It is finally time to make another return to Middle Earth with the second film in the forced trilogy, The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug. While a lot of dismay has come out because of the way director Peter Jackson has decided to stretch the book from two movies into three movie, this one does a great job of raising the action and making for more adventure from the previous film.
Martin Freeman returns as Bilbo Baggins, a role that he sold well in Unexpected Journey. But where Bilbo was the main focus on attention in that film, it seems that he has taken the back seat to such character as Legolas (Orlando Bloom), Tauriel (Evangeline Lilly), and Thorin Oakenshield (Richard Armitage) when he really is the main character. That struck me as odd because we had grown with the character in the first film as he turned from timid hobbit into a more brave, courageous one (thanks in part to the finding of the ring) and while they addressed the ramifications of that early on, it was soon ditched for a half-baked romance between Tauriel and Legolas.
Bilbo, early on, shows signs that the ring has begun to change him. While in the forest of Mirkwood, Bilbo and the dwarves are caught by giant spiders. Using the ring, Bilbo is able to distract the spiders and set his friends free but not until the return and a battle ensues. During a fight with a spider, Bilbo drops the ring and falls down. He slays the spider and begins to look everywhere for the item he clearly cares most about. When he discovers it, it is under a spider larva, which Bilbo spares no time slaying, as his voice becomes raspy and evil — similar to that of Ian Holm when the ring is brought up in Fellowship of the Ring. He recovers the ring only to realize what he has done and how thoughtless he was through that process.
This is an important change in the character who was so loving before that and afraid to kill anything.While this probably should have been looked at more, the character was dumped for a while to deal with the elves and their trust issues with the dwarves — and vise versa. This was one of my biggest issues with the film because it was ditching the entire build-up of the first film, which is about Bilbo, and setting him aside, clearly setting up to revisit it during the third one. I feel like this was an issue that comes from the stretching of the films.
While that problem bothered me, I still had a lot of fun with this film. The action was well shot with more of it, making the pacing a lot better than the previous film. Action sequences including a scene where the dwarves battle orcs while going down a river in barrels with elves running around them that shows just why we enjoy these crazy adventure films. Jackson does a great job of moving the action around the scene without making it choppy or uninteresting. The camera flies around picking up small moments and then moving to the next piece with ease.
Ian McKellen once again does a fantastic job with Gandalf even though I felt that we lacked more of him in this movie than the last. Like I stated before, he was also supplemented with the elf sub-plot that really didn’t interest me even though I thought Tauriel was a solid addition (can’t ever beat a strong female character). The sub-plot just felt forced and you could tell that it was something pushed into the movie rather than part of the story that everyone knew. t just never felt like a necessary addition but maybe more will come from it in the final film.
Overall, I found the latest Hobbit film to be a fun return that built on the previous movie. The addition of more action helped the pacing to move a little quicker and keep my attention more often and a few of the added characters really did pay off. The scenes between Bilbo and Smaug (voiced by Benedict Cumberbatch) were not as engaging as the ones between him and Gollum from the first movie but they still were strong and had that same screen power that held your attention for the duration of it. Cumberbatch was perfect to voice Smaug as he gave that eerie sense of knowledge and power and he brought a lot of fear to his voice to make the dragon just as powerful as we expected coming from the book.
The Hobbit: Desolation of Smaug is a solid adventure blockbuster that follows the first movie well. The action and pacing is better, and the story, while feeling stretched, is still fun. The cliffhanger that it leaves on sets up for even more action and fun in the third movie but the connection to the Lord of the Rings trilogy is still something that threatens the outcome of the trilogy.