It’s almost Boxing Day so that means another trip to Middle Earth. This is a beloved tradition for most of the people I know and I suspect most of you will be seeing the latest instalment of The Hobbit regardless of what the reviews say. Nonetheless I am here to give you my thoughts.
Right off the bat I’ll say I enjoyed The Desolation of Smaug a fair bit more than I did Unexpected Journey..
Finally after a year of waiting we continue the story of Gandalf, Bilbo, Thorin and all the other dwarves we barely know the names of. Unexpected Journey was a decent starting point that ended just as the journey was really beginning (as Fellowship did). With all the introductions out of the way we’re set for a far more exciting and enjoyable middle chapter.
I personally have never read The Hobbit (yes, I know). I actually felt this was a benefit as I wasn’t riled up by any of the many changes to the story like many of my friends were. Really, when they decided to make 3 films out of one tiny book you knew this was going to be a different beast. There’s a whole heap of foreshadowing to the Lord of the Rings trilogy throughout, we have extra scenes from Tolkien’s other works and we have an entirely new character too. So perhaps divorce yourself from the source a little bit going in (like I do every time I catch a comic book adaptation). Film adaptations are never the same as the source. We should all be used to this by now.
I found Evangeline Lilly’s Tauriel to be a welcome addition. Let’s face it, without her we don’t have a single female character of note in the whole trilogy. Sure, her love triangle was a little tacked on and not necessary but she was far more interesting than the returning Legolas. The elvish pair get a whole bunch of fun and inventive action scenes dispensing many an Orc throughout. Let’s face it, Legolas’ job in the LOTR trilogy was pretty much to do all the cool action scenes.
Speaking of the action, I found it all to be a lot more fun this time around. There’s a few really fun set pieces you’ll be giggling through as the action unfolds. It’s a little slapstick at times but it I feel this is a better tone for the children’s story The Hobbit originally was.
Martin Freeman’s Bilbo continues to be endearing but is a little pushed to the side at times. Thorin takes a bigger role and we get some solo adventuring with the always amazing Gandalf. The star of the whole damn film for me has to be Smaug himself. Just perfectly realised in every sense. He’s an intimidating and impressive villain and Benedict Cumberbatch totally nails the voice work.
I caught the film in IMAX and in 3D. I don’t really feel the 3D added a whole lot, which is generally the case. Sadly my preview wasn’t in HFR so I may have to check it out again to see how the new technology has faired a year later. The movie clocks in at around 3 hours again which is a little bit of a slog but we’re all pretty prepared for that after 4 films of similar length. To be honest I was never bored and the Smaug-tastic second half is the best part of the whole thing by far.
All in all this is a far better film than our first chapter and it will leave you desperately wanting the final chapter. Curse that cliffhanger…