This review has little to no spoilers.
When fellow Quad writer wrote about upcoming Holiday Movies, he made sure to include the recent installment of The Hobbit Trilogy, and for good reason. While the first film was fun, dramatic, and enjoyable in its own right, it felt a bit slow to the viewer. The second film in the series, The Desolation of Smaug, does everything that part 1 did well and did it better. As a fan of the original Lord of the Rings trilogy but not so much a fan of The Hobbit book, the movie not only managed to keep my attention despite its long runtime, but also inspired me to try reading the book again.
The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug starts off with a short flashback to make sure all the viewers are caught up to speed, and then it’s a descent into nonstop action with the dwarves, Bilbo (Martin Freeman), and Gandalf the Grey (Ian McKellen). In attempts to run away from Azog and approach the misty mountain, Erebor, the dwarves end up running into old friends of Gandalf, woodland elves, riding in barrels, and running through Laketown, before actually making it to the mountain. Once they actually make it to the mountain, Bilbo and the dwarves are faced with what we were promised with the entirety of the movie – Smaug. And this dragon doesn’t disappoint.
Just thinking back, the amount of things these companions must accomplish throughout this film seems like almost too much to fit into a film, but it is done well. Gandalf disappears from the group early in their adventure, in attempt to check into rumors of a rising evil, leaving the majority of the film’s adventure, courage, and intelligence to fall towards Bilbo. Freeman is the perfect blend of tired and confused, but also determined as he manages to save the dwarves again and again (with little to no thanks). The dwarves are even more fleshed out in this film, allowing us to see differences in their characters beyond physical appearance and even learning a bit about their lives outside of this quest (though I still can’t remember half of their names).
Possibly some of the best parts of the film are within the depths of Mirkwood. Orlando Bloom as Legolas looks as though he hasn’t aged a day since the last film, and seeing him alongside the newly created Mirkwood Elven guard, Tauriel (Evangeline Lilly) is a treat. Though Thranduil (Lee Pace) is a bit over the top, slightly gnawing on the scenery when speaking with Thorin (Richard Armitage), he’s still enjoyable fun to watch. That’s not to say that scenes at Laketown weren’t interesting. If anything, this town gives Thorin the opportunity to act as a regal king, instead of the broody prince that he is during the majority of the films. Luke Evans as Bard was exactly the kind of straight man we needed in all this chaos, and Stephen Fry as the Master was incredible and I loved every second of him.
No aspect of the film could hold a candle to the scenes within the mountain. By having Benedict Cumberbatch lend his voice to Smaug gives the dragon an almost unnaturally deep sound, perfect with the cunning and uncaring dragon hoarding his gold. Between the shots of the dragon versus Bilbo, and the scenes where most of the company use the gold mines within the mountain in an attempt to take down the dragon, the wait for Smaug is well worth the pay off we’re given. If you’ve read the book, you know exactly how the series will end, but it’s fun, fast paced, and intense watching the company grow tighter as they attempt to save their mountain.
A true fan of the books would notice immediately that there are some differences between the book and what occurs in the film (such as an addition of the female in this series, in the form of the elf, Tauriel). On the other, the amount of practically nonstop action that is seen throughout this movie is enough to keep the viewer on the edge of their seat for the entirety of the film. One might argue that this film is nothing but back-to-back action, but compared to the slow pace of the first film, this is a welcome change.
How will things turn out for our heroes? Well, only time will tell – The Hobbit: There and Back Again will be released on December 17, 2014. I know I can hardly stand the wait.
The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug opens in theaters today, Friday, December 13, 2013. Its runtime is 2 hours and 41 minutes.