Many people were nervous when Peter Jackson wanted to make two movies out of The Hobbit, and it only deepened when three were discussed. The first movie was pretty divisive – Tolkien purists disliked the changes, and the added parts with the council and the Necromancer bothered some folks. Others felt that if they got the ‘Riddles in the Dark’ part right, much could be forgiven. Well, there’s plenty more for the purists to grind their teeth over, but in the end, The Desolation of Smaug has a lot going for it.
Things that work for me:
- The elves. Tauriel is gorgeous and tough. The surprising flirtation (no spoilers) actually works. As for Legolas, maybe it’s different makeup, or Orlando Bloom being that much older, but he seems a bit tougher himself. And Lee Pace as Thranduil has me dying to see him as Ronan the Accuser. Just great.
- Smaug. His look is definitely based on some of the illustrations out there, and the Cumberbatch voice works as you’d expect.
- Bilbo. As usual, Martin Freeman’s mannerisms are perfect, though he’s still a bit too good with Sting and fighting in general. (Annalee Newitz has an interesting take on that at io9) And yes, you do see how the weapon gets named.
- Bard. Despite the changes to him as far as his role in Laketown, I think Luke Evans makes an excellent Bard, who will be able to play off well against Thorin and Thranduil in the future.
Things that bothered me:
- Thorin. He’s a bit too friendly. I realize there may be a marketing reason to make him more likable, but it’s going to make the third movie turns for the character harder to swallow.
- The Necromancer. Look, I love Gandalf to pieces, and I liked Sylvester McCoy’s Radagast, but every time the movie cuts away to this plot, it feels like a delay. We’re here for Bilbo, right? It’s in the title.
- The Action. While some of the fights had some interesting shots or ‘ooooooh’ moments, they all overstayed their welcome. I’m still scratching my head at the final set piece.
Did I enjoy The Desolation of Smaug? Yep. It’s a shade better than the first one, but still has the same problems to varying degrees. Your ability to look past those problems for an enjoyable time should be the decider on whether or not you check this out. It was worth it to see for me. I really like Martin Freeman, and I’m curious to see how they handle the Battle of the Five Armies in the next movie.