Last night I saw The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug. I am an enormous fan of Lord of the Rings, but they came out before my time so I never saw them in theaters. Last year I saw The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey (2012), and though I agree with people who complain about the pace and few tone inconsistencies, I say screw the haters this movie is awesome!
Anytime I doubted the movie, something cool came in and surprised me, I have rented it ten times at redbox before the extended edition came out. "It's a kid's book trying to be epic" who gives a crap this movie did a good job following the story of the book, and throwing in some cool new stuff (much like The Chronicles of Narnia: The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe (2005), a similar movie I will forever defend as good since I saw it before Lord of the Rings) the stuff they added, was not always needed but it was interesting enough to expand Middle Earth. I think it does a good job connecting the Lord of the Rings universe, seeing things we never saw before, like the glory days of the dwarves. The real strength is Bilbo himself played to perfection by Martin Freeman (TV's Sherlock), Ian McKellen is great as always as Gandalf, it's like he never left. I particularly like the dwarves, Gimli was a bit too comical in Lord of the Rings, and while they have silly moments I love how they have distinct looks and are competent determined fighters. I like Dwalin, the badass, Balin, the warm grandfather veteran who still has a fight left in him, Kili and Fili the young warrior princes, and especially Thorin (Richard Armitage). These characters and the expansion and return of Middle Earth made this movie great for me, and I will love it forever, so I was of course excited to see this movie.
While it does have similar issues with tone, the pacing is actually improved, if you can get past the childish humor and stuff like that you will like it okay. For me a huge fan of what Peter Jackson has made, both Lord of the Rings and the Hobbit, I thought it worked really well, and I look forward to the conclusion. The actors are still great in their roles, and it works for me overall.
The pace of the first part was slow, but it had to setup their world and these new characters, here the pacing has improved, now that we know the characters. But first we start with a prologue in Bree, with belching carrot guy (a cameo from Peter Jackson like in the first movie) where we see Gandalf first convincing Thorin to reclaim Erebor. Then we cut to the company hiding from the wargs and staying in the home of the skinchanger Beorn (Swedish actor Mikael Persbrandt) he was originally going to be played by Ron Perlman when Guillermo Del Toro was involved, he's not in the movie very long (but I'm holding on to hope his bear form is in the battle of the 5 armies). From there we get the adventure of spider fights, the first onscreen appearance of the Mirkwood elves, with the return of Legolas (Orlando Bloom), a female elf (Evangeline Lilly, Lost) who becomes enamored with Kili (Aidan Turner). There's sort of a love triangle, but I think it's down played well enough. I like the concept, that elves and dwarves become allied again, staring with this. This love story isn't completely needed, but it doesn't destroy this movie for me either. the dwarves become prisoner of the elf king Thranduil played to greatness by Lee Pace (The Fall.)
There's also a funny scene where Legolas looks at a picture of the dwarf Gloin's family album and says "what is this horrid creature"? and Gloin says "that's my wee lad Gimli" funniest line since "Chekov, put on a red shirt...ay captain" (Star Trek:Into Darkness)
Bilbo frees them and they escape on barrels in a fun chase with the elves trying to stop them, and the orcs attacking, thus kind of bringing the elves and dwarfs to help each other. in the other movies they show off Legolas killing a troll, shield surfing, killing an elephant, here they get too "subtle" having him jump on the dwarfs' heads firing arrows, going "orc surfing", as ridiculous as it sounds my inner man child couldn't help but enjoy that, as well as one scene with the fat dwarf Bombur flying in his barrel running over the orcs.
They are then helped by Bard the Bowman, played by that guy who looks like Inigo Montoya crossed with Will Turner (who ironically was played by Orlando Bloom) (the actors name is Luke Evans. He's expanded from the book as a family man who senses the doom of Thorin trying to reclaim his home. Then the masters of the town talk some simplified Phantom Menace political dialogue, but what makes this better is how enjoyably over the top the characters are. you have the Master of Lake Town who's a pompous jerk (Stephen Fry, of course) and his servant Alfrid, who's this sleazy man similar to Grima Wormtongue. the Master let's them leave believing they will share in the dwarves riches.
There are other plots going on, again not all needed but interesting enough that I went with them. unlike the book we get to see what Gandalf is up to when he leaves the dwarves and spies on the enemy, and sees the return of Sauron. There's also an appearance from Radagast (former "Doctor" Sylvester McCoy). We see some of the dwarfs stay behind to heal Kili who is mortally wounded by a morgul arrow (similar to Frodo in Fellowship) and is saved by Tauriel.
And then the big event the dragon Smaug. Like the first Hobbit, as well as Towers, the strength was Gollum, here the onscreen realization of Smaug will NOT disappoint, or be forgotten. You thought it was spoiled when you saw his face in the trailer, no, that's just the side view and he didn't talk, we only heard Benedict Cumberbatch's epic voice off screen. the reveal is great, and he looks awesome, cunning, deceitful, and dangerous, Cumberbatch doesn't need to be on screen to play not a villain as great as his role as Khan in Star Trek: Into Darkness, he is the greatest onscreen dragon in film PERIOD (sorry Sean Connery in Dragonheart we love you, but Smaug has you beat) before sending him off to attack Lake Town, we get a fun exciting and intense action scene of the dwarves trying to rekindle the forge and bury him in molten gold.
I wont spoil it but I feel it should've ended differently. I'm sure it was difficult since this is the second movie, Two Towers had a similar problem, but they ended triumphantly and left you with the ultimate doom that would eventually happen in the next one. This ending is more of a cliffhanger. The way it ended I think could've been handled better. But overall this movie left me satisfied and ready to see the epic conclusion