THE HOBBIT: THE DESOLATION OF SMAUG
Regular visitors will be aware that I didn’t like the first installment of this bloated adaptation of JRR Tolkien’s The Hobbit. The Unexpected Journey ironically had too many familiar elements and tropes taken from The Lord of the Rings trilogy, as if director Peter Jackson was at pains to remind us of the association between the two trilogies!
(Spoilers appear below!)
This sequel opens with a nod to Fellowship of the Ring with a Peter Jackson cameo (munching on a carrot again!) and an expository first scene flashback detailing how Gandalf the Grey (Ian McKellen) first meets Dwarf heir apparent Thorin Oakenshield (Richard Armitage) to set up the movie before returning us to contemporary action.
From then on, the movie narrative brings the party of Gandalf, 13 dwarves and the titular character Bilbo Baggins (Martin Freeman) into contact with various denizens of Middle Earth viz. the skin-changer Beorn, giant spiders, wood elves of Mirkwood – including Legolas (Orlando Bloom) and Tauriel (Evangeline Lilly), Bard of Laketown (Luke Evans) and ultimately, the dragon Smaug (Benedict Cumberbatch).
Halfway through, Gandalf leaves the party to investigate the Necromancer at Dol Guldur – with Randagast the Brown (Sylvester McCoy) – which leads to significant discoveries and consequently plot inconsistencies with the Lord of the Rings (more of that later). The party itself eventually makes it to the Lonely Mountain where they confront Smaug which leads to a final cliffhanger to be resolved in the final installment.
Overall, TDOS is an improvement over TUJ with better pacing and breath-taking action sequences (mainly, the party’s escape from the Elves and the Orcs by water and the epic climatic battle with Smaug) to be savoured. To be candid, enjoyment of these scenes may be dependent on whether you can get used to the 3D High Frame Rate that Jackson employed for the Hobbit trilogy. Viewed on an IMAX screen, I must confess was a rather spellbinding experience at times, the high definition did remove the conventional cinematic feel but I suspect once a viewer gets ‘acclimatized’, it’s a wondrous movie spectacle to behold.
Second time round, the dwarves seem less annoying and the characters appear to be coming into their own somewhat. In general, Jackson’s deft storytelling skills – plainly evident in LOTR – are strongly present here in TDOS and much of the movie is simply enthralling.
However, the main issue I have with TDOS is in the reveal that the Necromancer is actually Sauron. Alright, of course, most of the audience would have guessed this from the first movie but the fact that Gandalf discovers this and also that the Ringwraiths have been released throw the opening section of the Fellowship of the Ring into disarray. Why then did Gandalf have to leave for Gondor to find out more about the Ring and its connection to Sauron and why did he need Saruman to inform him that the Ringwraiths have been summoned by Sauron and are searching for the Ring? Sloppy writing, if you ask me.
Well, hopefully these questions are addressed in the final installment The Hobbit: There and Back Again coming out in December 2014.