|Image from: http://www.imdb.com/title/tt1170358/|
This year I’ve sort of obsessed over Tolkien. I saw the first instalment of The Hobbit about five times in the cinema in it’s various formats and have seen it and it’s extended version many times since, also watching the 8 hours of behind the scenes footage which are fantastic.
I’ve re-read The Lord of the Rings, re-read The Hobbit and delved deeper into Middle Earth by reading The Silmarillion and Unfinished Tales too so yes, my excitement levels were high for The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug.
It picks up where An Unexpected Journey left off and follows our heroes through the spider infested forests of Mirkwood and the poor and corrupt Laketown, as they continue their quest to the lonely mountain.
This second instalment in The Hobbit trilogy is much more of a crowd pleaser than the film before it. We are thrown into the action from the very go and it rarely slows down all the way until the films final moments.
A roller coaster ride is a phrase that film lovers throw around so freely this day in age but Desolation of Smaug truly is one. Well thought out action sequences such as the barrels out of bond scene and the cat and mouse game that takes place between Smaug and the dwarves towards the end of the film, are thrilling to watch and utilise p.o.v to really throw you into the middle of the chaos.
When we finally get to see Smaug in all his glory, it’s a fantastic moment and the dragon looks amazing. Another accomplishment for the WETA workshop who once again prove that they are at the fore front of special effects in film.
Smaug is voiced brilliantly by the high in demand Benedict Cumberbatch, one of the many new cast members that include Stephen Fry as the deplorable Master of Laketown and Luke Evans who is excellent as Bard the Bowman.
Martin Freeman, despite his role as Bilbo being slightly diminished this time around is still the highlight of the film though. His performance is as charming and subtle as it was the first time although perhaps slightly more intense.
For all of its good though, The Desolation of Smaug is not a film without flaws. In fact, I do have a couple of issues with it.
The biggest problem I have with this film is in the introduction of Tauriel played by Evangeline Lilly, a completely new character who doesn’t exist in Tolkien’s universe.
Now, I have no problem with Peter Jackson, Fran Walsh and Phillipa Boyens taking certain liberties with Tolkien’s material. They’ve done it so much with The Lord of the Rings and The Hobbit, things like having Arwen playing a more significant role in Rings than she ever did in the books or having Azgog the pale Orc alive and well in The Hobbit, whereas in the books it is his son who is out for Thorins head.
For the most part these decisions have worked well and to the benefit of the films. However with this introduction of a completely new character, one who seems to exist for no other reason than to be a love interest, it steals time away from far more interesting plot threads I would have liked to have seen more of.
For her story to take priority over more time spent with Beorn the bear or the journey through Mirkwood which just feels rushed, is detrimental to the film and is a big mistake in my opinion.
I really didn’t enjoy the direction by Jackson this time around either. Obviously in a playful mood, some scenes were too trippy for my liking whereas a more traditional approach would have worked much better.
Do these negatives completely ruin the film? Of course not. It’s still The Hobbit and it’s still Middle Earth but whereas it was love at first sight with An Unexpected Journey, The Desolation of Smaug may take a few more viewings to get to that point.
None the less, The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug is more enjoyable, more thrilling and more spectacular than the majority of films I have seen this year and will
make a perfect trip to the cinema this Christmas.