My name is Luke and I’m an unapologetic fan of Peter Jackson’s ‘Lord of the Rings’ and ‘Hobbit’ films. While ‘The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey’ wasn’t as strong as the first ‘Rings’ trilogy, I still loved it and, unlike most, I prefer the extended cut over the theatrical version. If you felt that ‘An Unexpected Journey’ lacked some of the cinematic magic that the ‘Rings’ films had, get ready for ‘The Desolation of Smaug’. Much like ‘The Two Towers’, darkness overtakes this picture and really brings the ‘Hobbit’ series up a notch.
‘The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug’ picks up (almost) where ‘An Unexpected Journey‘ left off. It’s now obvious that the conclusion of the first movie – which left Bilbo and company looking at the Lonely Mountain in the distance – was filmed just to give that chapter of the series a proper ending. Although the eagles had carried Gandalf, Bilbo and the Dwarf company over mountains, waterfalls and valleys far away from the Pale Orc and his crew of Warg-riding warriors, the two groups are immediately back at it in the opening of ‘Smaug’. Fortunately for our hero group, the Pale Orc is pulled away on a new mission. But don’t worry, new forces (literally) come out of the woodwork to offer opposition. The road to the Lonely Mountain and Smaug is filled with action and excitement.
Just about every trailer and TV spot for the movie has shown Bilbo encountering Smaug inside the Lonely Mountain’s gigantic vault. We know that at least Bilbo will get to the destination. Having that knowledge in advance can make the first two-thirds of the film feel a little slow. Sure, the movie has some amazing moments of super-stylized action – like the creepy forest spider attack and the brilliant barrel escape from Mirkwood – but deep down inside, what we all want to see is Bilbo face off against a dragon. It’s not that the film isn’t entertaining before the arrival of Smaug; it’s that I was caught up in the anticipation for him. I knew he was on his way and couldn’t wait for him to appear.
If you felt ripped off by only catching fleeting glimpses of Smaug in ‘An Unexpected Journey’, you’ll get your fill of dragon here. The final 45 minutes (or so) are filled with the intimidating, fiery beast. Honestly, the Smaug business is as entertaining as ‘The Lord of the Rings’ at its very best.
I only have one complaint about ‘The Desolation of Smaug’. It’s not a major plot spoiler, but if you want to keep ‘The Hobbit’ absolutely spoiler-free, don’t read the rest of this paragraph, because I’ll vaguely give you a hint about how the movie ends. MINOR SPOILER ALERT: Peter Jackson had previously closed any of the ‘Lord of the Rings’ or ‘Hobbit’ movies with a cliffhanger. He didn’t end ‘The Fellowship‘ in the middle of the battle at Amon Hen. He didn’t end ‘The Two Towers‘ in the middle of the battle at Helm’s Deep. And he didn’t end ‘An Unexpected Journey’ in the middle of the Pale Orc fight. But, for some reason, he felt the need to give ‘The Desolation of Smaug’ a cliffhanger mid-scene ending. He had to end it somewhere and the moment that he chose is fitting enough, but still frustrating. END MINOR SPOILER.
For some reason, ‘Smaug’ was only screened for press in my region in standard 3D. I didn’t much care for the 3D presentation, but it was worlds better than the awful High Frame Rate 48 fps format that I had to suffer during ‘An Unexpected Journey’. I turn off the “True Motion” setting on my TV, and can’t get past HFR because the results look identical to me.
If you were one of the many who were left disappointed by ‘An Unexpected Journey’, I urge you to set aside your qualms and get out to ‘The Desolation of Smaug’ anyway. The biggest complaints about the last film – including too many songs and an overall silliness – are toned down here. In fact, there’s not a single song in ‘Smaug’, and the dwarfish wackiness is much tamer. ‘The Hobbit’ 2.0 delivers the goods, so much so that I’ve already bought tickets for a 2D showing just so that I can sit back and take in the first two-thirds of the movie without anticipating the grand entrance of Smaug again. I’m going to soak it all in this time and count the days until next December’s ‘The Hobbit: There and Back Again’.