The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug

Director: Peter Jackson
Starring: Martin Freeman, Orlando Bloom, Ian McKellen, Richard Armitage
Year: 2013

The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug – the second film in the Peter Jackson trilogy, based on the Tolkien novel of the same name. Apart from a slight glimpse at the first interaction between Gandalf and Thorin, The Desolation of Smaug picks up from almost precisely where the first Hobbit ended. We see a stronger Bilbo, one who is growing in courage and in strength, a stark difference between the Bilbo we first met originally. Though strangely, halfway through the film, I find myself thinking that we haven’t seen much of our titular character.
The Desolation of Smaug is a long movie, running at 161 minutes (don’t drink too much), though it didn’t need to be. Some scenes were too long, they could have been easily shortened. Special commendation however, to the barrel scene which, while long, was extraordinary fun and a favourite of the film. Short quick flashes of what seems like a camera strapped to a person actually going down the rough river are interspersed throughout, giving it a light sense of realism. The spider scene is also extraordinary fun.
The film jumps straight into action, not stopping until the cliffhanger almost three hours later.
Smaug the Dragon lives up to his name. A character of the film that was met with many questions: How would he sound? Would his mouth move when he talked? Would it seem cheesy? Would the CGI be up to scratch?
All these fears were quieted once we heard him speak, “I smell you, thief.”
Smaug, portrayed by Benedict Cumberbatch through voice and motion capture, was truly brilliant. Weta Digital did truly amazing work on Smaug, a masterpiece of CGI. He is an impressive piece of visual entertainment and an even more impressive character at that. It is the dragon that makes this film a step above its predecessor.
Another nod needs to go to Martin Freeman, not only for playing Bilbo so well but for providing some brilliant and hilarious facial expressions while attempting to not wake up the slumbering dragon.
Evangeline Lilly is a welcome addition to Middle-Earth, kicking all different types of ass. Though my only problems with her were that her story seemed driven by her attraction to a certain dwarf. But she was a welcome female addition to a film that is dominated by the male sex.
As usual, Howard Shore’s score is brilliant, making references to earlier material while still exploring and creating new themes.

The film feels more confident, it’s editing slightly more reminiscent of the later LOTR films. I cannot however, unfortunately, make a reference to the 48-FPS that Peter Jackson has incorporated into The Hobbit films, as the screening we attended didn’t have the capacities for it. But we’re seeing it again on Boxing Day, so perhaps we will add an edit to this post.

Further Comments:

AP: What did you think of The Hobbit?

HA: I really enjoyed The Hobbit, though I do think maybe it went longer than it needed to, I feel like they were unnecessarily trying to make it longer, but that doesn’t mean I didn’t enjoy it- the dragon was fantastic.

AP: It definitely ran longer than it need to – I was desperate for a bathroom by the end of it.

HA: We both ran for the bathroom.

AP: I am still in awe of how actually brilliant they handled Smaug.

HA: Yes, you were concerned about how they would treat Smaug.

AP: Superb work by the team at Weta.

HA: There is a fine line with animated-talking creatures in adult movies.

AP: I was more concerned by whether his mouth would move when he spoke, you know how cheesy and unrealistic it can seem but I think it was fantastic. And that cliffhanger.

HA: So, what did you think of the side-stories? Like Gandalf, etc. because its been quite controversial.

AP: I really loved Evangeline Lilly, but I was a little disappointed in that what drove her character throughout the film was her attraction to Kili. I was hoping she would be more independent than that.

HA: I think Peter Jackson has been get much more criticism for the hobbit than LOTR. Yes I feel the same, I felt that also was unnecessary.

AP: I liked that they made the effort to create a badass female character, but I’m disappointed that it was more of a love story. 

HA: There’s this test called the Bechdel test- have you heard of it? I only learnt about it recently, but it asks whether a work of fiction features at least two women who talk to each other about something other than a man, and pretty much every female character in these movies are fuelled by an attraction to men, which is sad.

AP: Extremely.

HA: But you know, the changes in the plot aren’t so bad, I liked the inclusion of Sauron, thought not everyone would agree. I felt it tied in nicely with LOTR.

AP: So, if you had to sum it up in a few words?

HA: Well, it’s a very loved series of fiction and it’s hard to keep all the fans happy, but despite some of the disagreements I really enjoyed this movie. I’d say a definite watch for all fans of fantasy, lots of fun and amazing vocal work from Cumberbatch that can’t be missed.

AP: A definite improvement on the last film

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