REVIEW: The Hobbit – The Desolation Of Smaug

4.5

600full-the-hobbit -the-desolation-of-smaug-posterAfter waiting for almost a decade, The Hobbit prequels to Lord Of The Rings began with the impressive yet somewhat poorly-paced and stretched predecessor An Unexpected Journey last year. Some could argue that it became a disappointment to Tolkien fans for stretching approximately one hundred pages of writing into an almost three-hour film. However, the second installment The Desolation Of Smaug is a much stronger, exciting and thrilling adventure. This sequel is in a dangerous position because its execution could go either way – whether it’ll provide central concepts to the plot that’ll lead to the finale or that it’ll be an inaccurate, weaker follow-up. Although Jackson implemented certain features in The Desolation Of Smaug that were not in Tolkien’s book, it is an impressive sequel that somewhat redeems An Unexpected Journey and ends with a superb cliffhanger leaving the audience to eagerly await for There And Back Again next Christmas.

The main issue with this entire Hobbit trilogy is how Jackson is stretching the contents of a single 361-page book into three lengthy films. An Unexpected Journey’s pacing was rather weak and filled approximately half of the novel into almost three hours. However, The Desolation Of Smaug gets straight to the point by filling in multiple plot concepts in the middle of the book whilst still providing enough narrative space and time for viewers to enjoy. While the main plot is of Bilbo, Thorin and companies’ continuous quest to the Lonely Mountain, the sequel has many subplots – Gandalf’s search of Necromancer and the love triangle between Legolas, Tauriel and Kili. The latter may have been a ridiculous shoe-in for Jackson to initiate longer running time but it somehow does not ruin the film. Besides, Tolkien told multiple sub-plots in Lord Of The Rings, much like Jackson did in the films. In fact, Jackson is almost spot on with pacing this time. Also, the plot is full of multiple locations and new characters who weren’t in An Unexpected Journey (yes, even Smaug). Still, although we witnessed a weak opening sequence with no meaning of what happens in The Desolation Of Smaug (it becomes more of a reminder), Jackson has really picked up the pace.

Of course, Tolkien fans have been expecting The Hobbit film adaptations to appear as epic and realistic, visually, compared to Lord Of The Rings. However, the difference is that not only is there a ten-year gap between the trilogies but Lord Of The Rings is a trilogy primarily for a teenager and adult audience whereas The Hobbit has been described as a gem of children’s literature. So, quite frankly, the visuals are going to be different. At the same time, audiences would expect them to be identical seeing as The Desolation Of Smaug is part of a prequel trilogy and for it to feel connected to Lord Of The Rings. This sequel is not only darker, narrative wise, than its predecessor but it is visually darker and provides a more serious tone to the trilogy. Similarly, the 3D format is actually worth the money in this sequel, particularly the barrel sequence and of course, to finally see the dragon in the flesh.

Martin Freeman proved himself to be a fantastic choice for the role of Bilbo Baggins in An Unexpected Journey and once again, he maintains that in The Desolation Of Smaug. Bilbo’s true character was exposed in this second prequel as he faced a great deal of danger which required bravery and courage. Freeman’s subtle execution of Bilbo became success as we saw him become more vulnerable at the same time slowly begins to be under the manipulation of the Ring. Ian McKellen delivers a great performance once again as Gandalf the Grey. While he was undoubtedly the best actor in Lord Of The Rings, his performance has not changed and it was great to see him back. Richard Armitage still does not entirely impress as Thorin Oakenshield. Yes, he possessed that bitter, cold attitude but his desperation to reclaim Erebor and signs of courage were lacking in this sequel. Hopefully, he can improvise one final time in There And Back Again.

Undoubtedly the highlighted character in The Desolation Of Smaug is Smaug himself, beautifully voiced and performed via motion-capture by Benedict Cumberbatch. In Tolkien’s novel and prior to fully witnessing Smaug, he has been known as a terrible, powerful dragon and Jackson’s interpretation of the character was jaw-dropping. Dragons have always been portrayed as dominant species of special magnificence and Smaug ultimately fulfills that. Still, Cumberbatch’s role was absolutely fantastic and perhaps runs up towards the brilliance of Andy Serkis as Gollum. Perhaps Cumberbatch’s key quality as Smaug was his booming voice which served as a personal quality and was beautifully applied with the dragon’s visual image. Therefore in the cinema world, Smaug has ultimately become the beast of all beasts and Tolkien would be proud. Cumberbatch’s portrayal of The Necromancer is also worth noting too as he provided a sinister performance through voice which leads to the return of a certain villain in Lord Of The Rings.

On a similar note, the return of certain Lord Of The Rings characters who are not in the original Hobbit novel has been another big issue for fans. For example, Orlando Bloom reprises his role as Legolas. While he was great in Lord Of The Rings his involvement was not necessarily required. His physical appearance looked rather strange, particularly eye contact lenses. It looked too comical and did not entirely look like the Legolas who we saw in Lord Of The Rings. However, that does not necessarily mean that his general appearance was not terrible. No, Legolas was not mentioned in the original book, but Bilbo and the Dwarves’ encounter with the Elves in Mirkwood would be another way for Jackson to provide slightly original ideas whilst still flowing along with Tolkien’s original story.

Although The Desolation Of Smaug had a few minor issues with sub-plot and implementation of characters, it is a vast improvement on An Unexpected Journey. The second prequel has provided more adventure, Tolkien’s literature trademark, and more action that has enhanced a more refreshing return to Middle-Earth. This Hobbit series perhaps was not going to be the exact same Middle-Earth that Jackson entered into with Lord Of The Rings trilogy but this second prequel really is not far. Nevertheless, The Desolation Of Smaug is an entertaining and intense film that has left us to enhance our excitement for the long-awaited finale in this trilogy.

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~ by SJMJ91 on 16/12/2013.

One Response to “REVIEW: The Hobbit – The Desolation Of Smaug”

  1. Great review, I had a brilliant time watching this film 😀

    Its still a bit too long but if I had to stay in any imaginary world middle earth isn’t too bad ;D

    Smaug stole the show and I am glad he did, great visuals and just an all over better film than the first hobbit, hope the trend continues into part 3 😀

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