The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey lacked the dark grittiness of The Lord of The Rings series – although that wasn’t surprising considering it is, after all, a children’s novel. The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug brings a bit of darkness into the mix and is far superior to its predecessor. When I say it brings darkness, I don’t mean it went all out in that aspect. What I mean is that as the Hobbit series nears the beginning of The Lord of The Rings series, the tone starts getting darker. Also, the slapstick is noticeably reduced, giving the film a more serious tone.
The film starts off with a quick flashback involving Thorin (Richard Armitage) and Gandalf (Ian McKellen), and then quickly transitions to where the last film left off. The audience is thrown straight into the action as Bilbo (Martin Freeman), Gandalf, and the Dwarves continue their quest towards the Misty Mountains. However, Gandalf leaves the group very early on and isn’t seen with the main cast for the rest of the film.
Bilbo and the Dwarves continue on and encounter dangers such as Orcs and giant spiders in the forest. Soon after dealing with the terrifying spiders, they are imprisoned by elves – one of which is familiar to anyone who has seen The Lord of The Rings trilogy. Legolas (Orlando Bloom) is a welcome addition to the film. His gets quite a bit of screen time and all of the action scenes involving Legolas are extremely exciting to watch. There is also a completely fabricated character for the film named Tauriel (Evangeline Lilly from “Lost“). Lilly does a great job of keeping up with Bloom’s Legolas. She is just as resourceful and skilled as Legolas. Although she is given a love triangle very early on, the outcome wasn’t as bad as I thought it would. It was surprisingly engaging and sweet.
While the rest of the group is on their way to The Misty Mountains, Gandalf goes looking into Dol Guldur to seek out the mysterious evil that is rising. Although brief, Gandalf’s encounter with Sauron was one of my favorite moments of the film. The Dol Guldur scenes are very compelling. In fact, one of the reasons Jackson extended the series was so that he could portray the Battle of Dol Guldur. That will be extremely interesting to see in the final film.
While the encounter with Sauron was one of my favorite moments, my favorite moment of the entire film was the climax with Smaug (Benedict Cumberbatch). The scene with Bilbo and Smaug is everything one could hope for. Cumberbatch (who did the motion capture) did an incredible job portraying Smaug as both threatening and terrifying. Seeing the size of Smaug compared to Bilbo and The Dwarves is incredible. The close-ups of Smaug’s face really showcase the incredible CGI. Smaug might just be the best dragon to ever be put on screen. If there is one thing that will leave you awe-struck, it’s Smaug.
The Desolation of Smaug has better pacing, better CGI, and improved action scenes. Everything seems to be improved from the first film, which I already enjoyed. It has beautiful set pieces and landscapes, which is no surprise. The film ends on a cliffhanger (“I am Fire! I am Death!” -Smaug), which will leave you wanting more. There is still a lot of material left for the final film and I am very excited for the finale to The Hobbit trilogy.