Scary fun whets your appetite for more

Scary fun whets your appetite for more
Director Peter Jackson has fun with dangerous monsters (left) and creatures.

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THE HOBBIT: THE DESOLATION OF SMAUG (PG13)

161 minutes/Opens tomorrow / ****½

SINGAPORE - The story: In this second film of a trilogy, the 12-member dwarf party and Bilbo Baggins (Martin Freeman) carry on their quest to reclaim their homeland of Erebor, having escaped an orc attack in the previous film. After a battle with giant spiders in Mirkwood, they are captured by the Wood-elves, their king Thranduil (Lee Pace) and the captain of the guard, Tauriel (Evangeline Lilly).

Bilbo helps them escape, through invisibility powers granted by the ring he took from Gollum. They are helped by a human boatman, Bard (Luke Evans).

One complaint about the first film of The Hobbit trilogy was that there was too much scene-setting and cultural colour - singing, skits with Cockney dwarf-eating trolls, gloating goblins and whatnot.

Director Peter Jackson seems to have said, well, now that it is done with, here are the goods.

If the first film was like an English variety show (exit trolls, enter goblins with their try at physical comedy), then this film, with its gleeful depictions of nightmarish, car-sized spiders and orc decapitations, is more like Jackson returning to his horror and monster movie roots.

He is in his element here. He is having a good time and the audience gets to join in the fun.

The monster arachnid attack recalls a similar scene in his remake of King Kong (2005) while the orcs here can be seen as faster, more agile zombies - a theme he visited in Bad Taste (1987).

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