Initial release: December 11, 2013 (UK)
Director: Peter Jackson
Prequel: The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey
Sequel: The Hobbit: There and Back Again
Cast: Martin Freeman (Bilbo Baggins), Benedict Cumberbatch (Smaug), Ian McKellen (Gandalf), Orlando Bloom (Legolas), Richard Armitage (Thorin Oakenshield), Ken Stott (Balin), Graham McTavish (Dwalin), Evangeline Lilly (Tuarial).
Smaug (Benedict Cumberbatch)
Gandalf the Grey (Ian McKellen)
Legolas (Orlando Bloom)
Thorin Oakenshield (Richard Armitage)
Bard the Bowman (Luke Evans)
Tuarial (Evangeline Lilly)
The second part to Peter Jackson’s Lord of the Rings prequel is upon us, picking up from where The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey picked off, The Desolation of Smaug features the journey of Bilbo Baggins, Gandalf the Grey, Thorin Oakensheild and their dwarven company as they make their journey to reclaim the lonely mountain, featuring wondrous worlds set within the gorgeous lands of New Zealand, he Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug is a marvel to look at.
The problem with the film is that it could be seen by some as a simple filler, built only for the purpose of building support and a cash some prior to the third films real ease, The Desolation of Smaug is a lengthy time investment that could have easily been trimmed.
Upon first announcing their intention to make up to three films out of The Hobbit (which isn’t an entirely long read in the book form), there was an argument that the trilogy would just be a major cash grab by Warner Bros. Pictures, An Unexpected Journey was seen by many critics as too long, with only a few memorable moments, and the film did not meet up to the awesomeness that was The Lord of the Rings series.
Thankfully The Desolation of Smaug doesn’t feature much of the same problems (some are still noticeable), with a larger and more tightly woven storyline, featuring a great mix of both action and comedy, Jackson has thankfully learnt from the last film, removing the 45 minute wait for a story, and kicking it off straight into the action. The problem is that these great moments are far too few, with scenes of the characters simply traveling across a field, it can often be hard to justify the near to three-hour running time.
However the investment of time is not one that I would say was unenjoyable, with implementations of various fan-favourite characters from Middle-earth, as well as a few connections to The Lord of the Rings storyline, you will definitely find yourself at home with The Desolation of Smaug.
The film follows on from the story of An Unexpected Journey, as Bilbo Baggins (Martin Freeman) and the rest of his 13 dwarven company take a journey towards the Lonely Mountain, led by Thorin Oakenshield (Richard Armitage) and Gandalf (Ian McKellen), the group seek to return Thorin back to his rightful place as king under the mountain, however it’s not quite as easy as that, pursued by a horde of Orcs, they must fight to take back the Arkenstone from Smaug (the dragon that originally drove the dwarves from their home and fortunes over 150 years ago), whom still sleeps within the walls of the Lonely Mountain, guarding the treasures of its original desolation.
But before they can get to the Lonely Mountain, the group must make their journey across perilous lands, fighting of a random order of creatures, kicking off with a giant shape shifting bear-like creature, who for story’s sake lives close to where the company are traveling, and despite hating dwarves, is happy to give the group shelter for the night due to his hatred of Orcs.
Shortly after which time, the group is attacked by a group of giant spiders who a seeking a dwarf/ hobbit sandwich for lunch, saved by a group of elves (introducing Legolas), who then take the group prisoner, notice they have escaped and then save them once again, this time from a horde of orcs, all of which is done without Gandalf present as he has been sent on a mission to link the story of The Hobbit with The Lord of the Rings trilogy.
The problem with all of this is that these sequences feel random, like they have just been thrown unto a storyboard and given the go ahead, only worsened by the lack of character development, which leaves Bilblo’s struggles with the One Ring as a simple side note, and forgets where they left Thorin off from last time.
That said, one of the most investable characters is actually one that was invented entirely by Peter Jackson and the screenwriters for The Hobbit, the Chief of Guards for the elven city of Elvenking, Tuarial (Evangeline Lilly) whose emotional struggles with the ethics of Thranduil and her three-way love interest between Legolas and the dwarf Kili, make her one of the films most compelling elements. Featured in many of the scenes throughout the film, she often steals the limelight from already established characters, and with good reason.
However there are still some supporting characters who are instrumental to the film’s storyline, characters such as Kili and Balin working to Jackson’s efforts to make them more than just sidekicks, the pair play more of a role within the second part of film, almost as if to fill up time. There’s also a couple of new cast members to the second part of the trilogy, including Bard the Bowman (Luke Evans), Thranduil (Lee Pace) and the previously mentioned Legolas and Tauriel, all of whom play an increasingly important role within the storyline.
However the true center piece of this entire movie is the final hour, as the company reaches the Lonely Mountain and make their way into its depths, we catch our first sight of Smaug, unveiling just how good Weta Digital are at making visual effects, and resulting in an ending to the film that truly suits the entire Lord of the Rings universe.
The problem is that I’m not sure it was quite good enough to escape the overbearing shadow that is The Lord of the Rings trilogy, as it is the expectation of many who will be visiting their local cinema to watch the film this weekend, I think many might find themselves disappointed as the credits begin to role, much like I did myself, slowly walking out of the theater wondering where the other half of the film went, as after all of these special effects and new character editions, this entire trilogy is simply something that has been drawn out too far, and made into three movies (each at about 3 hours) that could simply be shortened into one sleeker and a more refined story.
That is The Hobbit that I would have liked to see, but sadly will never be able to.