Stars: Ian McKellen, Martin Freeman, Richard Armitage, Orlando Bloom, Evangeline Lilly, Luke Evans, Stephen Fry, Benedict Cumberbatch | Written by Fran Walsh, Philippa Boyens, Peter Jackson, Guillermo del Toro | Directed by Peter Jackson
A year ago, December 2012, The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey was released in theatres across the globe and the reaction was a mixed one. There were complaints about the CGI and regarding the decision to split the tale into three separate films, each being released a year apart. Now, I, as a fan of Peter Jackson’s Middle Earth, was happy to hear about three more movies in the world that Tolkien made famous, but some people weren’t, and still aren’t, and that can damage the reputation of a film quite easily. The pressure was on for this year’s follow up, though I personally loved the first part and found it to be a charming, beautiful and well crafted film from one of the best directors currently working.
The second instalment, going by the name The Desolation of Smaug begins where we left off at the end of “An Unexpected Journey” with the company of thirteen making their way to the lonely mountain, with their burglar, Bilbo Baggins, in tow. We also follow Gandalf on his journey to Dol Guldur to seek out the necromancer and uncover his plans. The dwarves, along with Bilbo, make their way through a variety of places, from dark forests and elven prisons to downtrodden towns as they fight their way to the lonely mountain. They must find the hidden door to Erebor before time runs out.
We meet new characters here, and are re-acquainted with familiar ones. Legolas (Orlando Bloom) makes his return to the franchise, and new faces such as Tauriel (Evangeline Lilly), Bard (Luke Evans), Master of Laketown (Stephen Fry) and Smaug (Benedict Cumberbatch) are introduced, among many others. It is with these new characters and the existing ones, that this second part in The Hobbit Trilogy, finds itself with a fresh vigour, opening new corridors of stories for viewers to enjoy, with other races joining the fray.
The film, as expected, looks beautiful. Peter Jackson’s vision of Middle Earth can never be faulted and this is no exception to the rule. The characters seamlessly fit into the World like they’ve always been there and the music, a score that has remained true and recognizable since “Fellowship of the Ring” is as whimsically sweet as ever. We visit old places from the other films too, such as Bree, and they give us a hit of nostalgia and a knowing nod of familiarity along the way. It will be a treat, and a vast one at that, when the day comes that allows fans of these films, and The Lord of the Rings trilogy, to visit the stories back to back and see how seamlessly they flow together. It’s almost harmonious.
Peter Jackson, in the Lord of the Rings films, was known to add and change a couple of things that weren’t from the Tolkien literature, but that were so well developed and created that they fit into the world wonderfully and without feeling out of place. Here, we are treated to the character of Tauriel, played brilliantly and with warmth and heart by the beautiful Evangeline Lily, a character entirely created for the films, yet it adds such a great element to the story and I personally struggle to see how the film would have been as entertaining without her being a part of it. The addition of a female elf in the story adds a different dynamic to what would otherwise be, for lack of a better term, a total medieval sausage-fest.
Another aspect of the first film that earned it some criticism was its lack of action sequences. This isn’t lacking in that department, the film offers gigantic action scenes of all kinds, many of which last for long periods and feature truly jaw-dropping moments. There should be no complaints, this time around, about lack of action, or lack of adventure.
Tolkien purists may not be enthralled by the new additions of non-Tolkien content, or by the tweaks that have been made to certain scenes in order to make them more captivating and cinematic on screen. Still, you can’t please everyone, but The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug sets out to please a good portion of everyone with its three hours of non-stop fantasy entertainment and timeless adventure. It took me back to my youth when watching a movie was a magical experience, and seeing things on screen felt like iconic moments that would stay with me, as a movie lover, forever.
The reception the film receives is anyone’s guess, but I would be surprised to hear that a person didn’t enjoy this film. I didn’t check my watch once, nor stretch my legs in hope that the film would end soon. This was a great way to end 2013 at the cinema, and the only negative thing I can think of is… I can’t believe I have to wait 12 months for the final part of another epic Middle Earth trilogy.
The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug is in cinemas everywhere now.