Sunday, December 15

The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug

The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug
Dir: Peter Jackson
Starring: Martin Freeman, Ian McKellan, and Richard Armitage

The saga continues in Peter Jackson’s extended version of J.R.R. Tolkien’s Middle Earth introductory “The Hobbit”. The first film, “The Unexpected Journey”, offered a slow moving presentation that seemed merely to re-acquaint viewers with the characters especially a younger Bilbo Baggins and the adventures he discussed in “The Lord of the Rings” films. “The Desolation of Smaug” quickly forwards into an exciting and swiftly moving story that leads to the stunning rendering of the fire-breathing dragon Smaug.

Bilbo Baggins (Martin Freeman) continues his journey with the ragtag group of dwarfs who recruited him to reclaim their kingdom and fortune, which was stolen by slumbering dragon Smaug (voiced by Benedict Cumberbatch). Bilbo, along with the dwarfs and Gandalf the Grey, trudge towards the lost dwarf kingdom while encountering resistance at every opportunity. Orcs are in hot pursuit of the group, spiders in a deadly forest are stalking, elves in a fortress domain are threatening, and Smaug is waiting for the battle he knows is coming. All these hurdles, including the secret ring in Bilbo’s pocket and the presence of an evil nemesis of the future, make for another perilous adventure for the alliance.  

Peter Jackson is the master of the Tolkien universe. The transition into this new tale is initially smooth and immediately draws the viewer into the bulk of the action packed story. Jackson, working with only a few chapters in the already short novel for this film, takes some liberties in bulking up the material by exploring further the characters and elongating, sometimes exhaustively, the action set pieces. Take for instance a river escape from the elven kingdom by way of barrels, all while being pursued through the rocky terrain by orcs and elves. The action at times feels a bit overdone though some of the setups, like this one, are particularly fun and inventive. Jackson also adds a character not seen in the book, a tough fighting female elf named Tauriel (Evangeline Lily). Though she is a welcome addition to the all male cast her role is utilized in part as a clichéd romantic vehicle.

The cast again is good. Martin Freeman especially handles the changing ego of Bilbo who is growing more confident and secretive with every step on the way to the Lonely Mountain. Richard Armitage is given more to work with as Thorin Oakenshield, the leader of the voyage. Thorin portrays a figure of leadership though his foundation is somewhat insecure. The computer composition of the daunting Smaug is fantastic, as is Cumberbatch’s equally intimidating voice. Jackson introduces the beast with a boisterous monologue, easily one of the highlights of the film.

Jackson handles “The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug” with far more precision than the first installment. It’s difficult to find an ending point since the story is based off one book. While some viewers may be annoyed with the choice in ending this film on a cliffhanger, it’s a good position for the third installment to conclude. Though this film is livelier than the first, there are a few moments when the action seems to marginalize the characters. However, the story isn’t over and Jackson still has another movie to round out his saga.

Monte’s Rating
3.50 out of 5.00

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