(This is a a really late review since the movie was out last year. I wrote it before this blog was created. But I hope it will be beneficial to the audience who have not watched the movie yet.)
As an avid fan of J.R.R Tolkien’s fantasy work, I was hesitant to accept my friend’s invitation to watch The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug — the second part in the trilogy of movie adaptation based on the novel The Hobbit. The movie diverts tremendously from the original plot; however, surprisingly, I found two hours and forty one minutes in the movie theater (including the last eleven minutes playing the beautiful soundtrack) enjoyable.
The movie continues to depict the epic adventure of the shoeless, half-human-height hobbit Bilbo Baggins (Martin Freeman) and another thirteen boisterous dwarves led by the legendary Thorin Oakenshield (Richard Armitagein). Persuaded by Gandalf (Ian McKellen) the last wizard in Middle Earth, they embark on the quest to obtain the Arkenstone, reclaiming the Dwarf Kingdom of Erebor, which was conquered by the dragon Smaug (Benedict Cumberbatch) a hundred and fifty years ago. Facing many unexpected challenges in the adventure to the Lonely Mountain, where Smaug has been guarding the mountain of gold for the hundred-plus years, the group has to fight against the aggressive, grotesque Orcs, the hideous giant spiders in the Mirkwood and the Wood elves led by Legolas (Orlando Bloom) and Tauriel (Evangeline Lilly).
With the magic Ring of invisibility he unexpectedly catches in Goblin Tunnels, Bilbo helps rescue the other dwarves from one danger after another. The company, after escaping from the imprisonment of the Elves, meets Bard (Luke Evans)– the descendent of the ruler of Dale who possesses the last arrow that can kill Smaug. Bard smuggles them into Lake-Town where the residents of Dale cheer for the come-back of Thorin, awaiting for a rich future with the treasure the dwarves promise to obtain from the mountain. Bilbo discovers the hidden key hole that opens way into the mountain, bringing the group to the confrontation with Smaug who claims, “I will not part with a single coin.”
Commented by many viewers as an action movie with characters from The Hobbit rather than the adaptation of novel, the work has indeed many added details compared to the original plot. Nevertheless, I find the changes in the story acceptable and appropriate. The storyline is more straightforward than The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey’s. Furthermore, since The Hobbit is a book for children, the plot is not complicated enough to appeal to adult audiences; thus, a depart from the original events is necessary. Peter Jackson, the director of the trilogy, has added characters such as Legolas (who only appears in the Lord of the Rings novels) and Tauriel – an entirely invented character. He also has the orcs interfere in the adventure numerously, develops more of Bard’s characterization and sparks the first light of the love story triangle amongst Tauriel, Legolas, Kili. If the readers merely know about dwarves as greedy creatures with odd appearances from the book, Kili’s relationship with Tauriel adds more depth to their personalities. While Bard is merely introduced at the end of the novel through several chapters, Petere Jackson narrates more about his life, portraying him as a wise and courageous father. These additions make the story more thrilling and emotionally satisfying to viewers.
Moreover, the acting of the entire cast is amazing. Martin Freeman is incredibly impressive. He has successfully portrayed a homebody hobbit who goes through great transformation, from one who hardly gets into adventure into a courageous so-called smuggler rescuing the dwarves. His facial expressions and clumsy manners are a treasure. With the sepulchral voice, Benedict Cumberbatch, co-starring with Martin Freeman in the BBC television show Sherlock, also sensibly breathes life into the computer-created dragon.
The cinematography, created by the Oscar winner Andrew Lesnie is indeed a masterpiece. The background scenery and extensive computer-generated imagery draw the viewers into the breathless adventure in the theater. Furthermore, the film crew does an outstanding job in the costumes and make-up for the characters in the movie. The wonderful soundtracks from Howard Shore are also a highlight. In fact, the visual effect, sound editing and sound mixing teams have received the 2014 Academy Award nominations for their brilliant work.
Finding the movie an incredible experience, I however recall one detail in the movie illogical. Smaug, the dragon that claims “My teeth are swords, my claws are spears. My wings are hurricanes” cannot manage to kill even one dwarf in the Lonely Mountain and finally leaves them, flying to the Lake-town. The movie also has too many Orcs, who are not even mentioned in the novel. According to review “In the Middle of Middle-earth” from The New York Times, the writer states,“There are, once again, too many busy, uninterestingly staged battles that lean heavily on obvious, sometimes distracting digital sorcery.” I agree with this opinion, as I find the numerous fighting scenes unnecessary and distracting from the storyline.
Many fans of J.R.R Tolkien’s work may find the movie disturbing; yet, to people who have not read the book yet or do not care about the changes from the original, The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug is indeed an enjoyable experience that I recommend without any reservation.