Film: The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug
Directed by: Peter Jackson
Genre/Style: Fantasy, Epic, Action-Adventure
The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug, part 2 in The Hobbit trilogy from Peter Jackson is an enchanting film that works as a reminder of the original magic of the Lord of the Rings trilogy.
The film begins nostalgically at The Prancing Pony with Gandalf and Thorin meeting for the first time as they begin to put into motion the plan for Thorin to reclaim his homeland. And what they need is a master burglar, which brings us back to the present with Bilbo and the other dwarfs as they continue their quest. Along the way they bump into a skin changer, a treacherous forest, an Elfin King who holds them prisoner, a struggling human town on the outskirts of The Lonely Mountain and of course the dragon, Smaug. There’s never a dull moment from start to finish and I can’t wait for part three. Another year feels like a very long way off.
The characterization was much better this time around with the dwarves than in the first part. I understood their motivations and remembered most of them now more as individuals rather than as a group. (I do have a particular soft spot for Fili and Kili, the dwarf brothers). But all of them are distinct with specific personalities. This film introduced many new faces as well as bringing a couple familiars in. Lee Pace as Thranduil was pure perfection. He was icy, menacing and elitist. Pace used his full body, commanding the attention of everyone who comes into his presence and of course the audience watching him on the big screen. Thranduil’s son happens to be Legolas and it was fun to see him again and Orlando still plays him with the same grace. Yes, he looks older than he does in the earlier films, but he is older as an actor so using suspension of disbelief as a viewer (to not think about why he should look younger) works just fine here.
Evangeline Lilly as Tauriel, an elf created for the movie and non-existent in the books, was great! She played the red-headed elf with grace, courage, innocence and likeability. You believe her as an elf warrior and it was nice to see a female presence in the film. Luke Evans as Bard was also fantastic. He’s a scene stealer and it was great to see this character expanded for the films making him a loveable rogue with a family and a heartwarming back story. He’s heroic, mysterious and Evans himself is extremely charismatic on screen. Bard and his family brought in a human dynamic much needed that Eowyn and King Theoden brought into The Two Towers.
One aspect of the film that was a pleasant surprise for me was the love story between Tauriel and dwarf Kili. Aidan Turner as Kili does romance pretty much better than anyone with his brooding appearance and scene stealing screen presence which is perhaps why Peter Jackson cast him in the first place after seeing him in the BBC’s underrated supernatural gem Being Human. So it was nice seeing Turner here do what he does well: Romance with humor, action and above all…sincerity. I know there have been some complaints going around about creating a love story that didn’t exist in the books but I’m a romantic at heart and loved it and felt the story was a welcome addition. That said, I did feel it was unnecessary to put Legolas in the center of the love story creating a triangle if you will. Any kind of romantic chemistry between Orlando Bloom and Evangeline Lilly felt awkward. A friendship between them would have worked just fine. The chemistry between Tauriel and Kili, however, was fantastic. There’s an almost forbidden quality to their story as there is no love lost typically between an elf and a dwarf. But here, they connect on a personal level and Tauriel quickly falls for the dwarf. In some ways, Kili becomes the damsel in distress with Tauriel as his constant rescuer throughout the film; a reversal of typical roles without leaving Kili helpless as a character either. Personally, I can’t wait to see how their love story plays out in part 3. I thought it was very sweet and sincere with lovely, dreamlike dialogue supporting it.
The whole sequence with Smaug was like experiencing a fun ride. The best part of the whole sequence though was in the beginning between Bilbo and Smaug. There was an exchange of intellect and wit. Benedict Cumberbatch as the voice of Smaug was simply wonderful. The voice and movement (Cumberbatch did motion-capture for the dragon) was menacing and intriguing. Of course it was hard not to smile at the thought that this was Sherlock and Watson in a war of words. But I digress…The film led up to a suspenseful climax that left you wanting more.
The visual effects and cinematography were of course fantastic. The shot of Bilbo looking above the trees in the forest with all of the birds flying around him for example was visual art, reminiscent of the beauty of The Wizard of Oz. Not only that, the New Zealand landscape is still as stunning as ever. I don’t think anyone can accuse The Hobbit films of not being aesthetically pleasing. From the set designs, to the costumes, to the cinematography everything was visually memorable. As for the music score from Howard Shore, it was a mix between nostalgic and haunting; the original song at the end from Ed Sheeran was simply breathtaking. I sat there in the theater listening to the beautiful quality of the song with its enchanting, powerful melody and vocals almost entranced by its haunting quality. If this song isn’t nominated for Best Original Song for The Academy Awards, I’ll be very surprised.
While The Hobbit films haven’t been as magical as the Lord of the Rings trilogy, the second installment is by far the better of the two. Beyond comparison, however, The Desolation of Smaug is a fantastic film that stands on its own with humor, heart, gravitas and magic. While I could have done without Legolas having unrequited feelings for Tauriel, overall I felt The Hobbit: Desolation of Smaug was pretty close to perfect and I will be anticipating the final installment.
“The stuff that dreams are made of.”
“You pierce my soul. I am half agony, half hope.
I have loved none but you.”
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