I seemed to be in the minority with The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey. I absolutely adored that movie. I didn’t feel it was slow at all, with my only complaints being the occasional goofy moments that didn’t fit with the rest of the film and the lack of real character from any of the dwarves besides Thorin. If The Desolation of Smaug fixed those problems, then we would have a perfect Hobbit film. While I’m happy to report that The Desolation of Smaug fixed those issues, it created some more. I don’t feel it’s as good as the first one (once again in the minority) but that doesn’t stop Smaug from being a fantastic fantasy film and one well worth seeing on the big screen.
The Desolation of Smaug picks up at the end of An Unexpected Journey. Bilbo, Gandalf, and the dwarves are continuing their quest to reclaim the dwarf kingdom of Erebor from the dragon Smaug. Along the way they face spiders, elves, orcs, and, of course, a dragon.
Right off the bat, let’s talk about this movie’s pacing. It’s all over the pace (I misspelled “place” but I’m keeping that). This movie slows down to a halt a few times and, unfortunately, can last up to 30 minutes at a time. That two and a half hour runtime was not needed as this film simply didn’t have enough story to cover that amount of time. You could’ve told this story in two hours tops.
While that’s a major issue with the movie, the rest of the film was spectacular. The goofiness from the first film is gone, with this film having a consistent semi-dark tone. Some of the CGI added to the goofiness of the first film as well, and that certainly isn’t here. The barrel scene is definitely the most goofy part of the film and that scene was just excellent.
The supporting cast is also greatly improved. Some of these dwarves had some great moments. Bombur was just awesome although Kili was the standout sharing great chemistry with Evangeline Lilly’s character. Oh, and Evangeline Lilly was brilliant. She is a badass and her character just added a great atmosphere to every scene. One of the highlights of the film. Luke Evans as Bard also does a good job although Bard isn’t that interesting of a character so Luke Evans didn’t have much to work with here.
The real standout though is Smaug. Not only is he just a great special effect but he is menacing as all hell. His scene with Bilbo towards the end of the film was just phenomenal, bringing back great memories of Bilbo’s one-on-one confrontation with Gollum in the first film. Here’s hoping Martin Freeman gets another scene talking to a CGI character in There and Back Again.
The performances in the film were also great. I already touched upon Evangeline Lilly, Aidan Turner (Kili), and Stephen Hunter (Bombur) but Martin Freeman is just fantastic in this film. The One Ring is starting to take its affect on the poor little Hobbit and Martin Freeman nailed the emotion in every scene. Very reminiscent of Elijah Wood’s development in The Lord of the Rings trilogy.
The rest of the dwarves, especially Richard Armitage’s Thorin, were great and Ian McKellen is unsurprisingly fantastic (although absent for a majority of the film) and Sylvester McCoy as Radagast is still a delight. Orlando Bloom returns from The Lord of the Rings trilogy and once again does a fine job.
Finally, this movie is a sight to behold in IMAX 3D. Good 3D is a rarity and The Hobbit thankfully shines. The movie is consistently solid in 3D, even having a few scenes where the images really pop out of the screen. A must see in IMAX 3D (although the film does not take up the whole screen).
While it doesn’t top An Unexpected Journey thanks to its poor pacing, The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug is nothing short of awesome. It improves upon An Unexpected Journey’s weaknesses and has some great additions. The wait for There and Back Again will be painful but hopefully it will all be worth the wait.