Peter Jackson’s epic three part extended adaptation of J.R.R. Tolkien’s The Hobbit continues with The Desolation of Smaug. Bilbo Baggins (Martin Freeman) continues his journey with the band of thirteen dwarves, lead by Thorin Oakenshield (Richard Armitage), to reclaim the Kingdom of Erebor from the dragon Smaug (voiced by Benedict Cumberbatch). Along the way, they encounter the Wood Elves of Mirkwood, including the Elven king Thranduil (Lee Pace), his son Legolas (Orlando Bloom), and the captain of the guard Tauriel (Evangeline Lilly). The band also stops off in the human town of Esgaroth, where they are assisted by Bard the Bowman (Luke Evans) and have to contend with the corrupt Master of Lake Town (Stephen Fry). Then it’s off to the Lonely Mountain, where Bilbo is tasked to come face-to-face with Smaug and retrieve, the dwarves’ royal treasure, the Arkenstone.
The biggest challenge faced by Peter Jackson’s trilogy of films based on The Hobbit is justifying the need to create three films based on a single novel, aimed towards children. I have read neither The Hobbit or The Lord of the Rings, so I have the advantage of seeing the film with non-biased eyes. While it could probably be argued that the goblin shenanigans of An Unexpected Journey was needlessly expanding the story, The Desolation of Smaug is where the plot kicks into high gear and I have a pretty good idea where Peter Jackson is going with this trilogy. This film introduces a lot of key players, including Luke Evans as Bard the Bowman and Orlando Bloom returning as Lord of the Rings favourite Legolas, who are sure to have large roles in the final chapter There and Back Again. This trilogy of films is also designed to better tie the story together with Lord of the Rings, as evidenced by the side-quest by the wizard Gandalf (Ian McKellen), who joins Radagast (Sylvester McCoy) in the investigation of the mysterious Necromancer (also voiced by Benedict Cumberbatch).
With the previous film being dominated by CGI creatures, it was refreshing to see that many of the Orcs in this film’s battle scenes are once again played by actors in prosthetics and make-up, which is still way superior than anything generated by computers. As such, it’s a shame that the lead Orcs Azog and his son Bolg are still computer generated, since they really stand out. Of course, I have to say that I was pretty impressed by the computer-generated Smaug, who plays a large role in the third act of the film. With there being no more Gollum in this story, Smaug really fills the quota when it comes to photo-realistic computer generated characters.
Having not read the book, I had no idea how the story was going to progress or where Peter Jackson was going to cut the plot. As it turns out, without spoiling anything, Jackson opted to go full Empire Strikes Back with the film’s cliffhanger ending, which leaves many of the characters in dire straights, in advance of next year’s conclusion. While I’m sure there are many who will be thinking “They ended there?!?” on their way out of the cinema, the cliffhanger is more than enough to ensure that I return for next year’s conclusion.
I should also talk about the length of the film, which some people are bothered with. Even though it exceeds two and a half hours, The Desolation of Smaug is actually about 8 minutes shorter than the previous film. I personally don’t mind the length, since I like the escapism the film brings. Yes, we can nitpick Peter Jackson’s decision to make, what will end up being, a seven hour plus adaptation of a single novel, but I think it’s just better to sit back and enjoy the film that’s on screen.
In conclusion, while it’s ultimately unfair to compare Peter Jackson’s Hobbit trilogy to The Lord of the Rings, after watching The Desolation of Smaug, I have a pretty good idea how Jackson is developing the story and I look forward to coming back for the conclusion.9 | REALLY LIKED IT