Directed by: Peter Jackson
Genre: Adventure, Drama, Fantasy
Running time: 161 minutes
Classification: PG13 – Violence
Release date: 12 December 2013
This film was reviewed in the High Frame Rate 3D format.
The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug continues the adventure of the titular character Bilbo Baggins (Martin Freeman) as he journeys with the Wizard Gandalf (Ian McKellen) and thirteen Dwarves, led by Thorin Oakenshield (Richard Armitage), on an epic quest to reclaim the Lonely Mountain and the lost Dwarf Kingdom of Erebor.
Having survived the beginning of their unexpected journey, the Company continues East, encountering along the way the skin-changer Beorn and a swarm of giant Spiders in the treacherous forest of Mirkwood. After escaping capture by the dangerous Wood-elves, the Dwarves journey to Lake-town, and finally to the Lonely Mountain itself, where they must face the greatest danger of all—a creature more terrifying than any other; one which will test not only the depth of their courage but the limits of their friendship and the wisdom of the journey itself—the Dragon Smaug.
According to many, the first Hobbit film was, to put it nicely, far less interesting than this film. This one however, we get to see how director Peter Jackson has stepped out of the pages of The Hobbit and into The Lord Of The Rings, merging the world together. This film carries a pace and cohesion that the first film lacked. We get to explore more of the mystical fantasy realm of Middle Earth this time and what’s especially good is that there is more screen time for the Elvenking of Mirkwood, Thranduil (Lee Pace).
The formidable challenge takes Thorin’s party along the treacherous forest paths of Mirkwood, where they are attacked by enormous spiders. It is only by Bilbo’s bravery and with the help of the Elves of the Woodland Realm, led by Legolas (Orlando Bloom) that their company manage to escape. But of course, Legolas son of Thranduil would not simply let dwarves trespassing on elven territory leave so easily.
Thranduil’s palace is aesthetically beautiful and it carries a silent grace about it that showcases the elves perfectly. Remember those snippets of clips where we got Lee Pace and Richard Armitage having a staring contest? This is where that scene is from. The Elvenking offers Thorin a deal, give him some of the treasure and he will offer his help. Lee’s portrayal of the Elvenking is superb, his stoic face and chilling blue eyes are the makings of a regal and fearsome elvish ruler it’s not everyday you find talent as good as him and Jackson did right in giving Thranduil more screen time to show us the long raging hate between the dwarves and the elves.
So apart from Thranduil and Legolas, we have another addition to the elvish ‘family’ so to speak. Jackson has given us a smouldering heroine, Tauriel (Evangeline Lilly), whose skill with a bow and arrow is something not to be trifled with. To begin with many fans know that Tauriel is a fictional character that does not appear in the original book, but was created by Peter Jackson and Fran Walsh as an expansion of material adapted from the book. She is a Woodland Elf whose name means “Daughter of the Forest”, and is the head of the Mirkwood Elven guard.
What’s the deal with adding another elf? Well it deepens the plot a little to have a elf and a dwarf falling in love. During the time that the dwarves are prisoner in Thranduil’s palace, Tauriel gets to know the elf that she saved, Kili (Aidan Turner) the youngest of the dwarves and Thorin’s nephew. And as all romances go, there will always be a jealous party, this time Legolas is the one who envies Kili.
There ensues the hugely entertaining escape-by-barrel business, which according to most of the actors was one of the best and worst scenes to film. Bilbo and his gang of dwarves reach Lake-Town, aided by another engaging new character, the resourceful and witty Bard the Bowman (Luke Evans). Bard is a barge man who is constantly under the surveillance of the Master of Lake-Town (Stephen Fry).
From Lake-Town it is but a stones throw to the Lonely Mountain. But there is no such thing as short when it comes to Tolkien’s stories, so first we must endure a rather incoherent action sequence involving the wizard Gandalf and the evil eye that is Sauron.
With that, the stage is set for the final act with Smaug the Terrible. The evil dragon awakens from his long slumber when Bilbo is sent into the mountain to retrieve the Arkenstone. A fire-breathing, arrogant witty dragon is what Smaug is. And after his years of slumber he is more than excited to have something to toy with. Thunderously voiced by Benedict Cumberbatch, he and co-star Martin Freeman make this sequence a really fun one. Inclusive of some deft physical comedy verging on slapstick by Freeman, the exchange between dragon and hobbit is indeed something that you would not have expected to happen.
Brilliant and stunning visual effects will accompany you through the journey of this film. The costumes of each of the characters are also something that needs to receive more recognition, the wardrobe is indeed incredible and vast. With silken elvish cloaks and this time less dwarven wear, not to mention the intricate human garb of the people in Lake-Town.
With rivers of melting gold, and the epitome of death, Smaug bent on revenge escaping from the castle this second Hobbit film comes to a close. We will be waiting another 12 months for the third and final installment, The Hobbit: There And Back Again.
Coming off the adventure from The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey, director Peter Jackson assumes his audience knows the context of the story and only provides a brief introduction before he delves directly into this sequel.
Bilbo Baggins (Martin Freeman), Gandalf (Ian McKellen) and Thorin Oakenshield (Richard Armitage) together with the rest of the dwarves, continue their journey to the Lonely Mountain for Thorin to reclaim the Arkenstone and reclaim the mountain as his. In their battle to fight off the Orcs, which resumes from the events in An Unexpected Journey, Gandalf brings the company to reside in the home of Beorn (Mikael Persbrandt), a skin-changer whom periodically transforms into a black bear.
Following the stayover, the company chance upon the Wood Elves where thy meet Legolas (Orlando Bloom) and Tauriel (Evangeline Lilly). Captured, they escape from the Elves in an action sequence which Jackson makes use of to invoke humour, which comes when least expected. At the end of the escape in a river, they meet Bard (Luke Evans), a villager whom they must bribe in order to proceed on in their mission.
British actor Benedict Cumberbatch, whom plays antagonist in many famous movies, most notably Star Trek Into Darkness, voices the legendary dragon Smaug with exceeding confidence. The mesmerizing tonality and raw evilness of his voice will send chills down your spine as he strikes a rising sense of doom through the voiceover.
While the elements of the main plot are laid out and unfold in fine detail, Jackson weaves in a little love story of a triangle between Legolas, Tauriel and Kili (Aidan Turner), Thorin’s nephew, a subplot which serves to add some level of development to his characters. Apart from all his cast, Jackson himself makes a cameo appearance in this movie, much to fan amusement.
In the High Frame Rate, this sequel brings out the clarity of Middle Earth much more as compared to An Unexpected Journey, an important aspect that is especially evident in the many dramatic sequences. As a blockbuster movie, Jackson handles the plot skillfully while at the same time balancing the development of the dozen or so characters. Despite Bilbo Baggins having far less screen time than before, Jackson wastes no time in telling key plot points in the very few scenes that involve Bilbo.
Supported by an emotive musical score by Howard Shore that is complemented with an impactful end-credits song “I See Fire” by singer-songwriter Ed Sheeran, The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug ends on a bittersweet note which, for better or worse, gives fans something to look forward to in the trilogy-ending sequel, The Hobbit: There And Back Again, next year.
Check out the trailer below!
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