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“The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug”
Director: Peter Jackson
Starring: Martin Freeman, Ian McKellan and Richard Armitage
Monte’s Rating:
3.50 out of 5.00

Movie Review — “The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug”


In a second, introductory installment to J.R.R. Tolkien’s Middle Earth saga, Peter Jackson’s “The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug” is now in theaters.
The first hobbit film, “The Unexpected Journey,” offered a slow moving presentation that merely reacquainted viewers with the characters, especially a younger Bilbo Baggins and the adventures he discussed in “The Lord of the Rings” films.
“The Desolation of Smaug” quickly forwarded into an exciting and swiftly moving story that led to the stunning rendering of the fire-breathing dragon Smaug.
Bilbo Baggins (Martin Freeman) continues his journey with the ragtag group of dwarfs who recruited him to reclaim their kingdom and fortune, which was stolen by the slumbering dragon Smaug (voiced by Benedict Cumberbatch). Bilbo, along with the dwarfs and Gandalf the Grey, trudge towards the lost dwarf kingdom, while encountering resistance at every turn. Orcs are in hot pursuit of the group, spiders stalk them in a deadly forest, elves threaten from a fortress and Smaug waits for the battle he knows is coming. All these hurdles, including the secret ring in Bilbo’s pocket and the presence of an evil nemesis of the future, make for another perilous adventure for the alliance. 
Peter Jackson has mastered the Tolkien universe. The transition into this new tale was initially smooth and immediately drew the viewer into the bulk of the action packed story. Jackson, working with only a few chapters in the already short novel for this film, took some liberties in bulking up the material by exploring the characters further and elongating—sometimes exhaustively—the action set pieces.
Take, for instance, a river escape from the elven kingdom by way of barrels, all while being pursued through the rocky terrain by orcs and elves. The action at times felt a bit overdone, though some of the setups, like this one, were particularly fun and inventive.
Jackson also added a character not seen in the book, a tough fighting female elf named Tauriel (Evangeline Lily). Though she was a welcome addition to the all male cast, her role was utilized in part as a clichéd romantic vehicle.
The cast was good again. Martin Freeman especially handled the changing ego of Bilbo, who was growing more confident and secretive with every step on the way to the Lonely Mountain. Richard Armitage was given more to work with as Thorin Oakenshield, the leader of the voyage. Thorin portrayed a figure of leadership, though his foundation was somewhat insecure. The computer composition of the daunting Smaug was fantastic, as was Cumberbatch’s equally intimidating voice. Jackson introduced the beast with a boisterous monologue, easily one of the highlights of the film.
Jackson handled “The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug” with far more precision than the first installment. It was difficult to find an ending point, since the story was based off one book. While some viewers may be annoyed with the choice in ending this film on a cliffhanger, it’s a good position for the third installment to conclude. Though this film was livelier than the first, there were a few moments when the action seemed to marginalize the characters. However, the story isn’t over, and Jackson still has another movie to round out his saga.