Movie Review: The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug
Stars: Martin Freeman, Ian McKellan, Richard Armitage, Luke Goss, Ken Stott, Graham McTavish, Orlando Bloom, Evangeline Lilly, and Benedict Cumberbatch
Rated PG-13 for extended sequences of intense fantasy action violence, and frightening images, Running time 161 minutes, Adventure/Fantasy/Drama
Compare to: The Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers (2002), Beowulf (2007)
It seems impossible for Peter Jackson to make a film under two and half hours these days. It’s not really surprising given the length of the other four middle earth movies are, but does this one feel like the same duration that it is? Well, that depends on whether or not you’ve got to pee.
So while last year’s The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey may have had one too many nods to the Lord of the Rings Trilogy that made us so familiar with Middle Earth, Desolation picks up where the last one left us and never really misses a beat.
As a continuation of The Hobbit, Bilbo and his Dwarven company are on the run from the band of murderous Orcs led by Azog who still seeks revenge on Thorin Oakenshield and his men for severing one of his arms. But as the Dwarves get closer to their homeland to take it back from Smaug the Dragon, they’ll encounter many more dangerous species of Middle Earth while an even more sinister force grows in the background.
As far as the story is concerned, there’s really only so much to say and you know the drill by now in these Tolkien stories-turned-movies: A bunch of short people and a wizard dodging death to make it to an even more dangerous place and you see all kinds of weirdos and freaks along the way. The most grateful part of this as a fan is that we don’t have to go through all the introductions again and can just jump right back into it.
Last December’s Hobbit was well done film-making and really only suffered from a “See who it is? Look it’s Frodo! You know him” -type nostalgia that we really didn’t need. Desolation seems to just get it that we don’t need more “Guess who’s back!” intros and just get into it. Though I can see that being a complaint by some.
While I wouldn’t recommend seeing a sequel before an original, if you were to just see this one, you wouldn’t have a single clue as to what’s going on. Nothing is explained, gone over, or discussed- the characters are just constantly moving. This isn’t a complaint as someone whose seen the previous films and I personally appreciate it, but newcomers won’t be able to enjoy what could easily come off as one huge messy spectacle.
Another aspect that may leave this wide open for criticism is the ending that just cuts off in the middle of a scene. I was leaning over to my friend to joke “What if they just ended it here?”.…and then they did.
I would think that a movie of any kind, even a sequel, should be able to stand on it’s own in one way or another even if it is a trilogy to be continued in the third act. But once again, as someone familiar with the movies, it’s somewhat expected.
While several actors have noteworthy presences throughout the film, it’s the use of life-like CGI and Benedict Cumberpatch’s voice lent to Smaug the Dragon that steals the show. While Jar Jar has always been the ugly step child of fusing CGI and acting seamlessly into story, Smaug could be placed as whatever member of the family everybody wishes would visit more.
Massive and sinister, it doesn’t really get old watching him taunt poor lil’ Martin Freeman though you know it can’t go on forever, though that’s part of the fun- what exactly does take place after this and before The Fellowship. Many already know but the rest of us will just wait until next year.
Positives- Fun and fantastical- you can get lost in the craziness of elves and monsters. All ages film; very violent yet never loses sense of fun.
Negatives- Starts at the end of the last film and ends in the middle of the action giving the feeling that it’s not its own movie, run time could be too long for some, some CGI shots are blatant CGI.
Side note: Look for two cameos in the film- Director Peter Jackson and Stephen Colbert.