The dwarves, along with Bilbo Baggins and Gandalf the Grey, continue their quest to reclaim Erebor, their homeland, from Smaug. Bilbo Baggins is in possession of a mysterious and magical ring.
You knew this was coming 😉 I reviewed the first movie, The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey (review), last year and more or less enjoyed it. I even posted up a speculation post about what I thought would be covered in this installment. Well, after a year, here we are 🙂 I do apologise if this review is all over the place, been in a sort of flail-mode ever since I came back from the theatre and started typing this review. Contains super massive spoilers if you haven’t seen the movie or read the book
Where to begin? I guess I should start by saying: Smaug was amazing. Hands down the best dragon I have ever seen in movie or television format. I mean, if I was freaking out about seeing his eye open at the end of the first movie, seeing him properly for the first time was just =DDD I didn’t mind the additional action sequence at the end of the movie because we had a chance to see him in action more extensively and what he is capable of (not to mention see more of Erebor itself). Benedict Cumberbatch was fantastic as Smaug, I can see why he was saying it was like being a member of the audience because aside from a few lines, I really couldn’t tell it was his voice, they did a good job with the post-production and just reflecting that enormity, that fluid danger to his character.
But going back to the beginning to the beginning, The Desolation of Smaug is a much different movie than An Unexpected Journey in terms of pacing. I think I mentioned it here in my blog but I was a little concerned about the course of events because despite dividing the story into three movies instead of two, there was the question of how much would be covered in this movie while making sure it still feels like a cohesive, one-unit movie (if that makes any sense; you usually get a feel for these markers when looking at a plot). I had imagined a few possibilities where it would cut off but figured it would be at the start of Smaug’s attack on Laketown. I think I had speculated Smaug blasting them with fire before the fade out but that’s okay, it did leave me at the end of the movie all “I need the third movie. NOW.” lol.
Like any other movie really, because the pacing has picked up, a lot of the early scenes were cut off (you can’t really win here): their time at Beorn’s lodgings, the dwarves’ wanderings through Mirkwood, even their time imprisoned by the Elven King. I was at the very least looking forward to Bombur passing out in Mirkwood and having to be carried for a length of time but it sadly did not materialise here (though I have found out since that they did film the sequence–maybe it’ll appear in the Extended Editon?). However, I did enjoy many of the additional scenes between Thranduil and Legolas, Thranduil and Tauriel, Legolas and Tauriel, Bard in general, etc.
I think thematically this movie was very interesting. I don’t think they’re totally out of nowhere, you can sort of see it burgeoning in the novel and interpreted this way or that. As some of you may know, the book is entirely different in terms of tone; the adventure was always at the forefront of the story. In the movie, it’s still there but the idea of these dwarves seeking to reclaim their home feels different somehow, more melancholic. But this movie, as mentioned by the production team, also focuses on themes of power, corruption and greed and you see it in different forms throughout the movie: from Bilbo beginning to feel the odd effects of the Ring (perhaps a little sudden, but I always wondered about it given what we’ve seen in the LOTR movies (I always brushed it off in the novels as a gradual development) to the continual references to the madness that claims the line of Durin and Thorin’s susceptibility to this, Smaug and the wealth of the Lonely Mountain, the Master of Laketown and his tyranny and neglect of his citizens, and of course the Necromancer. It helps inform some of the motivations of some of the characters in a way that’s more expansive from the explanations in the novel.
The new characters involved in this installment were great in their own way. Though he had little screentime, Lee Pace as Thranduil was great in all of his scenes, he was just so perfectly…douchey, lol: arrogant, guarded, autocratic in his handling of everyone around him, very sneaky (killing that orc, then saying that he did do as he promised–just releasing him from his life as opposed to releasing him from captivity O_o), very suave and fluid in his movements. He’s definitely different from the other elves we’ve encountered in the movies. Distracting eye colour aside, I was rather surprised that Legolas was a little closer to his father in terms of that harshness and arrogance in his behaviour towards outsiders (his first encounter with the dwarves following the spiders’ attack? Cold, dude, too cold; he was pretty frosty towards them in FOTR but this was his father’s level of coldness). The latter in a way cracked me up because it shows how much “younger” he is compared to his days in LOTR, especially when it comes to fighting orcs. I mean, he was just sliding off orcs and hopping on dwarf heads here and there.
I didn’t mind the expansion on Bard’s character; he didn’t get that much time in the books so his portrayal was interesting. Would I ever have thought of him as a suspicious sort of guy? No, but given the state of Laketown, I don’t blame him. But his grimness was just right. The reveal about his forefather Girion and his role when Smaug appeared at Dale/foot of the Lonely Mountain was a nice touch, it sort of juxtaposed Bard in my mind as sort of being in the same situation as Thorin: both have been thoroughly affected by the presence of Smaug, both are leaders in their own ways. The Master of Laketown wasn’t as I imagined him to be but he was interesting for the time he was on-screen (and rather ridiculous, which again highlights the present state of Laketown). Alfrid was annoying in the way he kept harassing Bard, and sort of reminded me of Grima Wormtongue.
