By Dan Metcalf, Jr.
Clipper Film Correspondent
The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug (Warner Bros.)
Rated PG-13 for extended sequences of intense fantasy action violence, and frightening images.
Starring Ian McKellen, Martin Freeman, Richard Armitage, Benedict Cumberbatch (voice), Orlando Bloom, Evangeline Lilly, Luke Evans, Lee Pace, Stephen Fry, Graham McTavish, Ken Stott, Aidan Turner, Dean O'Gorman, Mark Hadlow, Jed Brophy, Adam Brown, John Callen, Peter Hambleton, William Kircher, James Nesbitt, Stephen Hunter, Mikael Persbrandt, Sylvester McCoy, Craig Hall, Ryan Gage, John Bell, Mark Mitchinson, Manu Bennett, Lawrence Makoare, Ben Mitchell, Dallas Barnett.
Written by Peter Jackson, Fran Walsh, Philippa Boyens and Guillermo del Toro, based on The Hobbit by J.R.R. Tolkien.
Directed by Peter Jackson.
Peter Jackson spoiled the world with his transcendent Lord of the Rings trilogy. He was able to transform the complex and detailed imagination of Tolkien's “Middle Earth” into what many consider the greatest film achievement of the past decade. But success can often be the greatest enemy to artisans who insist on creating more art. When Jackson (albeit reluctantly) agreed to adapt The Hobbit – the precursor to the massive LOTR novels - he must have known the pitfalls of success and expectation. Even though he decided to transform a single volume into a film trilogy, Jackson has done a fine job of tying The Hobbit into the LOTR movies – despite several liberties taken with Tolkien's book.
Martin Freeman returns as Bilbo Baggins, the humble hobbit recruited by a band of dwarfs intent on regaining their lost kingdom inside the Lonely Mountain, now inhabited by the gigantic and evil dragon Smaug (voiced by Benedict Cumberbatch). Now in possession of the “ring of power” taken from the dimwitted Gollum in the first Hobbit film, Bilbo uses the ring's ability to make him invisible to help the dwarfs get through the next part of their journey to the Lonely Mountain. The dwarfs are led by Thorin Oakensheild (Richard Armitage), heir to the dwarf kingdom. On their journey, Bilbo and the dwarfs encounter spiders and are eventually captured by a band of elves commanded by Elvenking Thranduil (Lee Pace). A few of the elf military commanders in charge of the dwarf prisoners are Legolas (Orlando Bloom) and Tauriel (Evangeline Lilly from the Lost TV series). With his magic ring, Bilbo helps the dwarfs escape inside wooden barrels that cascade down river rapids. During their wild barrel ride, the dwarfs are attacked by a group of goblins (looking very much like orcs). Legolas and Tauriel battle the goblins as the dwarfs arrive at a great lake near the Lonely Mountain.
Previously, Gandalf (Ian McKellen) parted ways with the dwarfs to deal with the “Necromancer,” an apparently evil spirit inhabiting Dol Guldur and detected by Radogast (Sylvester McCoy), a fellow wizard in the first Hobbit film. While there, Gandalf discovers the true identity of the Necromancer, who turns out to be a very familiar character throughout all the Tolkien world.
Meanwhile, Bilbo and the dwarfs employ Bard (Luke Evans), a resident of Laketown to help them cross the lake and provide them with provisions to continue their journey to the mountain. Bard helps out, but not before the goblin/orcs arrive and try to kill the dwarfs. Legolas and Tauriel also arrive in time to keep the goblins from taking over. The dwarfs reach the mountain, discover the secret passage inside, and send Bilbo to try and steal away the “Arkenstone,” which will help Thorin return to power. Once inside, Bilbo encounters Smaug and tries to outsmart him. When that doesn't work, the dwarfs try killing Smaug, who leaves the cave in a tizzy, bent of destroying Laketown and any other Middle Earth folk who challenge him. That's the cliffhanger moment and end of the film, setting up the final chapter in the trilogy.
The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug is a very good film, even if you haven't read the Tolkien books. In fact, it might be better if you haven't read the books, since Peter Jackson has apparently swayed a lot from Tolkien (certainly in an attempt to make a short novel into three movies). Everything you loved about the LOTR films is there: spectacular storytelling, grand landscapes, incredible special effects, epic battles and loveable characters. Even so, these Hobbit films aren't better than those LOTR movies – but certainly on par with them. Jackson obviously uses any and every opportunity to tie The Hobbit to the original film trilogy, most notably the use of Legolas (who didn't really appear in the Hobbit book) and the positioning of Thorin into a role much like Aragorn (Viggo Mortensen in the LOTR trilogy); a rightful king trying to overcome evil and regain his rightful throne.
All creative license aside, it's important to remember that The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug is a film and should not be considered a direct translation of the novel. It's a very good film based on a very good novel. Tolkien purists need not get their dander up and simply enjoy the grand interpretation. If you are a purist and can't handle a little cinematic fun, it might be better if you wait for the video release.
What to know what Jenniffer thinks of the movie? Check out her review here!