A review containing a fairly high amount of passion and spoilers – you’ve been warned.
I’d like to take the time to prove how much of an enthusiast I am for J.R.R. Tolkien’s works. But for the sake of time, I won’t bore you. If you’re reading this, I’ll just have to trust that you believe me to be well-informed on all topics Tolkien.
That being stated, I’d like to say: I thoroughly enjoyed The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug. Thoroughly.
One of the hallmarks of a good movie is when it is over 2 hours and it doesn’t feel long. The Hobbit:DoS never felt long for me.
Tolkien’s works are centered about development and imagery. JRR wanted us all to understand how vast the landscapes of Middle-Earth are, how diversified its peoples are, and how truly legendary the heroes of these times were. The characters are supposed to mean something to the reader.
Thus, any review of a movie based upon a JRR Tolkien book would be incomplete without analysis of how well Peter Jackson portrayed these characters and sceneries. The H:DoS (as I will be referring to the movie by) scores very highly in this respect. Being the fifth of six movies based upon the One Ring, Jackson again captures the setting very well.
The journey of the 13 Dwarves & Bilbo is entering its ‘darker’ stages as this film begins. The opening scene with Gandalf consulting Thorin about retaking the Lonely Mountain of Erebor sets the foreboding tone. A tone that is only further darkened when the flashback ends and the threat of the pursuing orcs on warg-back has the company running for their lives. This tone persists throughout the movie, from the path in Mirkwood, to their eventual capture and jailbreak from the elves, to the cold reaches of the north in Esgaroth, to the feet of Erebor, the entire setting just feels dim. And I like it. It’s appropriate. The word desolation is in the title of the movie, and I think Peter Jackson nailed it.
The main complaint I’ve heard in the past week since the first showing of H:DoS is that Peter Jackson takes too many freedoms in adding characters and scenes that do not belong. I am here to tell you that not only is it okay, but it is a good thing – a very good thing.
Allow me to explain: this is a list of characters who either are not mentioned at all, or who have very small roles in the book yet appear and have considerable roles in the film: Legolas, Tauriel, Azog the Defiler, Bard’s two daughters Sigrid and Tilda, and Radagast the Brown (I may have forgotten or left out a few, but these are probably the only ones with any real impact). I have no problem with any of these people being in the film.
Primarily, Legolas and Tauriel command important roles in the film. Tauriel is an elf made up by Peter Jackson and does not appear within Tolkien’s Universe. At first glance, I was skeptical of this. But, her romantic subplot with Kili gives the film a warm feeling where it has none else. A good friend of mine that I saw the movie with on opening night told me it was his favorite aspect of the film. He has not read the books. Legolas, as we know, does exist and it is very likely that he was an active member in the events of this time, whether or not he was included in the 300 page novel. His father, Thranduil, king of the Wood Elves, is the one who imprisons Thorin and his company. There’s nothing wrong with Jackson inserting Legolas into this film.
This is the grand point I’m trying to make. These films not only cover the novel of The Hobbit, but instead cover all of the events of Middle-Earth at the time that involve the One Ring. Remember, the main character of all six of these movies is not Aragon, Gandalf, Frodo or Bilbo. It is the One Ring.
The reason it’s a story worth telling and such a timeless classic as a novel is because Bilbo has a story worth telling. I think that nothing, so far, in these two movies has pleased me more than the character progression of Bilbo. Martin Freeman perfectly shows his growth from timid Hobbit to bona fide Burglar. The scene in Mirkwood when Bilbo relentlessly attacks a baby spider in hopes of reclaiming the Ring show the strong effect the Ring already has upon Bilbo. I love what he has done and cannot wait for his portrayal in the third film.
Lastly, Smaug needs his due. Benedict Cumberbatch may be Hollywood’s new Kevin Spacey, the perfect menace. His voice acting for the legendary Dragon was spot-on. He captured his daunting spirit and quick temper so naturally. In the book, Smaug is truly terrifying, and he does not fall flat in the film.
This is only the tip of the iceberg as far as I am concerned. I could write a book on my thoughts of this movie, but I will leave you with this: The Hobbit: the Desolation of Smaug is a great adaptation of a beloved story and is a movie all should enjoy.
(For perspective, I only consider one movie to be a 10/10, The Dark Knight. There can only be one ‘best’, and that’s it. This movie is probably top-5 in my book.)