It’s been a year since the first Hobbit film was released, and fans have been eagerly awaiting the second of the three films. As one of those fans, was I pleasantly surprised by The Hobbit – The Desolation of Smaug, or disappointed? Mostly the former and a bit of the latter.
After escaping from the Pale Orc and his minions, Bilbo and company continue their journey only to find out they hadn’t actually escaped as thoroughly as they had thought. After taking a brief refuge with Beorn the skin-changer, the company takes their journey into Mirkwood. After Gandalf suddenly leaves on an urgent undertaking, the company is captured by giant spiders after becoming lost in the wood, only to escape from the spiders and be captured by the Wood Elves. Ruled by Legolas’ father Thranduil, the elves are none too excited to have Dwarves in their midst, but the elves mostly ignore them, until the company escapes again. Then the company make their way to the Lake, where they have to find a way across.
Peter Jackson again produces an epic feel in The Hobbit – The Desolation of Smaug, with grand sweeping vistas and exciting, edge-of-your-seat action sequences. Even though he’s taking a book less than one-third the size of The Lord of the Rings and turning it into an epic trilogy, Jackson has an excellent grasp of the feel of Middle-Earth and continues effortlessly weaving in information and bits of lore from the appendices and The Silmarillion. He even creates the character Tauriel and makes her fit into the world, and Evangeline Lilly gives an excellent performance in the role.
Howard Shore does a good job continuing the unique music of this trilogy while still hinting at what is to come (chronologically speaking) in The Lord of the Rings trilogy. The music never once did anything other than enhance the film and make it more enjoyable. Shore clearly demonstrates here why his talents are in such high demand in scoring films.
As usual, Weta Workshop did an amazing job with the effects. At the top of the list is Smaug and his fight with Bilbo and the dwarves in the depths of the Lonely Mountain, otherwise known as Erebor. The entire sequence with Bilbo and Smaug talking, which leads into the fight with the dwarves, is CGI at the bleeding edge. I think Weta is neck-and-neck with Industrial Light and Magic for sheer creative capabilities and innovative, stunning artistic use of CGI.
Now, in the first Hobbit film, nothing seemed stretched or really thin on the plot or pacing. That is not the case with Desolation. There were several spots in the film where it got to the point of me thinking, “Okay, its time to move things along here. Even though something is happening, nothing is happening.” These instances weren’t enough to ruin an otherwise good film, but it definitely showed that this is the middle film in the trilogy. It also doesn’t give any satisfying resolution to the chapter, unlike the ending in the first film.
Despite those shortcomings, The Hobbit – The Desolation of Smaug is a good, solid film, and I think I may just be judging it a little more harshly due to how excellent the films were in the Rings trilogy. Perhaps I will gain more insight with a second viewing. I plan to go see it again at least 1-2 more times in theaters.
Release Date: December 13, 2013 (USA)
MPAA Rating: PG-13
Alcohol/Drugs: 1 (social drinking, smoking)
Sexuality: 1 (mild innuendo)
Violence: 4 (brutal battles, dismemberment, death)