‘The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug’ is the second in a trilogy of the cherished and highly successful masterpiece ‘The Hobbit,’ by J.R.R. Tolkien. It is adapted for the big screen by Award®-winning filmmaker Peter Jackson.
The trilogy continues the adventure of the title character Bilbo Baggins (Martin Freeman) as he journeys with the Wizard Gandalf (Ian McKellen) and thirteen Dwarves, led by Thorin Oakenshield (Richard Armitage), on an epic quest to reclaim the Lonely Mountain and the lost Dwarf Kingdom of Erebor. The three films tell a continuous story set in Middle-earth 60 years before ‘The Lord of the Rings.’
Once again, Bilbo Baggins and his companions must face treacherous creatures in their quest to regain Erebor. In fact, Bilbo is the smallest of them all, who rises to the challenge when all is lost. For example, a swarm of giant Spiders in the treacherous forest of Mavings attacks and Bilbo comes to the rescue and make it possible for them to band to together in order to survive this trial of the expedition. His antics prove that Hobbits are indeed a people who are small in stature but big in courage.
Martin Freeman portrays the spry creature from the Shire who is harboring a deadly secret from the group. His words delivered in sarcastic comedic quips with mischievous facial expressions create a character that is smart and funny. The audience is drawn to this central character to the story.
The international ensemble cast is led by Ian McKellen who returns as Gandalf the Grey. He is a wise wizard who leads and provides counsels to the travelers along the journey. Other members include, Benedict Cumberbatch, Evangeline Lilly, Lee Pace, Luke Evans, Ken Stott, James Nesbitt, and Orlando Bloom as Legolas.
The story differs from the original work of Tolkien as the cast of characters is expanded to include a beloved character from the ‘Lord of the Rings’, Legolas, The Elf Prince. Also added, is Evangeline Lilly as Taurein the elf warrior. Loyal followers of Tokein’s work have voiced protest to the addition. They believe that their presence is not needed and that the story can stand on its own merit and should not be altered. Yet, the character’s presence seems to enhance the storyline. It allows for an interesting romance to bridge the gap between two warring groups.
The screenplay for ‘The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug’ is by Fran Walsh and Philippa Boyens and Peter Jackson and Guillermo del Toro. Jackson also produced the film, together with Carolynne Cunningham, Zane Weiner and Fran Walsh. The fruit of their labors is a movie that is two hours and forty-one minutes long. Perhaps, it is the down side of gifted minds of the production team that conjured up and extended scenes in the film. However, true followers of the books, welcome the extended time. It allows them to relish in their most favored fantasy world filled with wizards, dwarfs and hobbits and threats in the form of uniquely evil creatures.
Benedict Cumberbatch takes on the sultry voice of Smaug. The scary and sly words flow smoothly over the audience and draw them into the scene. Although, we are not graced with his physical presence, he is able to convey emotions in a single word that strike chords of anticipation and fear. Because he is an exceptionally talented actor, Cumberbatch is able to noticeably connect with the animated character on the screen and it shows in his hypnotically beguiling voice. It is a great performance by an actor whose only presence on the screen is his voice.
Production took place at Jackson’s own facilities in Miramar, Wellington, and on location around New Zealand. With Jackson at the helm, ‘The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug’ was shot in 3D 48 frames-per-second. The result is a crisp and clean film with vibrant colors. The Computer Generated Images (CGI) created is imagination personified. For example, when we are finally graced with the presence of Smaug, the sight is illuminating and filled with awe. His golden scales glistens and sparkles with vivid detail.
‘The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug’ is a vast improvement from Peter Jackson's installment in the trilogy. Given the character development and attention to story line, it appears that Jackson and company learned from their first outing and sought to improve this piece. The result, is a well made and thoroughly entertaining sequel.
It will be released in High Frame Rate 3D (HFR 3D) in select theaters, other 2D and 3D formats, and IMAX®.