Like An Unexpected Journey before it, The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug isn't without its problems: there's still a sense that co-writer/director Peter Jackson is padding out the story, precisely because that's exactly what he's doing (and unashamedly so, it seems). But take the Desolation of Smaug as a singular entity separate from its source material, and you begin to see the bigger picture at work. Jackson is using Tolkien's iconic novel as a springboard to expand the world he created in his epic Lord of the Rings trilogy, and what - really - is wrong with that? The story picks up where the last movie left off, with Martin Freeman's Bilbo Baggins, Gandalf the Grey (Ian McKellen, brilliant as always), and their dwarfen company moving towards the Lonely Mountain, where they are to confront the dragon of the movie's title, Smaug, as voiced by Benedict Cumberbatch (who has been all over our screens throughout 2013). The movie is light and fluffy (that's a compliment), the action scenes frenzied and fun, and though there are some saggy moments, this is a thrilling, relentlessly fun blockbuster, regardless of how "faithful" it is.