Having narrowly escaped several deadly confrontations with the likes of trolls, stone giants and an innumeral amount of orcs, Bilbo Baggins, still in the company of Gandalf and the Dwarves of Erebor, continues his adventure to return the dwarves to their rightful home, coming across their most difficult deeds yet this time around. They reach the Lonely Mountain, guarded by the colossal dragon Smaug, and must pit their wits against their greatest challenge yet, as well as yet more goblins, orcs, giant spiders and some very untrustworthy elves.

Bilbo Baggins
Bilbo gets serious this time around

The first time around, Biblo (Martin Freeman), the returning Gandalf (Ian McKellen) and our dwarf friends were met with a mix reception by a largely indifferent collection of critics. This time around, the overall view is still a relatively unconvinced one, but it does seem as though Peter Jackson's latest Tolkein epic has regained some of the vigor from the beloved Lord of the Rings trilogy and a number of notable critics were left impressed after watching the film.

"Middle-earth's got its mojo back," declared Nick de Semlyen in his review for Empire. Calling it a "huge improvement on the previous installment," de Semlyen commends the visual aspects seen throughout the film, adding "this takes our adventurers into uncharted territory and delivers spectacle by the ton."

Check out what went down at the Los Angeles premiere

Peter Bradshaw of The Guardian called the latest Hobbit film "a supercharged Saturday morning picture" and had plenty of praise to give to director Peter Jackson. He wrote, "The Desolation of Smaug is a cheerfully entertaining and exhilarating adventure tale...it's mysterious and strange and yet Jackson also effortlessly conjures up that genial quality that distinguishes The Hobbit from the more solemn Rings stories."

Watch the trailer for The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug

In the US, critics weren't quite as blown away, although the reviewers in Variety and The Hollywood Reporter seemed impressed by what they had seen, more so than with the first Hobbit film at least. Commending the 3D-enhanced effects, Variety's Justin Chang called The Deolation of Smaug a "robust, action-packed adventure," whilst Todd McCarthy of THR said, "Jackson gets the drama in gear here from the outset with a sense of storytelling that possesses palpable energy and purpose."

Some critics still need convincing though and are still waiting for Jackson to deliver the same way he did with the LOTR trilogy. R. Kurt Osenlund of Slant Magazine calls the film "a once-precious franchise's weakest instalment," whilst an equally unimpressed Rodrigo Perez of The Playlist did say that he found the film more entertaining than the last, but conceded that the "sequel might be the more vigorous, action-packed, darker and more (superficially) engaging version of the series thus far, but that doesn’t actually mean it’s a keeper of any sort."

The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug is out in cinemas in the US and UK on 13 December 2013.

The Desolation of Smaug
Bilbo and co face their biggest challenge yet