The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug
By Justin Jasso (@jjasso007)
There are certain movie franchises that so enthrall viewers, that wrap them up in a warm, fuzzy blanket of great characters and epic storytelling, that audiences await the sequels with bated breath. Such movie franchises as Harry Potter, Star Wars, Iron Man, and even Twlight. With these titans stands the wonderful world created by J.R.R. Tolkien in the form of the Lord of the Rings trilogy. But, before the Lord of the Rings, there was the story of one single hobbit and his grand adventure. In 2012, peter Jackson brought us The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey. And now, almost a year later to the day, Jackson has released his second installment of what is the latest trilogy with The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug. What didn’t quite work for the first installment has been refocused, giving us the feel of the original trilogy, and leaving the audience wanting more.
The story picks up when the last film ended. Bilbo Baggins (Martin Freeman), wizard Gandalf the grey (Ian McKellan), and 13 dwarves, led by Thorin Oakenshield (Richard Armitage) are journeying to the Lonely Mountain, to reclaim their kingdom which was taken over by the dragon, Smaug. In order to reach their destination, they must travel through Mirkwood forest, when evil spiders and a city of Elves live. Unfortunately, the elves are none too helpful, forcing Bilbo and the dwarves to escape via a river, with orcs and elves hot on their trail. Once out of the forest, they must cross a lake to finally make the last leg of their journey. But, at the end of their journey, there is a fire breathing dragon to deal with, who is none too keen on relinquishing neither his castle nor the gold within. And while the dwarves make their journey, Gandlaf investigates the rumors of the Necromancer at Dol Guldor, only to find an even worse enemy waiting.
One of the problems with the first film was the overuse of computer graphics. And, while it is necessary given the fact that a whole new world is being created, some aspects just didn’t work in the first film. The talking ogres was an absolute failure and the rock giants looked like weird transformers duking it out. Thankfully Jackson got away from that with this latest installment. Taking out those silly elements gives the film more of the life it had with the original trilogy. And while Azog the Defiler is still prevalent here, he takes more of a back seat as we follow the dwarves. Even Azog feels a little more “real” opposed to the last film, although I doubt much changed in terms of his animation process.
One of the big improvements in this film is the pacing. While the first film had moments where the story tended to bog down, this one keeps the story progressing with the protagonists constantly up against some new obstacle. Whether it’s being chased by orcs, hunted by spiders, escaping from elves or fighting a dragon, the story continues to move from one moment to another with minimal exposition. One thing needed for successful action is the belief that there is real danger. Unfortunately, for most of these action sequences, it doesn’t feel like our merry band of dwarves and a hobbit are ever going to be hurt, aside from the battle with Smaug. But, even though the anticipated danger isn’t as high as it could have been, it’s still thoroughly entertaining to watch.
Another problem with the first film was a lack of attachment to characters, outside of Bilbo, Thorin and Galdalf. And while the attachment level still isn’t as high as it was with Aragorn, Gimli or Legalos, we start developing a stronger bond with some of the dwarves, even if we can’t remember them by name on que. And, speaking of Legalos, he makes his bow wielding return in this film, along with newcomer Evangeline Lilly, who plays the elf Tauriel, a Captain of the Guard for the wood elves. Adding the elves back into the series made a definite difference and only enhanced the excitement. But the highlight is definitely the dragon, Smaug. The work Jackson and his team did to create such a realistic creature is more than admirable and puts the film on its own level. The last 40 minutes of the film are truly a sight to behold.
The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug is an improvement over the first film but still fails to meet the expectations set by the original Lord of the Rings trilogy. Is it fair to compare the two? No. Do we do it anyway? Yes. The film is fun in its own right, and the performances are on par with that set by all films involving Middle Earth. The addition of Smaug only lifted this film even higher, setting the table for a grand finish to the Hobbit trilogy. Alas, we have another year to wait for the epic conclusion. Until then, like with all great series, we can wait with bated breath for the final installment to the world J.R.R. Tolkien created.
Rating: 4 out of 5 stars