A mountain, a dragon and a burglar. The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug is the second in the trilogy of The Hobbit films. The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug is The Empire Strikes Back of The Hobbit trilogy. Surprisingly dark in tone at times and full of memorable characters( a certain dragon comes to mind). We catch up with Bilbo(Martin Freeman) and the crew of dwarves as they are continuing their quest to Erebor, the home of displaced prince Thorin Oakenshield(Richard Armitage), who somehow has become an even more intriguing character in this, the sequel to the smash hit fantasy film of 2012, The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey. There are so many great moments between the main cast, a particular highlight for me was Thorins slow descent into madness, what began as one dwarf’s noble struggle to restore his people to their former glory turned into something unrecognisable and ugly. Between Thorins clash with Balin(Ken Stott), his oldest and dearest friend to the dismissal of his young nephew Kili(Aidan Turner) in his moment of need Thorin became even more complex and deep . This was one of several key moments in the film which were compelling, emotional and wonderfully acted. There are many aspects(too many to name in a single review) that allow The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug to rise above other fantasy epics and reach a new level of cinematic glory. There are elements which surprised me when I looked back on The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug, elements which make it a unique film even as a film adapted from a novel.
What makes The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug a unique film is the aspect that it isn’t a true adaptation of its source material. I was told by many fans of the book that there are various elements of the film which were completely original(and I’m not complaining about Tauriel), for example,Legolas(Orlando Bloom) is not in The Hobbit and yet in the film he has a sizeable role. There are exchanges between the dwarves and Bilbo which never occurred in the book. There are battles that occurred in The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug that were never instigated in The Hobbit. For the most part these expansions are welcome but there are weak elements. Tauriel is an interesting character(especially for an original character) but she seems to be just put in as a way for the two more attractive cast members(Orlando Bloom and Aidan Turner) to get a romantic sub-plot, don’t get me wrong she is a welcome addition to the universe but I felt at times she was an Arwen wannabe, there are even moments in the film which are reminiscent of The Lord of The Rings Trilogy. If they had just stuck her to simply being a dedicated warrior with a clear sense of justice and honour I would have adored her but the romantic sub-plot felt a bit forced which diminished her character a little, but this is just my opinion and it’s really just nitpicking.
What stuck out to me was the special effects of the film, they have come leaps and bounds since The Lord of The Rings and you can tell. The orcs are once again brought to life with CGI, they are led again by Azog the Defiler(Manu Bennett) who takes a back seat to most of the action in this outing as he is called to his masters side. As the dwarves edge closer and closer to the Lonely Mountain there is a huge sense of anticipation as we build to what we all hope is going to be the stand out part of the film, the introduction of Smaug, the reigning King under the Mountain. You’ll be happy to know that his introduction does not disappoint, Smaug(Benedict Cumberbatch) is remarkably charming, vain and dangerous. This is augmented by a performance from Benedict Cumberbatch which rivals Andy Serkis’ Gollum in both intensity and dedication from the actor. The visual effects on Smaug are stunning, never have I seen a dragon come to life so convincingly on screen before. The only other time in the film when I was in awe was when Gandalf(Ian McKellen) faces down the Necromancer(Benedict Cumberbatch again) and bites off more than he can chew and comes up against a force that is literally blinding in intensity.
Between wonderful CGI, over the top action and bromances which will bring you to tears, The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug is superior to its predecessor in every aspect. So I will end with this uniting quote from Thorin Oakenshield, the true King under the mountain, “If this is to end in fire, then we shall all burn together”.