Peter Jackson at his best…

When you consider The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug is the middle part of this lengthy trilogy, you could be forgiven for expecting a slightly lesser film, as can happen with three parters, and was the case, in my opinion, with The Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers, but in this instant was even better than its part one. I was in awe at the visual feast and storytelling of the first part of The Hobbit, but was even more impressed by how much better the story came across thanks to Jackson’s wizardry (pun very much intended).

Where An Unexpected Journey felt a little bloated, when they had the long intro and then sang in Bilbo’s home, that’s all been tightened up now that the formalities of introducing the large party of Dwarves is out the way or the explanation of why they need to go to Erebor, the Lonely Mountain. Not that those scenes weren’t entertaining, but they did slow things down a bit and felt more like part of a Blu-ray extended edition.

I wonder what they’ll feel like on an actual extended edition? I’ve watched the Rings extended trilogy countless times and never tire of them, but I’m just not seeing myself watching the first forty-five minutes of The Hobbit part one with the same sort of fondness.

The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug
Directed by
Peter Jackson
Ian McKellen, Martin Freeman, Richard Armitage
Release Date
13 December 2013
Nav’s Grade: A+

We last saw the Dwarves, led by Thorin Oakenshield and Gandalf, along with Bilbo Baggins, escape the clutches of the Goblin King to continue on to the next leg of their journey. They’re being hunted by Thorin’s old enemy, Azog, who was thought dead when Thorin cut his arm off during a great battle. After parting company with Gandalf, who has arranged to meet up with them later, Azog has had his men track the group to Mirkwood Forest, that’s teaming with giant spiders. The Dwarves find themselves in trouble, but Bilbo uses the Ring of Power to make himself invisible and free the group from the cobwebs they’ve been wrapped up in, but before they can escape, the Elves show up, kill the remaining spiders and take them prisoner.

There are two scenes that were extremely good at this point in the film; one is amusing that involves Legolas and a Dwarf with a family photo, and the other comes right before the Elves show up. It’s when Bilbo accidentally drops the Ring and a spider gets in the way of him getting to it. Suddenly Bilbo savagely and uncharacteristically attacks the spider with such ferocity, that he surprises himself when he thinks about it afterwards, and begins to realize the power the Ring is starting to have over him, and gives us a hint of how things must have developed for he and the previous owner of the “precious.”

Along with seeing Legolas again, we’re introduced to several new characters in The Desolation of Smaug, like Tauriel (Evangeline Lilly), a Wood-Elf from Mirkwood who takes a fancy to one of the Dwarves, even though she and Legolas are an item. Master of Laketown (Stephen Fry) is another along with Girion (Luke Evans), a boatsman who rescues the Dwarves after a very long chase sequence where they escape from the Elves. The barrel scene is a brilliant example of direction, editing, cinematography and choreography coming together to create a most memorable spectacle.

Smaug (voiced by Benedict Cumberbatch) is one of the best and meanest looking dragons I have ever seen, as he stomps about his lair mocking Bilbo and the Dwarves. Along with the barrel scene, the ending with the dragon was breathtaking and exciting, as the group attempt to steal back the Arkenstone but have a tough time as they are chased and almost burned alive on several occasions.

Oscar-winning cinematographer, Andrew Lesnie, knows how to do Jackson’s vision justice, with stunning camera work, bringing the scenes alive, and with editor Jabez Olssen, have helped create a fantasy film that’s every bit good as The Lord of the Rings trilogy. If you loved part one of The Hobbit, then be prepared to love part two even more. I know I certainly did.

by Nav Qateel