The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug, 2013.
Directed by Peter Jackson.
Starring Martin Freeman, Ian McKellen, Richard Armitage, Orlando Bloom, Evangaline Lilly, Luke Evans, Lee Pace, Ken Stott, Graham McTavish, Aidan Turner, Dean O’Gorman, Mark Hadlow, Jed Brophy, Adam Brown, John Callen, Peter Hambleton, William Kircher, James Nesbitt, Stephen Hunter, Hugo Weaving, Christopher Lee, Ian Holm, Cate Blanchett, Billy Connolly, Stephen Fry, Mikael Persbrandt, Ian Holm, Sylvester McCoy, and Benedict Cumberbatch.
The dwarves, along with Bilbo Baggins and Gandalf the Grey, continue their quest to reclaim Erebor, their homeland, from Smaug. Bilbo Baggins is in possession of a mysterious and magical ring.
Watching Peter Jackson’s return to Middle-earth resembles a reunion with an old friend. Briefly sparks appear then get lost among the confusion of lost time. However, things slowly smooth out and within a few hours, they are as they were a decade ago. The Desolation of Smaug, the awkward middle child of The Hobbit trilogy shows Jackson finding his feet after the slight misstep of An Unexpected Journey.
Our latest trip to Middle-earth finds Bilbo and his merry band of dwarves continuing their seemingly never ending journey to The Lonely Mountain. In its predecessor, the plot fell heavily stretched out awkwardly over an unneeded near-three hour running time. Joyously however, Desolation of Smaug’s gargantuan running time feels entirely necessary. The set pieces, and there are many, are brisk and are vitally thrilling, filled with the surprising brutality evident in The Lord of the Rings trilogy.
Of the few problems, only a strange, slightly forced love triangle protrudes from the plot. Evangeline Lilly’s Tauriel is found standing awkwardly in between Orlando Bloom’s Legolas and dwarf Kili, which when paired with a series of wooden lines, sadly halt the film in its tracks, dragging the audience out of the film. Bloom thankfully handles his return better than newcomer Lilly, recounting lines with glee and reminding everyone why they pretended to be Legolas in the school playground as a child.
Stephen Fry, only on screen incredibly briefly, is surprisingly efficient as the sleaze bag mayor of Lake Town with Ryan Gage serving well as his assistant. In fact, it’s Luke Evans that impresses most, carrying the brunt of the drama as Bard the Bowman. Predictably, Benedict Cumberbatch stands out, reflecting what made his role as Khan so memorable. In using motion capture, Smaug isn’t a lifeless villain in a similar vein to Azog, instead, he has a personality, emotions and a sense of wit about him. To Jackson’s praise, the relationship between Bilbo and Smaug almost matches that of Freeman and Andy Serkis’ Gollum, carefully treading the line between arrogance and anger.
Disappointingly, only Thorin and Kili are given any real screen time, once again shunning the rest of the dwarves to the point of almost being featured extras. Most strangely however is the dismissal of Gandalf, appearing sporadically and forced to shout against a black ink dot. Inevitably this will be fixed in the final addition to the trilogy but Jackson is yet to truly handle this subplot.
Whereas An Unexpected Journey almost felt like a recap of The Fellowship of the Ring, The Desolation of Smaug stands firmly on its own. Of course, there are moments similar to the original trilogy but Jackson has created a wholly original film with a villain of a similar calibre as Gollum.
The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug is far more ambitious, mature and enjoyable than its predecessor. Jackson has found his feet and has ran with it. Spectacles by the bag full and although it has a running time of 160 minutes its brisk and fast paced. If this is Jackson doing small, we should all be terrified of what he is to hand us next.
Flickering Myth Rating – Film: ★ ★ ★ ★ / Movie: ★ ★ ★ ★ ★