If the title “The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug” immediately conjures up images of hairy footed hobbits and fearsome dwarves battling a fire breathing dragon, then this movie is for you. It beautifully captures and continues the world Peter Jackson began with the “Lord of the Rings” trilogy and followed up with “The Hobbit” films.
If it doesn’t mean anything to you then maybe you’ll want to brush up on your J. R. R. Tolkien before shelling out for a ticket. It took a lot of backstory to get to the fifth film based on Middle Earth and its inhabitants and you don’t want to go without knowing your Shire from your Sauron or your Skin Changers.
Picking up where “An Unexpected Journey” left off, hobbit-burglar Bilbo Baggins (Martin Freeman) and wizard Gandalf (Ian McKellen) join with Thorin Oakenshield (Richard Armitage) and his army of twelve fearsome dwarves. Their goal is to traverse Mirkwood, Esgaroth and Dale to locate and battle the fire-breathing dragon Smaug (Benedict Cumberbatch in fine serpentine voice) who hoards the wealth of the Lonely Mountain. On the way they battle giant spiders (a sequence that will certainly make arachnophobes grin), 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).
Wait! There’s more, something to do with the White Council and the Necromancer but I’m still reeling from plot overload from actually watching the movie let alone trying to unfurl the complicated story in print.
But 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.” Peter Jackson has crafted a great action adventure movie that fits in perfectly with the preceding films. There’s a remarkable consistency of tone, style and spirit that runs through the “LOTR” and “Hobbit” movies. They feel like story shards chipped off the same block.
There’s a Richard Attenborough old school epicness about them. They are 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.
And luckily the films work because they fully embrace Tolkien’s vision. There’s no shortage of story threads, of hard to remember names but Jackson weaves it all together seamlessly—with some “Walking Dead” style battle scenes… lots of arrows in the head—and has made a big handsome movie to get lost in.