It has often been complained that the first instalment of the Hobbit trilogy was too light-hearted. That tone changes dramatically with the Desolation of Smaug, writes Luke Maxwell Libby.
From the spider-infested forest of Mirkwood and the nightmarish Dol Guldur to the pseudo-communist poverty of Laketown and the fire-blasted ruins of Dale, this film has certainly gone down the darker route in terms of setting.
This darkness is similarly present in many of the film’s characters, both familiar and new. Thorin’s ambition slowly begins to affect his attitude towards his fellow dwarves, but more importantly we begin to see, for the first time, the corrupting influence of the ring on Bilbo Baggins, laying the groundwork for Tolkien’s other great work.
The visual effects are better than ever, with more sweepingly epic cinematics in keeping with the scale of the story. The motion-capture work is at its best so far, with Benedict Cumberbatch’s Smaug being terrifyingly real in places, and the cliff-hanger ending will leave fans panting for the final instalment.