Though it suffers from somewhat meaningless sub-plots, an unforgivable midsection, and flow and transition problems, Peter Jackson’s “The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug” is an entertaining, action-packed adventure that is more exciting than its predecessor and is shows promise for an epic conclusion.
Bilbo Baggins (Martin Freeman), Gandolf (Ian Mckellen), and the dwarves continue their journey to Erebor, the homeland of the dwarves, in order to reclaim the land that they once called home. It is guarded by Smaug, a fire-breathing dragon that protects the one thing that they need to reclaim their homeland. Along their journey, they encounter both struggles and help from people they once despised: the elves. Legolas (Orlando Bloom) and Tauriel (Evangeline Lilly) help Bilbo and the dwarves escape the pursuit of the Orks, and keep a close trail on them in the shadows. Meanwhile, Bilbo keeps his secret to himself of the mysterious ring he found back in the tunnels. Little does he know of the power the ring holds, and countless times it may save his precious life.
“Desolation of Smaug” is a much more thrilling experience than “An Unexpected Journey”, as one might expect from the middle piece to a trilogy. Nonetheless, it is better paced and has a balanced mix between plot progression and all-out brawls. One thing is certain: Peter Jackson knows how to direct action. The sequences in the film are outstanding and a blast to watch, carried by the archery skills of Legolas and Tauriel. I could sit and watch Legolas fight Orks all night.
But as we all know, action isn’t the only thing that makes a film great. It must have a good story that is told well. In my opinion, this film struggles at keeping the story on a direct path that “The Lord of the Rings” seems to stay on so well. It is filled with sub-plots that mean virtually nothing, except maybe to those who have read the novels. For example, we see a romance form at the beginning of the film between Tauriel, a she-elf, and one of the dwarves. Every now and then, a scene takes place that progresses this romance story further, but is there any significant meaning to this romance that aids Bilbo and the dwarves in their quest to reclaim the homeland of the dwarves? I think not. Also, it doesn’t seem to flow very well. The transitions between scenes don’t feel connected like they do with LOTR. One second we are following Bilbo and the dwarves’ journey towards the mountain, and then before you know it, you’re following Gandolf trying to seek out the dark master. It doesn’t give you much time to think about what’s happening and why, which is a problem that I encountered.
Sticking with the subject of story-telling, “Desolation of Smaug” suffers from a long, uneventful midsection. We follow the gang as they cross the lake into Lakeland, where they are right on top of the mountain they are determined to reach. Instead of continuing to the mountain as soon as they arrive, we spend at least 30 minutes with their entrapment in the city and learn of an agreement that is made between the gang and Lakeland if their mission succeeds. It is really the only part of the film that feels boring, which for almost a 3 hour film, might not be bad. Regardless, some of the scenes during this time probably could have done without.
At the end of the day, “The Desolation of Smaug” is a pretty good middle piece to a trilogy that never had a chance to compete with the LOTR. It is more entertaining than “An Unexpected Journey”, and has a nice balance between its story-telling and action sequences. It still suffers from minor flaws and tends to drag on a little bit in the middle, but it is entertaining nonetheless. And who can forgot the scenery; it is again masterfully depicted and as a viewer, we feel like we are set in this place known as Middle Earth.