The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug shows the dragon in all his fire-breathing glory.
It’s hard seeing a movie that you have such high expectations for. After thoroughly enjoying the first The Hobbit film last year, I wasn’t sure if Peter Jackson would be able to top himself. Interestingly enough, many reviews have said this latest movie, The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug, is the weaker of the two, but I would argue that they are completely wrong. In fact, I would say this is the stronger of the two films and here’s why: The Desolation of Smaug follows the book more than the previous film.
Yes, that’s right, for those of you living under a rock, these movies are all based on a book: one small single book written by J.R.R. Tolkien simpled titled The Hobbit. And the first movie deviated from the book quite a bit. I didn’t mind, obviously, but seeing a lot of the epic scenes in this second film from the book made this particular movie even more enjoyable. For example, a scene in the film that involves barrels. Of course, the film drags it out a little longer, but to wonderful effect. There’s also that fateful meeting between Bilbo and Smaug (and again, Jackson drags it out), but these are written beautifully and are very faithful to Tolkien’s original work. Mostly, though, the scene at the gate of the mountain was exactly as I imagined when I read it all those years ago. Much credit here goes not to Jackson, but to Tolkien. And you know what? I liked it.
For those scenes deviating from the book, though, they were seamless and well written, too. This film carries the action from the first film into its first few minutes and I was soon so caught up that I completely last track of time by the time the movie ended.
I’ve already applauded the actors, but we have a few new-ish faces this time around. Orlando Bloom is back as Legolas, although this version seems to be a bit more broody and smitten by Tauriel. Tauriel is beautifully played by Evangeline Lily, who I’ve only ever seen in Lost, so I was pleasantly surprised by her wonderfully feminine and yet kick-ass elf. Lee Pace handles the snobbishness of Elven King Thranduil with ease. The dwarves are still too good looking for their own good, but I’m not complaining.
I would be remiss if I didn’t mention the wonderful voice acting of Benedict Cumberbatch as Smaug (and the Necromancer, but it’s the dragon I’ll remember). He sounds so delightfully wicked and convincing and if I ever meet a talking dragon, I hope it sounds like that.
My final mention is to Sylvester McCoy, who puts in a small appearance here as Radagast. I don’t care what he’s in, I LOVE HIM. Yes, there is the Doctor Who connection for me there, but he’s also so darn wonderful to watch on the big screen. He very nearly steals scenes from Ian McKellan’s Gandalf – and you know how brilliant Sir Ian is.
So what’s not to like about this movie? Well, I can’t complain about the 3D, because I saw it in 2D. It doesn’t need 3D. Thanks to New Zealand and a fantastic special effects team, this film is gorgeous. I still don’t understand Jackson’s insistence on making it in 3D, but whatever.
But there is something that bothered me and that was the ending. Yes, I knew it would be a cliffhanger, but it feels as if the movie was just chopped off in the middle (in a way it has been to make way for a third film). There was something about it that didn’t feel quite right, like maybe a better moment earlier in the story might have been a better place to stop. It just didn’t work for me, not as an ending and not as a cliffhanger. Also, knowing the book, it feels like the third film is going to be a lot of filler not included in the book.
With that being said, though, this is a must-see. It’s a gorgeous sprawling epic kind of film and was meant to be seen on the big-screen. And there’s lots of Smaug – lots and lots of that glorious dragon, Smaug.