Bilbo: My courage.
I’ve been having trouble writing my review for THE HOBBIT: THE DESOLATION OF SMAUG. While it fits in perfectly with the other movies Peter Jackson has made in the series, it falls short of their quality and has no real ending. This is not to say that the movie ends with my full awareness that the story will continue in the sequel; it is more like the ending felt more like a commercial break than a genuine break and I still feel that, as soon as I return from the bathroom, I’ll be able to finish the film.
Thorin’s Thirteen continue their travels to the Lonely Mountain to reclaim their home from the dragon, Smaug. They make their way through creature infested forests while trying to outrun the orcs that have been chasing them since midway through the first film. A series of narrow escapes bring them through an Elven town, where we meet Legolas and Tauriel (Orlando Bloom and Evangeline Lilly) and then finally to Laketown, which is their final stop before they face the mountain and the dragon. The ultimate goal is to retrieve a gem called the Arkenstone, which Thorin will be able to use to reclaim his place as king, reunite the dwarf clans and defeat the dragon, Smaug (voiced by Benedict Cumberbatch).
In four out of the five films Jackson has made in this series, we have all been aware of a sequel that was coming next (the exception being THE RETURN OF THE KING, of course). All the same, each film still felt like it had finality to it. THE DESOLATION OF SMAUG ends almost in the middle of the intense climax of the final fight. I could see doing this for a film where you’d want to entice them to see the next instalment, but I don’t think the producers need to worry about that here. So I see no benefit in doing this. J.R.R. Tolkien’s “The Hobbit” did not have three sections to lend to this structure but, since Jackson is making a lot of the story up himself now to fit into his other series, I feel like more of an effort could have been made to make this one stand on its own, like the others did. There were even boos from the crowd at the end of the movie because of this.
There were multiple changes made in this latest adaptation on Tolkien’s work, many more than in the first film. While I watch this more like a reimagining than a strict adaptation, this is not “The Hobbit” at all that I grew up reading. For those who were bothered by changes in AN UNEXPECTED JOURNEY, I’m afraid you may not even want to watch this one. The changes in the first film gave depth to the already existing series and story. In this second film, some changes hurt the continuity of the series as a whole and I don’t understand why they were there at all. Two examples that come to mind are the ring affecting Bilbo (Martin Freeman) as it grew in power and Gandalf (Ian McKellen) getting all the proof he needs that an army is growing and the Eye of Sauron is leading it. Bilbo starting to fall to the one ring this early on in the story makes me wonder how he goes the next 60 years until we see him again in the next series without changing him physically, as it does Golum. Also, with Gandalf seeing the Eye of Sauron and seeing the armies marching and building, it makes me wonder what he’s doing for the next 60 years and how they could be so unprepared for the upcoming war. I mean, they win at the end of the LOTR series so, I guess everything works out ok, but it bugs me. Oh, spoilers for those who… no, wait, you’ve probably seen LOTR.
There are still many bright points in this film though. We meet a younger, and much angrier, Legolas for the first time. There’s a great moment when the elves are searching their dwarf prisoners and Legolas is searching Gloin (Peter Hambleton), when he discovers a locket around his neck. Legolas asks him if the picture on the left is his brother, to which he responds that it’s his wife. He then asks what the goblin-like creature on the left is, to which he responds that it’s his son, Gimli (who we all know becomes Legolas’ best friend in the LOTR series). The look that Bloom gives when he sees Gimli for the first time is a little priceless.
The acting is on par with the first film again with strong performances coming from the majority of the cast, with one exception. Thranduil (Lee Pace) is Legolas’ father and I found his acting to be over the top, even for a fantasy movie. I even found it to be cringe- worthy at time.
As good as all of these other moments were, nothing was as great as the dragon, Smaug. The build up to seeing him was big, but the pay off was even bigger. Smaug was this visual effects masterpiece on screen and the 3D really made that scene explode and, even though I downright hate the high frame rate style, it worked really well for the dragon scenes. Smaug was very impressive and needs to be experienced on the biggest screen possible with thundering sound.
THE HOBBIT: THE DESOLATION OF SMAUG falls short of the other films’ quality but it is still worth seeing. It’s like THE GODFATHER III of the LOTR series (which is way better than saying that it’s the KINGDOM OF THE CRYSTAL SKULL of the series). Go see it because we’re all going to watch the entire series anyway and Smaug needs to be seen on a screen the size of a real dragon.