Which brings me to Tauriel. I was a bit sceptical when I first heard about her character, perhaps more so because of the rumoured romance bit with Kili, but I took the “Wait and see” position. Then I saw the first trailer and thought “Hey, she looks pretty badass.” Well, she is badass, she’s a lot different than Thranduil and Legolas, perhaps a little more closer to the elves we know from previous movies, if not a little more hot-headed, a little more quicker with the blade. But she’s also more open-minded to the world and doesn’t agree with Thranduil’s fortress mentality (which I’m hoping will rub off on Legolas and contribute to his learning curve a little ;)). I wasn’t annoyed by the “love triangle” that played out on screen (I realised this was a major dividing issue for fans); I thought it was rather cute how Kili was trying to flirt with her in Mirkwood and figured his injury would lead to them meeting again at some point, but I didn’t see it as an out-right romance. I thought Tauriel was more curious about Kili, feeling a measure of compassion for him. As for Legolas factoring in…we hear what his father had to say about it (“Gee, thanks Dad”, lol) but how do we know that what Legolas is feeling towards her is romantic? He’s certainly very protective of her, and he does eye Kili rather nastily (could just be a la elves-dwarves hating each other, the usual). So I’m not dwelling about this too much, even though it does throw some shadow on Legolas and Gimli’s friendship later on which highlighted a bridge between the elves and dwarves.
I also wasn’t too perturbed about the major deviations that happened some two-thirds into the movie. There’s the obvious Gandalf/Dol Guldur storyline and the dwarves but then even that broke off to the Erebor group and the Laketown group. Time is already pretty tight with this movie and in a way splitting them up did give us a chance to spend a bit more time with these characters, however brief they were; it also came as a surprise as I was not expecting that. One of my favourite scenes was between Thorin and his nephews, Kili and Fili; Kili was forced to stay behind in Laketown because of his injury but Fili tries to make a care for allowing Kili to join. When that failed, Fili decided to stay behind, saying that he belonged with his brother. It’s a powerful moment because a) we finally had a scene that established (solidly) Fili and Kili’s relationship with Thorin, b) the scene established that Fili is heir after Thorin and c) it once again reinforces how close these brothers stick together, how Fili is always looking out for Kili, no matter what. It’s a great moment that really stands out.
There are two other moments in the movie that were my favourite:
- When Thorin and Balin first entered Erebor via the Secret Door. Oh man, I may have gotten a little misty-eyed, Balin’s reaction was especially wonderful and all sorts of perfect.
- Gandalf vs. the Necromancer. Wow. The light and the black darkness trying to break through Gandalf’s blasts…just stunning. Epic.
I need to include a bit about the soundtrack here. I received my copy of the extended edition last week and it took a few listens; unlike the LOTR soundtracks, the music for The Hobbit doesn’t quite jump out the way the former did. However, once I did properly listen to the soundtrack from start to finish, I came to the conclusion that I much preferred this album to the first soundtrack. It’s darker, softer in some ways but there’s a lot more original music here. The thematic pieces used to mark the end of their journey to the Lonely Mountain and being at the very doorstep is especially epic, much closer to what I had always imagined dwarven music pieces would have sounded like in an adaptation. The theme for Laketown is also a standout (“Protector of the Common Folk”), very different from any geographic theme I’ve ever heard in this series, as is Smaug’s theme. Even Ed Sheeran’s song “I See Fire” is growing on me (even if it was such an odd song to end to after the cliffhanger). There’s also familiar pieces here and there, namely the Shire theme song and Sauron/Mordor’s theme song. My favourite track from the soundtrack has to be “Girion, Lord of Dale”:
Other random points to mention because my mind is all over the place and still in *flail* mode after seeing the movie:
- Spider sequence was freaky! (I hate spiders)
- Barrel sequence was fun. Crazy, with elves and orcs shooting and everyone just attacking each other, but fun
- The CGI I think was much better in this movie. There were still a few instances where it was like “Ehh, that could’ve been better/polished up a wee bit” but otherwise, I didn’t find myself noticing it as much
- I did not see Stephen Colbert’s cameo in the movie. Boo. I need to rewatch it again =P
- The LOTR references (Gimli’s photo, Smaug saying “precious”, kingsfoil). LMAO at Peter Jackson’s cameo in Bree =P
- Dol Guldur was impressive, very scary, right up there with Minas Morgul I think of really creepy places in Middle Earth (also the tomb of the Nazgul/Witch King of Angmar–that was a freaky sequence too
- Giving Legolas his own “boss right” and nemesis seemed a little too much given how many people are already running around, facing off against each other (Azog is still at large) but it does flesh out Legolas’ character a bit more (hello there, one man army). I mean, he was pissed at the end of the movie.
- Orcs are stealth ninjas jumping on rooftops, wargs silent by the gates. Since when? lol
Overall, I really loved The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug, perhaps more so than the first movie. Bilbo is prominent in this movie in that he’s pretty close to the book in the way he not only finds his courage but also gets the dwarves through some really bad times (spiders, prison, finding the door into the mountain) but I think Smaug is the real centre character here (probably because of all the anticipation) and he doesn’t disappoint. I cannot tell you how much I’m looking forward to the final movie. (I’m probably missing a ton of points I wanted to mention in my review my as I mentioned, my thoughts are still scattered all over the place because I’m still flailing over it. Really).
Rating: to the power of infinity =P