The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug – Review

A Truly Epic Middle Earth Adventure with Peter Jackson’s Signature!

Thanks to Roadshow Films, we had the chance to see Peter Jackson’s highly anticipated blockbuster The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug at the Sydney premiere of the film and before its national release. This is our review of the film, but – as usual – no matter what we say, we recommend that you still go to your local cinema and see the film because there is no better critic than yourself!

The-Hobbit-The-Desolation-of-Smaug IMAGE 1The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug finds Bilbo Baggins (Martin Freeman) along with his companions Gandalf (Ian McKellen) and the brave group of dwarves under the command of Thorin (Richard Armitage), continuing their quest to reclaim the land that once was taken away from the Dwarf Empire. Their travels take them to Lake-town and eventually to the Lonely Mountain, where they must face the greatest threat of their lives: the ferocious dragon Smaug (voiced by Benedict Cumberbatch).

On their way to Lonely Mountain the brave group will have to face Orcs, a skin-changer named Beorn and the deadly giant spiders of Milkwood. They also encounter the Elfs led by Legolas (Orlando Bloom) and Tauriel (Evangeline Lilly), who imprison the Dwarves without knowing that their destiny will be shared later on.

legolas the desolation of smaug1Despite the mixed reviews for 2012’s The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey (which we personally loved), director Peter Jackson strikes back with The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug in what could be one of his best films so far. This second instalment in the Hobbit-trilogy shows us Tolkien’s universe like never before, including iconic locations like “Bree”, the return of a couple of beloved characters and a ridiculous amount of action, mostly courtesy of the dwarves and Elfs.

Technically the film looks impeccable, with stunning photography and even better set-designs that will make die hard-fans of the books feel like the illustrations by Alan Lee or John Howe are coming to alive on the big screen in front of them, especially during the action in Lake-town and around the Lonely Mountain. Terrific special effects and of course the soundtrack by the always amazing Howard Shore complete the visual feast that is The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug.

The-Hobbit-The-Desolation-of-Smaug IMAGE 2Performances are once again great, with a strong Richard Armitage reprising his role of Thorin, and Martin Freeman taking Bilbo to the next level; this time the heroic Hobbit is hiding the mysterious ring he found at Gollum’s lair from his comrades, and he’s using it more than once to save the day, with no idea of the horrendous consequences that his actions will have.Ian McKellen’s performance requires no further analysis since he simply IS Gandalf, and he embraces the character in every frame of the film in another flawless performance that is a joy to see, no matter how much screentime he has.

The-Hobbit-The-Desolation-of-Smaug IMAGE 3New characters are a plus, and so are the actors behind them, starting with Evangeline Lilly’s Tauriel, a character that steals the film in every single scene with her charm and also with her fighting skills that must have pushed the popular ‘Lost’-actress to her limits- something that didn’t seem to bother her at all, as she delivers a flawless performance. The character of Tauriel, which was created specifically for the films, is so well-written and performed, that she even steals the spotlight from Bloom’s Legolas more than once.  Luke Evans’ Bard, descendant of Girion, the Lord of Dale, joins Lilly’s Tauriel in the ‘list of new characters, also with an impeccable performance full of mystery, that leaves the door open for what will happen with him in the next chapter of this trilogy.

The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug manages to achieve a perfect balance between action, drama, plot twists and sufficient screentime for all characters. There seems to be time for everything, and that includes more screen time for some of the dwarves in comparison with the previous film, including a kick ass-action by Bombur (Stephen Hunter) when he defeats the Orcs during the iconic and impressive barrel escape-sequence.

The-Hobbit-The-Desolation-of-Smaug IMAGE 4The way WETA has succeeded in bringing Smaug to life deserves special mention; the intimidating dragon looks visually so impressive, that it is easily one of the best CGI characters ever made for the Hobbit & LORT-franchises, up there with Gollem if not better. The guys from WETA once again outdid themselves with an uncanny level of detail and realism for this legendary character; every single scale is perfectly textured and moves independently, and they even got the reflections of the gold around the digital dragon completely right. And what better way to give Smaug a darker touch than to give Benedict Cumberbatch, one of the best actors of the last years, the honor to be the voice behind the dragon, adding his iconic deep and quiet voice to this fearless character.

There are thousands of things we could say about this film, but we rather not spoil anything more than the necessary bits, as this is a film that will drag you back into the realm of Tolkien’s magical Middle Earth once again, forcing you to stay at the edge of your seat during the almost 3 hours of runtime – which actually feel a lot shorter than that. The epic ending also leaves the door wide open for 2014’s The Hobbit: There and Back Again. Get ready to be blown away!

The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug – opens in Australian cinemas 26 December 2013