The title packs some serious punch: THE DESOLATION OF SMAUG… Hell yeah! But does the second installment in the (perhaps unnecessarily) elongated Hobbit trilogy live up to it’s fiery name?
Bilbo and company complete the last leg of their journey to reclaim The Lonely Mountain and face off with “Smaug the Stupendous”. Meanwhile, Gandalf’s focus turns to the growing darkness creeping upon Middle Earth.
There you have it. I successfully delivered the storyline in two sentences… Shame Peter Jackson couldn’t do the same in two hours.
Kicking off with a warm and fuzzy flashback in Bree (cue Jackson’s comical cameo), THE DESOLATION OF SMAUG starts off strong.
There are some promising sweeping scenic shots (a massive relief after the overuse of green screen in AN UNEXPECTED JOURNEY), and things get cracking swiftly. So swiftly in fact that the character of Beorn is sadly left short-changed… but after the super long exposition in AUJ, I was happy to forgive this.
With welcome pace, spectacular mountain scenery and delightfully subtle comedy, the opening hour is dressed to impress. The phrase ‘this is better than the first one’ even came to mind… but this thought soon faded as momentum slowed.
At 161minutes in length, number two in the trilogy suffers the same overlong feel as it’s predecessor.
The added appendices content certainly fleshes out the otherwise simple story, and offers a more in-depth understanding to those unwilling to tackle Tolkien’s hefty Middle Earth literature. It also creates a solid link between THE HOBBIT and LORD OF THE RINGS. However, the focus on the growing darkness and impending war ultimately makes Thorin’s quest appear a little selfish and…well… pretty darn small fry. Thus THE HOBBIT films (to me) present a major flaw.
Add to this the random love triangle between the completely fabricated elf Tauriel, Legolas and the one and only sexy dwarf, and Bilbo’s story becomes almost a sideline act. This is a mistake.
While Frodo will always remain my first love, Bilbo is a much more engaging character (sorry Frodo!), particularly under the masterful performance skills of Martin Freeman. It is such a waste to keep his screen time so disappointingly short.
Like it’s predecessor, CGI is definitely the order of the day with this film. While we are treated to a few ‘real’ orcs, and some scattered location shots/physical sets, it’s nothing close to the grand scale we enjoyed in LOTR.
Sure the CGI is top notch, but something is arguably lost when a creature/landscape is born in the digital world (go ahead; call me old fashioned!)
Having said that, Smaug is utterly perfect, blending motion capture and CGI to impressive effect.
The soundtrack is solid, but far from masterful. While I can hum every theme for every race from LOTR, I would struggle to sing a note from the first two Hobbit films (super long dwarf song aside!) I’m hoping composer Howard Shore is saving his best til last.
Despite my perhaps overly critical analysis(!) THE DESOLATION OF SMAUG is highly enjoyable and looks great…even if it is almost completely created in a computer.
Will I go see it again? Yes. Will I buy the DVD? Probably. But there is something missing. There’s a lack of ‘spirit’ in the film and, despite my love for Middle Earth, it somehow fails to sweep me up for the ride I so long to take…
THE DESOLATION OF SMAUG: I rate it 7 stars.