Review of The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug (2013)
Desolation of Smaug is a marked improvement from the first installment of The Hobbit. From the onset, I was quite surprised at how much of an action-movie this actually was; it barely tries to settle down to breathe. Despite being impressive, I noticed via the editing that many scenes with Beorn and in Mirkwood forest were left on the cutting floor for Jackson’s inevitable extended editions. The adventure develops a new sense of urgency as we are now exposed to lands & characters previously unseen in Middle Earth and the escapade gets darker harking back memories of the greatness of LOTR. I have little doubt that once all 3 movies are released and seen as one, these will be worthy, but slightly lesser, companions to the LOTR trilogy.
Once again, Jackson nails the epic adventure feel and the material is immediately transportive and captivating. We are introduced to some compelling supporting characters with varying screen-time. Beorn (Mikael Persbrandt) is visually rendered quite differently compared to the book and thankfully is not generic as described therein. He is given ‘manimal’ features & an alluring mystery that will surely make him a memorable character by the time we get to the final movie’s climax & extended edition. Thranduil gives of this ethereal vibe and is superbly played by Lee Pace; giving us a different side & hence more weight to the Elves.
Smaug, an iconic beast of Middle-Earth, is as magnificent as the book describes him to be. Cumberbatch’s heavy vocals (with the help of some digital alterations) and movements (yes this is our first motion-captured dragon) make the villain more intimidating than merely size. Peter Jackson also nails his interactions with Bilbo as he did with Gollum in the last movie. The attention to detail on to the dragon is sublime and watching it talk and move is a truly mesmerizing & unforgettable experience. Avid fans were hoping Smaug would be the greatest dragon in cinematic history and that is the case as the character delivers in terms of both menace & personality. Smaug on screen encapsulates greed & bloated ego just as Tolkien inscribed.
Even the characters not in the book, Legolas & Tauriel, added substance to the subplot. It’s not a far stretch to imagine that Legolas would be present at the time the Dwarf-company passed through his father’s realm. Also, I found Tauriel very likable indeed (nothing to do with her looks I assure you); her character brought both warmth & fierceness whereas the source had completely overlooked the gender.
Other than character moments, the choreography of some of the action sequences was impressive. The spider attack and the barrel escape were tremendous; but the Bilbo’s banter with Smaug & his resulting rage leads to an unexpected battle & fantastic cliffhanger that sets us up for another 12 painfully long months of waiting.
Overall, while Desolation of Smaug deviates significantly from the book’s lighter tone, it marvelously captures the grandiosity of the LOTR films & is technically masterful.