“The Desolation of Smaug,” the second film in the three-film “The Hobbit,” extravaganza, begs the question, “Are we there yet?” I have an answer for you.
Bilbo Baggins (Martin Freeman) is the main hobbit in the film series. He agreed to perform duties as a burglar for a company of homeless dwarves and thus began his “Unexpected Journey” in the first film. Their goal? To reclaim the kingdom under the mountain.
As you might expect, the journey becomes more treacherous than ever in part two. We come across some untrustworthy elves, frightening spiders and a man called Bard (Luke Scott) who has a surprising link to the past.
But are we there yet? Yes, in fact, we are. “The Desolation of Smaug” brings our heroes face to face with the story’s central villain, the dragon.
Overall, part two of “The Hobbit” is more of the same. That might make it sound dull, but that is not the case. Remember how cherished “The Lord of the Rings” series is, and how successful the first “Hobbit” film was at luring us back to Middle Earth? More of the same is a compliment.
Another reason I say “Smaug” is more of the same are the striking similarities between Bilbo’s journey and Frodo’s. They are very nearly carbon copies of one another. For instance, Bard is haunted by his ancestor’s famous failure. Remind you of anyone? Aragorn, perhaps?
In fact, for this viewer, the worst flaw of “An Unexpected Journey” became one of the sequel’s strengths. I’m talking about the heavy-handed use of computer-generated images. When a dwarf is somersaulting through the air and you can tell the dwarf is computer-generated, Sasha is not impressed. To be believable, forms need to have mass and weight. Parts of the first film got cartoonish, but in “Desolation,” there is a terrific sequence in which our heroes dash down some white-water rapids floating in barrels. It’s priceless and just the sort of thing that makes viewers glad we bought our tickets.
Freeman continues to impress as Bilbo. The true characters of our dwarves become even more defined and a couple of elves create a lovely mystery. Which elves? Well, Orlando Bloom has returned as Legolas. But this isn’t the fun-loving, beautiful guy that you remember. He’s harder and more conflicted, but he still kicks butt.
Speaking of kicking butt, even more noteworthy is Evangeline Lilly as Ariel, a feisty and kind-hearted elf. I hear that Ariel is a total invention of director Peter Jackson and is not in the book, but she fits in perfectly. Also ridiculously exciting is Smaug himself. The dragon is voiced by wunderkind Benedict Cumberbatch in much the same way Andy Serkin lent himself to Gollum. The results are mesmerizing!
I am a fan!