The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug Movie Review
After the brilliant epic experience of THE LORD OF THE RINGS trilogy (among my all-time favorite movies), to say that I was disappointed in last year’s THE HOBBIT: AN UNEXPECTED JOURNEY (click the link to read my review) would be a huge understatement. So it was with great trepidation that I journeyed kicking and screaming to THE HOBBIT: THE DESOLATION OF SMAUG. Perhaps it was due my dreadfully low expectations but much to my surprise, I did not hate it and dare I say, actually enjoyed the highly energetic second installment of the unreasonably elongated three film series of the single book from J.R.R. Tolkien.
The story picks up with the harry-footed hobbit Bilbo Baggins (Martin Freeman), the great wizard Gandalf the Grey (Ian McKellen), and the thirteen dwarves led by their heir king Thorin (Richard Armitage), on a quest to regain their home in the mountain Erebor. One fire-breathing problem is the jewel-filled mountain is guarded by the frightfully dangerous dragon Smaug (effectively voiced by Benedict Cumberbatch). The expedition will be plagued with trecherous paths full of giant spiders, elves and men, some of which will be helpful and some not so much, all while being hunted down by blood thirsty Orcs. But our hero’s crusade has one small help in the form of Bilbo’s new found magical ring, which we know to be the evil one ring to rule them all.
The lively and fast-moving Middle Earth adventure is back, replacing the long intrusive dwarf tomfoolery from Part One. Without the necessary (or unnecessary) setup of characters and story, THE DESOLATION OF SMAUG has free reign to move about without over explanation. There are still far too many moments that seem to be winking at or acknowledging the first film in unnatural ways but at least it’s more bearable with all the exciting action happening around it. Other than Bilbo, Gandalf and even Smaug, most of the characters feel slightly stale. While the character development is definitely an improvement, most of the dwarves are still interchangeable. The newcomers to the story are a welcome change-up with Luke Evans’ Bard and Lee Pace’s Thrandull adding charisma, but Orlando Bloom’s Legolas and Evangeline Lilly’s Tauriel feel a bit distant as the warrior elves, yet still provide some of the more exciting action.
The one major problem I still have with these new Hobbit movies, is the CGI. The original LORD OF THE RINGS films looked and felt so real that I rarely thought I was watching a film and was immersed comepletely into the action and story. THE HOBBIT: THE DESOLATION OF SMAUG is much like THE HOBBIT: AN UNEXPECTED JOURNEY, where the special effects are so apparent that I’m repeatedly taken out of the film. The movement is less natural and the orcs are less scary. To its credit, they actually used some human actors at moments that added a much needed realism and the visual of Smaug is a brilliant sight. But I don’t understand how ten years later, Peter Jackson took a step backwards in creating his vision.
The strength of the film, definitely lies within Bilbo’s sneaky thievery as he walks and talks to the impressively grand dragon Smaug through a pool of gold that makes Mr. Scrooge McDuck’s money vault look like a piggy bank. Overall, THE HOBBIT: THE DESOLATION OF SMAUG is a highly adventurous and entertaining film that works much better after a curbed expectation.
The 3D looks terrific. A few scenes may even cause you to weave or duck, while others don’t do much other than give nice depth. But even with the compliment, is the 3D worth it? I say no as usual but if you are a fan of the recent overused technological format then THE HOBBIT: THE DESOLATION OF SMAUG does it as good as the best of them.