Smaug steals the show.
Before you read this, note that it is a review I wrote much earlier this year, so the writing may not be fantastic; but I have edited through it and tried to improve it as much as possible, so enjoy!
After watching various impressive trailers of the film, I expected great things from The Desolation of Smaug. And I’m glad to say I wasn’t disappointed.
This second film offers more thrills and adventure, and doesn’t have the hour long intro. The action is intense right from the start and is paced brilliantly with dramatic scenes scattered throughout the 2 and a half hours running time; not impeding the progress of the story or the other segments of the film, instead, funnels it on – in exciting ways. But it doesn’t just jump into them: the transitions between scenes work brilliantly with the superb cinematography — and often the patented sweeping long shots, which show off the spectacular places in which the film takes place perfectly. It’s pretty much down to good directing by Peter Jackson.
And, yes! The sets and all that! They were perfect. Mirkwood was… Perfect. Lake-town was… Perfect. And the Lonely Mountain itself? Perfect. And then there’s the sound, and that’s also fantastic.
The story flows fantastically with some great character development of characters that were very much side-lined in the first film: like Kili – with his interesting romantic side plot with Tauriel, a female elf, who seems a great addition to the film. However, some of the dwarves were still left untouched in that department, just travelling with the rest of them, not really doing or saying anything of interest. Nevertheless, as a unit, the development is interesting: especially in the dragon scenes towards the end, where they act as heroes instead of the bumbling idiots they were portrayed as in the first film. But I’m not saying that was a bad thing given the slightly more comedic feel to the first film, I’m saying it’s a good thing that they were not portrayed as ‘bumbling idiots’ in the second film because of the more melodramatic atmosphere it has.
Most characters were portrayed brilliantly with great and expressive acting, for the most part keeping the characters true to the book (but tweaked when they needed to be). One actor that particularly stood out was, of course, Martin Freeman as Bilbo Baggins; alongside Ian Mckellen, Orlando Bloom and Luke Evans. Also, Richard Armitage’s portrayal of Thorin was especially good, on par with Viggo Mortensen’s Aragorn – which is a pretty impressive feet. But these performances all paled in significance to Benedict Cumberbatch’s incredible voice acting as Smaug. It was brilliantly expressive and stylized, and fit my favourite dragon perfectly, giving him an additional menacing air. I honestly can’t think of anything negative to say about it; it’s truly awesome. Smaug really does steal the show; well, you’d want him to when he’s the main advertising point of the film, in its title and the main focus of the film when it gets into the last hour and a half. Anyway! Benedict Cumberbatch, although I hate to say it, may well deserve the hype he gets (based on this performance, anyway).
Furthermore, Luke Evans is fantastic as Bard: who is a fantastic character himself. Also, Steven Fry’s appearance is completely fitting, giving his character’s situation.
Aside from the characters and their portrayals; the visuals and the 3D of the film were nothing short of spectacular – some aspects even impressing me more than Gravity (and that was impressive!). Although, the CGI was a little overused at various points where models would have possibly served as the better choice – of course considering whether the use of models is realistic. The Lord of the Rings seemed to do a good job with it, anyway.
Of course you’re wondering: did it drag with its length like the first one? Well, it is a similarly long film, but doesn’t really feel like it is; because of the stimulating action throughout and its fantastic pacing. So, yeah, it doesn’t drag at all.
This film is obviously trying to be as good as The Lord of the Rings, and it is so agonizingly close to doing it; but that isn’t the way I want to think about it, because no film in my mind can quite live up to the perfection of The Lord of the Rings trilogy. But this Hobbit film is pretty damn incredible.
PS. The best parts of the film are in Mirkwood and scenes towards the end involving Smaug.
In The Hobbit: the Desolation of Smaug, Smaug is the centerpiece of what is a fantastic thrill ride, with the perfect blend of action and narrative paced perfectly, helped by some superb acting and amazing cinematography. The only thing inherintly wrong with this film I can think of is that it has a tad too much CGI; but, what the hell: it’s a must see, the best Hobbit film by far and one of my favourite films in general.
So I give it: 96/100.