This may have been because I saw it in 3D, which meant the fight scenes were more interesting, and the giant spiders were properly exciting, and when bugger all was happening there was still the chance that a wasp might appear to fly out of the screen and liven things up a bit. The fight scenes in this one were often outside, in lovely bits of New Zealand, with personable elves wielding swords balletically, which is a huge improvement on the first one.
There was a female character in this one too, who did a lot of fighting and shouting, which was good. Unfortunately, she also did a bit of mumsy healing and a lot of falling in love with the least-munting of the dwarves when she should have been killing orcs. 'You can be hairy, smelly and ill-shaped but if you talk some syrup about your mum and are mildly amusing, high-achieving hot chicks will fall for you' is not a helpful message for this film's target audience, really.
You can't help but wonder why, if there was a big enough budget for three whole films and a load of glitzy tech and location shooting, no one thought to send the lump of ham-in-custard playing FlangeDrool, King of the Elves (is he 'Ducky Elf', eremite?) for some acting lessons. Or was his tendency to say everything slowly and portentously while moving awkwardly just a sop to the LARPers in the audience? The script is no help, though, any more than it is for Boring CroakinDild, King of the Dwarves, who is the other dud who gets far too much screentime. Perhaps I am being unjust because he just reminds me of every self-important, whingeing bloke with dirty dreadlocks and dirtier nails I've ever met in a goth/rock club.
Stephen Fry is good value, though, playing the Doge of a sort of Dickensian Jaywick-on-Sea as a pantomimic cross between David Cameron and Jimmy Saville. He is one of the many poor unfortunates in the cast with a cheap, ill-fitting, ginger wig, though these are perhaps less distracting in 2D. The first five minutes of Smeg the Dragon are brilliant to look at, but he soon palls, and this is where the film really starts to drag. You'd have to be prepared to have your credibility stretched to breaking point or be really into Shirlock (the modern one, who spends a lot of his time flouncing his curls and swirling his skirts in the manner of Miss Temple, hence the disambiguative spelling)/ Watson fanfic to enjoy the waste of two good actors and a huge budget. Save your popcorn for that bit, which is probably excruciating if you are watching in 2D.
They missed a trick with the music for the credits. Gold by Spandau Ballet would have been appropriate, amusing and woken the audience up, but instead there's some abysmal folk. I think this will probably be my favourite of the three films, as I suspect the last, like the first, will feature interminable scenes of dwarves eating and singing. If they could have been broken down into a TV series, I think these film would have been really excellent. I liked the book a great deal when I read it as a kid, though not enough to reread it as many of my friends did, and I abandoned my only attempt to read Lord of the Rings shortly after. It is a children's book, and a TV series with this kind of budget and lavish attention to detail would mirror, for children, the involvement of the experience of reading it. Alternatively, one good long film could have the captured the excitement of the plot and the worlds it creates, but three great long, floundering epics do not justice to it, really, both overwhelming and undervaluing it.