With little over 300 pages to J.R.R. Tolkien’s The Hobbit, questions were suitably raised as to why filmmaker Peter Jackson had decided to tell this story across three feature length movies. At the very heart of the contentious decision was the second film – seemingly the most superfluous addition to the trilogy: with no palpable or established beginning, middle and end. However any such apprehensions have since been dismissed, in what is an unrelenting, compelling slice of Middle Earth melodrama.
Martin Freeman reprises his role as Bilbo Baggins, who, alongside Gandalf the Grey (Ian McKellen) and the Company of Dwarves, continue on with their quest to reclaim Erebor. However standing between the dwarves – fronted by the courageous Thorin (Richard Armitage) – and their homeland, is the infallible dragon Smaug (voiced by Benedict Cumberbatch). Along their dangerous journey they encounter elves, spiders and Orcs, even stopping by at Lake-town, where they persuade the human Bard (Luke Evans) to assist them on their adventure.
Picking up where An Unexpected Journey concluded, The Desolation of Smaug continues much as it intends to carry on, as an uncompromising fantasy flick that offers the viewer little respite. It’s a darker, more intense offering than the first too – dropping that often misplaced whimsicality and farcical nature, in turn for a film that picks up on more human themes, as we explore greed and addiction – with Thorin at the heart of this change of atmosphere. Meanwhile, Jackson has implemented a somewhat avoidable subplot whereby the newly created character of the elf Tauriel (Evangeline Lilly) falls in love with one of the dwarves, and though Middle Earth was crying out for more of a female presence, it’s a shame that when a new character is created, she’s subjected to such a conventional romance.
To counteract the more mawkish aspects of this title, is a masterfully depicted Smaug, who is terrifying and intimidating – appearing as a completely indestructible antagonist. The sense of scale is remarkably achieved, in a film that is a real technical accomplishment in every department. Again, Jackson has done nothing but entertain, as the ultimate king of escapism shows off his unique ability to take us into a world and immerse us in it so triumphantly, as a film that’s similar to a video game, and yet one that you’re desperate not to complete too quickly.