Published on January 4th, 2014 | by Allan Brown6
The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug Review
Movie Review: The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug (2013)
Running Time: 161 mins
Director: Peter Jackson
Writers: Peter Jackson, Fran Walsh, Philippa Boyens, Guillermo del Toro, J.R.R. Tolkien
Cast: Ian McKellen, Martin Freeman, Richard Armitage, ken Scott, Adam Brown, Orlando Bloom, James Nesbitt, Evangeline Lilly, Cate Blanchett, Luke Evans, Stephen Fry, Sylvester McCoy, Benedict Cumberbatch, Aiden Turner
Plot: Bilbo Baggins and the company of dwarves led by Gandalf the Grey, continue their quest to reclaim their homeland deep within the Lonely Mountain, from Smaug.
With the mammoth character introductions and basic groundwork outlined in the first movie, the sequel to Peter Jacksons Hobbit trilogy moves forward quickly, as we continue to trail a Hobbit, a Wizard and a company of Dwaves on their quest to recover treasure, and reclaim their stolen kingdom of Erebor (The Lonely Mountain) from a rather large and un-welcomed tenant by the name of Smaug the magnificent.
In keeping with the mythos of Middle Earth that Jackson has created over 5 films, there are many fan appeasing nods and associated links to LOTR throughout. These moments not only add an element of fun but also a satisfying (sometimes clumsy) sense of constancy.
These links include Howard Shore’s valiant return to Middle Earth, were he again not only provides the voice of the landscape but delivers some beautifully enchanting themes to an already multi layered backdrop.
Other familiar faces from LOTR include, an ostentatious return from Orlando Bloom reprising the role of everybody’s favourite Elven Prince, Legolas . Sauron to makes a brief and sinister return as he meets Gandalf in an unexpected face-off at Dol Guldur.
Peter Jackson has fine tuned his skills as a writer and found his middle earth groove again, after a shaky start
Of the new comers, Tauriel (Evangeline Lilly), a female Mirkwood elven guard who not only takes centre stage in many of the high octane battle sequences, but also plays Legolas’ love interest, although a certain Dwarf by the name of Fili’s also fights for her affections. Actor Luke Evans enters the fray as Bard the boatman, a man who is more than meets the eye and our company’s ticket into Laketown, where a shrewd Mayor played by Stephen Fry awaits them. Finally, the voice of Smaug the dragon, a deep, unsettling and rumbling tone required to pull off such huge character and central antagonist, so who? None other than Martin Freeman’s partner in crime in the BBCs Sherlock Holmes series, Mr Benedict Cumberbatch, that’s who.
Much has been said about the slower and often stagnant pace of Peter Jackson’s initial return to Middle Earth in; The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey (review). Some grumbled and continue too, that such a short and simple structured book should not and could not successfully be developed into a trilogy, whilst keeping the integrity of J.R.R. Tolkein’s vision intact. To paraphrase Bilbo Baggins, it would “Feel thin. Sort of stretched, like butter scraped over too much bread”. And at times, despite its valiant effort, rich characters, beautiful landscape and charm, that is often how An Unexpected Journey felt.
Tauriel, whose purpose at times feels like it exists purely to fill the void left by Arwen in LOTR.
With the Desolation of Smaug however, Jackson has ironed out most of the pacing issues and increased the adventure element. It would be more accurate to say Peter Jackson has fine tuned his skills as a writer and found his middle earth groove again, after a shaky start. From the word go, the adventure pulls you in, its gripping, it’s absorbing, it’s funny, it’s visually stunning and has some of the most complex set pieces (barrel sequence) in recent memory. This time Jackson also shows more restrain with CGI, mixing physical and prosthetic effects with computer generated imagery to gain a more balanced and weighted reality than before. Sure there are a few moments where the age old rule of less is more could have been applied, but compared to An Unexpected Journey, this is more than a step in the right direction.
However, that is not to say The Desolation of Smaug isn’t without its issues. Despite it being a snappier paced narrative than its predecessor, there are a few too many subplots going on that act as nothing more than filler (Gandalf’s venture with Radagast to Dol Guldur). Jackson, who at times seems a slave to appeasing fans of the original trilogy by offering some kind of linkage between the two franchises, seems to duplicate scenes and subplots that have come before. Indeed that can be said of the half baked and completely unnecessary love story led by Tauriel, whose character was fully imagined by Jackson. Here Tauriel, whose purpose at times feels like it exists purely to fill the void left by Arwen in LOTR. So much so, that some of her scenes feel like they have been lifted straight out of the fellowship of the ring, the healing sequence in particular.
With fewer introductions than before, the desolation of Smaug reshuffles the pack focusing most of its character development on Thorin Oakenshield. While this is understandable, it sadly pushes Bilbo into the background where he remains for most of the film. His departure from centre stage is felt throughout as he was our way in to the story, our narrator, essentially us.
With that said. The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug is a rich and exhilarating 161 minute fantasy adventure that is a thrill ride from start to finish.
Summary: Peter Jackson returns to Middle Earth back on form, tackling most of the issues from before, resulting in a more concise and satisfying film.