I promised it, and here it is. A long film, a long review! Just quick heads-up, the ratings I give on this blog are utterly meaningless, they’re just my own personal scoring…system?
Directed by: Peter Jackson
Starring: Martin Freeman, Ian McKellen, Richard Armitage, Luke Evans, Benedict Cumberbatch
Runtime: 160 minutes
Age Certificate: 12A
Release: 13th December 2013
Rating: 4.5 / 5
“If this is to end in fire, then we will all burn together!”
After successfully crossing over (and under) the Misty Mountains, Thorin and Company must seek aid from a powerful stranger before taking on the dangers of Mirkwood Forest–without their Wizard. If they reach the human settlement of Lake-town it will be time for the hobbit Bilbo Baggins to fulfill his contract with the dwarves. The party must complete the journey to Lonely Mountain and burglar Baggins must seek out the Secret Door that will give them access to the hoard of the dragon Smaug. And, where has Gandalf got off to? And what is his secret business to the south?
I went to see the second Hobbit film, the awesomely titled Desolation of Smaug, last week with great expectations. In general, I thought the first film was okay. It’s main flaw was the lack of action and long strings of laborious walking sequences (Peter Jackson does love those, eh?). However, I’d heard over the ol’ InterWebs that the second instalment would be very much gung-ho and action-based.
In short, the Desolation of Smaug was a fantastic improvement. I could literally go on about every single scene, so I’ll try and break it down into the best bits!
The greatest part of this film was, I thought, the way it began to pull together the threads of the first film, the majority of which was exposition. If I compared them to ropes (naturally), the first film would have been all frayed with different characters and storylines out of place and dragging around. But, by the end of the second film, the rope is much more solid and tightly knotted together. It no longer feels disjointed and you become more relaxed with the epic grandeur of it all, although the sheer amount of stuff going on can sometimes feel a bit overwhelming!
As mentioned before, the USP of this film was the action, and it didn’t disappoint. This is when the visual effects team really got to go wild. There were many action sequences, most notably the barrel-riding chase, which I’m sure will be advertised as a new Disney World ride very soon! On the one hand, the VFX gives us a sense of how much work goes into every single shot in order to create a brilliantly-realised, in-depth world, but on the other we’re given the chance to see some ridiculously over the top stunts! And the best thing is that we are not pinned down by the seriousness of The Lord of the Rings; everything here fits in perfectly with the childish vibe of the original book.
A big highlight was the greater diversity of characters in this film. Gandalf and the dwarves can get a bit samey-samey after the first film so this is very welcome. Luke Evans is great as Bard. Stephen Fry plays the small but brilliant role of the Mayor of Lake Town. The elves add a pinch of pro dancing/fighting to the mix, although I didn’t think the additions of Legolas and Tauriel were that necessary. Legolas has some excuse, as he had to be there to fit in with the lore of Middle Earth, as he is Thranduil’s son (and it was an excellent opportunity for a Gimli joke!). However, Tauriel is completely unneeded, as is the ‘love triangle’ between her, Legolas and Kili- why would an elf fall for a dwarf anyway? I thought they hated each other! Oh yeah, I suppose it’s that love thing again…
One thing we didn’t see very much of though was Bilbo – sometimes so much so that you forget he’s the title character. At this rate, the trilogy might as well be called: The Hobbit, And 100 Other Characters. We need more Martin Freeman – he is excellent in this role. What we do see of Bilbo, however, is brilliant. Namely, his first meeting with Smaug – my personal favourite part of the film. The dragon is incredibly impressive and Benedict Cumberbatch is perfect as the sly, brooding voice of this monster.
While we’re on the subject, the interior of the Lonely Mountain is brilliantly envisioned. We don’t see much of the physical dwarven city in the book, so this extra bit is certainly welcome. All the dwarven contraptions and machinery really colour in that blank gap that was left in the book.
Despite this, there were two main ‘extra bits’ I felt added nothing to the film. One is the fact that Kili and a few other dwarves stay behind at Lake Town. This is done for good reason – to work out poetically with that love triangle – but it was a bit odd to watch only some of the dwarves make it to the mountain rather than the whole troop that left Bag End at the beginning. Secondly, the Necromancer
storyline, I thought, is getting a bit pointless. It’s interesting, but when the story flicked back to Gandalf at Dol Guldor, it felt a bit draggy.
But, overall, an excellent improvement from An Unexpected Flop! The ending, as Smaug heads towards the Lake, was a neat cliffhanger and it looks set to be a great third film – we’re on the home stretch now, folks! What can we look forward to? Battle of the Five Armies. More Smaug. The Necromancer storyline is resolved. I know, how about a fourth film entitled: A Totally Expected Return Journey?!
What did you think? Was I overly harsh, or did you think it deserved a lower score? Please comment and discuss!