After The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey premiered in 2012 and received a lot of positive response from both critics and audiences, it was left to the second film in The Hobbit trilogy to move the epic story forward and once again immerse viewers in the wonderful world of Middle Earth. Despite the incredible hype and expectation surrounding it, The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug is yet another triumphant motion picture that further enhances the soon-to-be-completed trilogy with several engaging characters taking part in what is becoming one intense and entertaining adventure.
The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug is directed once more by the visionary Peter Jackson and stars a unique and highly-talented ensemble cast that includes Martin Freeman, Evangeline Lilly, Benedict Cumberbatch, Ian McKellen, Orlando Bloom, Cate Blanchett, Lee Pace, Richard Armitage, and Aidan Turner. The film takes place soon after the events in The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey as the dwarves continue their journey towards reclaiming their home from the sinister and dangerous dragon, Smaug, with the help of Bilbo Baggins and Gandalf the Grey. The motion picture is an adventure-fantasy epic that runs for two hours and forty-one minutes.
A key part of the continued success of these Middle-Earth films is the outstanding work done by the extensive cast, no matter how large or small each of their respective parts are. The main actors who stand out in The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug are Martin Freeman as Bilbo Baggins; Evangeline Lilly as Tauriel; and Benedict Cumberbatch as the voice of Smaug the dragon.
With regards to Martin Freeman, it should not be an exaggeration to say that his performance is the anchor of the film. He completely inhabits the conflicted yet compassionate character Bilbo Baggins with a lot of warmth and affection that makes audiences immediately fall for this lovable character, completely supporting him on his epic journey with the dwarves. I remain to be impressed by how easily and convincingly Martin Freeman has been able to deliver this important role. He is without a doubt a talented actor who has greatly benefited this fantasy franchise.
One of the newcomers to The Hobbit films in this sequel is Evangeline Lilly who plays the elf Tauriel, a brave female elf who is looking to forge a path of her own, often to the dissatisfaction of the other elves in her tribe. Nevertheless, she joins Bilbo Baggins and the dwarves on their epic journey, utilizing her distinctive skill with the bow and the arrow along the way. I have been a fan of Evangeline Lilly ever since her memorable role as Kate in the television classic Lost. She has since grown quite picky with her acting choices which is something I commend her for, as her decision to take on the role of Tauriel is the perfect fit for her. She gives her female elf the feminine presence needed in such a ‘masculine’ world as Middle-Earth. And her appearance in The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug is certainly a unique and favorable one.
Of course, I also could not forget to mention one of the film’s main stars, Benedict Cumberbatch. Lending his distinguished voice, Cumberbatch brings the sinister and conniving dragon Smaug into incredible life in a mesmerizing and glorious way. I doubt there have been fantasy films before this one that featured such impressive voice acting, especially since Andy Serkis’s iconic performance as Gollum nearly ten years ago. Benedict Cumberbatch is certainly aided by the marvelous special effects but he also does his part in giving the dragon Smaug a personality that is intriguing, even hypnotic. It is no exaggeration for me to say that I am absolutely delighted by Cumberbatch’s choices of roles so far, ever since his breakout performance in the superb television show Sherlock. I eagerly look forward to what this fine actor is up to next.
A special mention should be given to a number of supporting roles that have made The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug one of the best films of 2013. These are the veteran Ian McKellen in the now-legendary role of Gandalf the Grey; Orlando Bloom as the charismatic elf Legolas; Lee Pace as the elf Thranduil; Richard Armitage as the dwarf Thorin; and Aidan Turner as Kili. Each in his or her own way have left their indelible mark on The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug, making Middle-Earth a rich and colorful world.
Looking at the filming aspects of The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug, there is a lot to admire. Peter Jackson’s directing style has made him one of Hollywood’s most visually gifted in quite some time. All of his films, most notably The Lord of the Rings trilogy (2001-2003) and King Kong (2005), have a particular flair to them that have become a crucial part of any Peter Jackson film. His attention to detail in every scene of The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug further demonstrates how comfortable and confident he is in his abilities. The result is a sequel that is even better than the original in every possible way. His pacing of the film, ability to let every character in this extensive cast shine, and show of control and restraint in divulging the film’s plot are all testaments to Peter Jackson’s talent. He is undoubtedly one of cinema’s most acclaimed directors working today.
The beautiful and gorgeous cinematography in The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug is also as good as any of those seen in the other Middle-Earth films. Working with his long-time collaborator Andrew Lesnie, Peter Jackson has blessed the film with scene after scene of awe-inspiring moments that make full use of New Zealand’s spectacular landscapes. Simply put, the cinematography in The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug is as essential to the film’s success as any other filming element. An outstanding triumph.
The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug continues Peter Jackson’s streak of wonderful motion pictures and builds the story towards the climactic, and sure-to-be-epic, finale The Hobbit: There and Back Again, which will premiere end of 2014. With two films already out, he has managed to create a loose but admiring connection between this and The Lord of the Rings trilogy, which is something I am very happy about. His choice of Martin Freeman as Bilbo Baggins, in particular, is an inspired one that has helped bring these fantasy films to life. I, for one, cannot wait to watch the third and final film of this trilogy, with all its twists and surprises. The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug comes highly recommended.
MATM Rating: **** out of ****
- Martin Freeman (as Bilbo Baggins)
- Benedict Cumberbatch (as the voice of Smaug)
2 hours and 49 minutes
Adventure / Fantasy