January 1, 2014
I’m a big fan of Peter Jackson’s work on the Lord of the Rings trilogy. They are easily some of my favorite films of all time so when they announced a Hobbit movie I was definitely excited. Splitting the one medium length book into three parts on the other hand, just sounded like a cash grab and a bad idea. After watching An Unexpected Journey, I was afraid my fears had come to pass so to speak, but I am pleasantly surprised with the Desolation of Smaug. It offers another visually splendid trip back to Middle-earth, the characters are more likeable, the pieces flow together much better, and it is almost always entertaining.
Probably in part due to a bigger budget and better technologies being available, Middle-earth looks better than ever. From the vast valleys to the mountain ranges, it is a beautiful place to visit. Really just examining the scenery as the expedition makes its way towards Smaug is a nice escape from reality in itself. The characters are also more fleshed out. Thorin Oakenshield (Richard Armitage) is more talkative and charismatic making for more of a dwarven Aragorn (likely as the filmmakers originally intended). Bilbo Baggins (Martin Freeman) seems more comfortable and endearing in his role and fills his shoes better this time around. Gandalf (Ian McKellen) who I personally think is a great actor and did an excellent job in the Lord of the Rings, seems more enthusiastic in his role in part two. In part one it almost felt like he was just going through the motions, and I’m very glad to see the positive change. A vital part of what makes this movie a significant improvement over An Unexpected Journey is the much better fluidity of the film and despite its near three hour length it remains exciting almost the entire time. In An Unexpected Journey, the movie often seemingly intentionally drags almost to the extent of being in real-time to inflate the running time, and it can be surprisingly boring at times. Therefore, considerable improvements in those areas are commendable.
The Desolation of Smaug is not a perfect film, but it proves to be a definite step up from the first movie. If you are a fan of the Lord of the Rings universe, it should restore some of your faith in the series and is worth the trip. I hope the final film will be even better and end the trilogy with a bang.