The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug is the continuation of Bilbo Baggins’ journey to help the dwarves reclaim Erebor, their kingdom in the Lonely Mountain, which was conquered by the dragon Smaug, who lives stop the castle amid the bounty of gold that the dwarves amassed in a time of great prosperity for their people and their environs. In this movie, aside from a short flashback from the time Gandalf met with Thorin Oakenshield (Richard Armitage) to set him off on the quest to defeat the dragon, the story progresses straight ahead to next part of the adventure, assuming immediately that the audiences did their homework and read the book or better yet, saw the first movie.
There were many great things about this sequel — one of them being that it was a lot of fun to follow the dwarves get out of plenty of close calls — I must say that seeing the kin of Thorin running around all irate and scared our of their wits at the same time was a lot of fun to watch. Seeing them battle ugly and mean orcs three times their size — and succeed at it, was awesome. The special effects for this movie was excellent — the rendering of Smaug in CGI was so fluid, and this, coupled with the texture and the detail for the dragon was truly magnificent. Adding to this the menacing voice of Benedict Cumberbatch and the dragon made for one badass villain. Seeing Orlando Bloom reprise his role as elf price Legolas was a treat. Sure, the make up guys may have had a heavy hand with the foundation (perhaps to match Bloom’s complexion with his younger self in the LOTR series which was supposed to happen after The Hobbit trilogy) but despite his obvious aging (which is natural since the first movie came out more than a decade ago), he still performed his stunts flawlessly. It was great to have him back on board. I don’t think that the romantic link with Tauriel, the character of Evangeline Lilly took on too well because she had better chemistry with the dwarf Kili (Aidan Turner). I did like the meeting between Legolas and Gimli’s father Gloin (Peter Hambleton) — he looked so alike with Legolas’s eventual BFF that I thought for a while that they were played by the same actor. Turns out Gimli was portrayed by John Rhys-Davies.
The Desolation of Smaug also introduced audiences to a wider cast of characters from Middle Earth — the Elvenking of the Wood Elves and father of Legolas Thandruil (Lee Pace), and Benedict Cumberbatch (who I was looking for the entire time), who lent his voice to the dragon Smaug. There was also Bard, the bowman (Luke Evans), descendant of the former lord of Dale. I must say, the casting choices were spot on and the new characters totally made the franchise stronger. Bilbo Baggins was the MVP for this movie though. Martin Freeman totally brought his A-game and made sense of why Bilbo brought real honor to the hobbits of Middle Earth. More than being the possessor of the One Ring, he totally rocked as a sword wielding, barrel riding, wily and courageous hero that totally saved the day for his hotheaded companions for 90 percent of the movie. While I was Team Thorin for the entirety of The Hobbit: The Unexpected Journey, this time around, there were times that I wanted to strangle him for being a jerk. In the end though, he was able to redeem himself and prove why he deserved to rule his people and reclaim his kingdom.
The downside to Peter Jackson’s fifth LOTR movie for me, however, was that it was too long. While the LOTR franchise managed to edit out scenes from the book that could have been done away with, The Hobbit seemed to be doing the exact opposite, and as a result, the scenes were being dragged out for too darned long. It was perhaps the first time in seeing all five movies that I felt moments of boredom and noticed that I was getting sore from sitting too long. (Do you get the feeling that I thought it was too long?) It also did not help that this was a prequel and scenes where Gandalf or Legolas would have been mobbed by Orcs does not really put them in danger in the minds of the audience because had they not survived Bilbo’s journey, they would not have been part of the subsequent LOTR movies.
All in all, The Desolation of Smaug was a strong movie as a standalone but it suffered greatly from the bar set by its predecessors. Audiences were expecting too much from the franchise but I’m not sure this second installment to The Hobbit franchise knocked it out of the park like the other ones did. The ending, though, did leave me excited to see what will happen in the next one.
Check out my review of the prequel — The Hobbit: The Unexpected Journey