Cert: 12A Runtime: 166 mins Director: Peter Jackson Cast: Martin Freeman, Ian McKellan, Richard Armitage, Orlando Bloom, Evangeline Lilly, Luke Evans and Benedict Cumberbatch
Dragonfire and ruin, that is what you’ll bring upon us! He cannot not see beyond his own desire!
Here we are twelve months later, the Desolation of Smaug has hit the big screen. The Unexpected Journey was a great success for Peter Jackson, and without a shadow of a doubt the rest of the trilogy will roll in the dollar. There hasn’t been much of a campaign this year for the second installment, I kind of guess Jackson knew he had the world wrapped around his finger. But any how, after successfully crossing over (and under) the Misty Mountains, Thorin (Richard Armitage) and Company must seek aid from a powerful stranger before taking on the dangers of Mirkwood Forest–without their Wizard (Ian McKellan). If they reach the human settlement of Lake-town it will be time for the hobbit Bilbo Baggins (Martin Freeman) to fulfill his contract with the dwarves. The party must complete the journey to Lonely Mountain and burglar Baggins must seek out the Secret Door that will give them access to the hoard of the dragon Smaug (Benedict Cumberbatch). And, where has Gandalf got off to? And what is his secret business to the south?
I was quite surprised at how much of an action-movie this actually was; it barely tries to settle down to breathe. Despite being impressive, I noticed via the editing that many scenes with Beorn and in Mirkwood forest were left on the cutting floor for Jackson’s inevitable extended editions. The adventure develops a new sense of urgency as we are now exposed to lands & characters previously unseen in Middle Earth and the escapade gets darker harking back memories of the greatness of LOTR. I have little doubt that once all 3 movies are released and seen as one, these will be worthy, but slightly lesser, companions to the LOTR trilogy.Once again, Jackson nails the epic adventure feel and the material is immediately transportive and captivating. We are introduced to some compelling supporting characters with varying screen-time.Smaug, an iconic beast of Middle-Earth, is as magnificent as the book describes him to be. Cumberbatch’s heavy vocals and movements yes this is the first ever motion- captured dragon make the villain more intimidating than merely size. Bard played by Luke Evans was a refreshing character, he truly defines the town of Lake Town and I look forward to seeing him in part three. The full-time cast of McKellen,Freeman, Armitage and co, were top rank as always. I was glad to see the rest of the dwarves having more screen time, it seemed to like more of a team effort this time rather than just a select few.
Peter Jackson also nails his interactions with Bilbo as he did with Gollum in the last movie. The attention to detail on to the dragon is sublime and watching it talk and move is a truly mesmerizing & unforgettable experience. Avid fans were hoping Smaug would be the greatest dragon in cinematic history and that is the case as the character delivers in terms of both menace & personality. Smaug on screen encapsulates greed & bloated ego just as Tolkien inscribed.Even the characters not in the book, Legolas & Tauriel, added substance to the subplot. It’s not a far stretch to imagine that Legolas would be present at the time the Dwarf-company passed through his father’s realm. Also, I found Tauriel very likable indeed; her character brought both warmth & fierceness whereas the source had completely overlooked the gender.It was nice to have some eye candy for the men in this film.Other than character moments, the choreography of some of the action sequences was impressive. The spider attack and the barrel escape were tremendous; but the Bilbo’s banter with Smaug & his resulting rage leads to an unexpected battle & fantastic cliffhanger that sets us up for another 12 painfully long months of waiting.Overall, while Desolation of Smaug deviates significantly from the book’s lighter tone, it marvelously captures the grandiosity of the LOTR films & is technically masterful just a bit to long as always.