By Richard Crouse and Mark Breslin Reel Guys – Metro Canada
Synopsis: Picking up where An Unexpected Journey left off, Bilbo Baggins (Martin Freeman) and Gandalf (Ian McKellen) join with Thorin Oakenshield (Richard Armitage) and his army of 12 dwarves. Their goal is to traverse Mirkwood, Esgaroth and Dale to locate the fire-breathing dragon Smaug who hoards the wealth of the Lonely Mountain. On the way they battle giant spiders, make a deal with Bard the bowman (Luke Evans), the descendant of the original Lord of Dale, and some helpful and not-so-helpful elves (including a good lookin’ and deadly She-Elf played by Evangeline Lilly).
• Richard: 4/5
• Mark: 2/5
Richard: Mark, despite the sense of mild confusion I felt as I tried to piece the story together, I really enjoyed The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug. It took a lot of backstory to get to the fifth film based on Middle-earth and its inhabitants and it will help if you know your Shire from your Sauron or your Skin Changers.
But having said that, Peter Jackson has crafted a great action adventure with the same consistency of tone, style and spirit that runs through the LOTR and Hobbit movies. They feel like story shards chipped off the same block.
Mark: Richard, there are two kinds of people in this world — those who admire and enjoy the work of J.R.R. Tolkien, and those who are repelled by his neo-medieval, Druidic nonsense.
You can guess which camp I fall into. I sat through the Rings trilogy under great duress, and skipped the first Hobbit entirely. So the only question was how much I would loathe this picture. The good news is: not that much. True, the entire movie and everyone in it needs a haircut, but the set pieces worked, especially the barrel escape down the river and the entire dragon sequence. But the movie felt so long I could have flown to Tokyo for dinner and gotten back in time for the end credits.
RC: I think fans will find the length just about right… non-fans, maybe not so much. This one worked for me. There’s a Richard Attenborough old school epicness about it. It is about good and evil without troubling nuance or antiheroes.
Perhaps because Englishman Tolkien penned these action adventure stories during the Second World War when evil was clear-cut, his books are ripe with allegory but straightforward in their approach to morality and good vs. evil.
MB: A good point, but maybe it’s precisely that serious, hectoring tone that always turned me off. Evangeline Lilly, on the other hand, did not turn me off — quite the opposite.
She really holds the screen even if her ears need cosmetic surgery. But the ending — a cliffhanging cheat, if you ask me — elicited a collective groan from the audience and made the experience feel incomplete. Did you like the dark look of the picture?
RC: I did like the look. It’s darker in tone than the Hobbit books for sure, but I thought it suited Peter Jackson’s take on the story. I also liked the Walking Dead style battle scenes — lots of arrows in heads.
MB: I kept hoping for someone to show up with a gun and put them all out of my misery.