalf (McKellen), the twelve Dwarfs led by Thorin (Armitage) and Legolas (Bloom). As well as this there are several new characters, obviously Smaug (Cumberbatch), elves Tauriel and Thranduil (Lilly and Pace) and Bard (Evans), the Master of the Lake-Town (Smaug) and Beorn (Persbrandt). Everyone of these do a very good job, but particular mention has to go to Martin Freeman and Richard Armitage. Both characters, Bilbo and Thorin, are brilliantly played, and we can particularly see how they are changed over the course of the film. Bilbo by his possession of the ring, which is noted by Gandalf early on, one particularly memorable scene occurs in Mirkwood where Bilbo kills a creature that touches the ring and Freeman plays the transition from rage to the horror of realising how it’s effecting him brilliantly. Thorin’s character is changed by the draw of the treasure, particularly the Arkenstone and how it corrupts him. I’d also like to give special mention to Benedict Cumberbatch as the voice of Smaug, I could listen to him talking all day.

Finally special mention has to go to Howard Shore’s score of the film. As with the Lord of the Rings and the first Hobbit, the music is incredible and really set the mood of the film.

Overall I feel that this beats the first Hobbit film hands down, it captures the balance between kiddyness and darkness much better than it. As said it also has to be my favourite film of the year, but then every single film Pete Jackson’s done set in Middle Earth has been my favourite film of that year, but this is still definitely one to see.