Almost 10 years ago to the day, Peter Jackson was preparing to unveil The Lord Of The Rings: The Return Of The King, the concluding chapter of his ambitious Tolkien trilogy, to UK audiences.
The third film subsequently won all 11 Academy Awards for which it was nominated and became the first fantasy film and only the second sequel to claim the top prize of Best Picture.
This new trilogy, adapted from Tolkien’s The Hobbit, has not fared quite so well.
The filmmaker’s decision to shoot the prequels in high definition 3D at the higher rate of 48 frames per second compared to the usual 24 frames has divided audiences and critics, allowing us to see the stitching on costumes and the intricacy of the prosthetics in startlingly minute detail.
The second instalment, The Desolation Of Smaug, picks up where An Unexpected Journey concluded.
Plucky hobbit Bilbo Baggins (Martin Freeman), wise wizard Gandalf The Grey (Sir Ian McKellen) and the company of dwarves led by Thorin Oakenshield (Richard Armitage) continue their perilous quest to reclaim their lost gold from the dragon Smaug (voiced by Benedict Cumberbatch) in his lair.
The adventurers encounter a shape-shifter called Beorn (Mikael Persbrandt) and a nest of giant spiders, guaranteed to make skin crawl and have arachnophobes quivering in their seats.
Gandalf discovers the identity of the necromancer, who has been wreaking havoc in Dol Guldur, and when orcs storm Mirkwood, the elves led by King Thranduil (Lee Pace) and his son Legolas (Orlando Bloom) marshal their forces to repel the invaders.
Meanwhile, Bilbo and the dwarves - Bifur (William Kircher), Bofur (James Nesbitt), Bombur (Stephen Hunter), Balin (Ken Stott), Dwalin (Graham McTavish), Fili (Dean O’Gorman), Kili (Aidan Turner), Dori (Mark Hadlow), Nori (Jed Brophy), Ori (Adam Brown), Gloin (Peter Hambleton), Oin (John Callen) and Thror (Jeffrey Thomas) - endure some rough and tumble as they escape certain death by travelling down river rapids in barrels.
Eventually, they discover a hidden door in the mountainside that leads to Smaug and his horde of glittering treasure.