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“The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug” is a Solid Continuation of the Journey

December 12, 2013

By John Corrado

The Desolation of Smaug PosterI have been looking forward to the release of The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug since the credits rolled on An Unexpected Journey last year, and this solidly built sequel lives up to the promise of that fantastic adventure.

Director Peter Jackson’s second instalment in his blockbuster adaptation of J.R.R. Tolkein’s beloved novel is filled from start to finish with exciting action and big screen spectacle, opening tonight in a variety of formats.

The film opens with a flashback that shows us the first meeting between the wizard Gandalf (Ian McKellen) and dwarf king Thorin Oakenshield (Richard Armitage), a year prior to the events of the first film.  The story starts right where the first one left off, with Bilbo Baggins (Martin Freeman) and the band of thirteen dwarves continuing the journey to reclaim their stolen homeland.  They have already passed through the Misty Mountains, but this time they face another set of dangers, including an army of terrifying orcs bent on destruction and a frightening dragon named Smaug (Benedict Cumberbatch).

While the general consensus so far seems to be that this is a superior film to the first instalment, and many will agree due to the larger scope, I think An Unexpected Journey is still my personal favourite between the two.  Although I don’t think The Desolation of Smaug surpasses its predecessor, this is still a solidly built and impressively staged continuation of the journey that once again drops us into the centre of Middle Earth and leaves us genuinely excited for the next chapter.  The production design continues to be spectacular, with the cinematography of New Zealand and special effects creating a visually striking world that is easy to get lost in.

Because the film literally cuts to black in the middle of a scene, I think The Desolation of Smaug will play even better in conjunction with the third instalment, a bridge between films that will easily grow more impressive as part of the whole picture.  Clocking in at a whopping 161 minutes, the length of this sequel admittedly feels grandiose, but I was so swept up in the action that I hardly minded the hefty running time, and by the time that final scene rolls around, I was actually surprised that things had ended so suddenly.  The 3D also adds some good depth, although I can’t comment on the much buzzed about higher frame rate, because that version wasn’t screened for press in advance.

These films are built around big screen spectacle, and The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug never disappoints in that regard, providing a sense of adventure that plays out on an epic scale.  Peter Jackson stages several impressive action sequences that push right to the edge of the PG-13 rating, including a battle with giant spiders early in the film.  An ingenious escape and chase sequence using barrels is a delight for the senses, as the arrows shot by elves Legolas (Orlando Bloom) and Tauriel (Evangeline Lilly) often appear to pop right off the screen.  This all leads up to the last hour of the film, when the title dragon is finally revealed during a visually striking sequence set atop mountains of gold and treasure, flapping his wings in glorious widescreen and breathing fire into the audience.

This very much feels like the second act in a larger story, and for that The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug is a solid sequel that lives up to the promise of the fantastic first film, delivering plenty of exciting sequences that deserve to be experienced on the big screen.  I like what Peter Jackson has delivered so far with these films, and now I really can’t wait to go There and Back Again next December.

2 Comments leave one →
  1. December 13, 2013 5:18 pm

    The story is finally feeling like it’s actually going somewhere now, I just hope that they don’t screw it up in the next, hopefully last installment. Nice review John.


    • December 14, 2013 1:34 pm

      Good review, Dan! I like to keep faith that Middle Earth is in good hands with Peter Jackson. 🙂

      Thanks for commenting!

      -John C.


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