In 2012, we set off on a new adventure in Middle Earth with The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey. After 12 years and many issues in production, Peter Jackson finally decided to bring the story of Bilbo Baggins to the silver screen. Originally, The Hobbit was going to be two films, but right before Unexpected Journey was released , Jackson and the studio announced that this prequel series would become a trilogy. Thus The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug was forged . For months this film has teased many things; such as elves and an enormous dragon. Yet the biggest mystery for The Desolation of Smaug was could this sudden sequel continue the journey or would it derail The Hobbit?
Following immediately after An Unexpected Journey, The Desolation of Smaug continues the story of Bilbo Baggins (Martin Freeman) as he accompanies Thorin Oakenshield (Richard Armitage) and his band of dwarves to The Lonely Mountain. As the mountains stands on the horizon, the group discovers that getting there will be easier said then done with the likes of Spiders, Wood Elves and Orcs standing in the company's way. Despite getting through those obstacles, Bilbo and company face their greatest challenge yet as they came face to face with the dragon Smaug.
Where An Unexpected Journey was all about set up, The Desolation of Smaug was about getting into the thick of things. The first act moved rather quickly, but thing surprising slow down by the end of the film. What I found so fascinating about the story was the context. Peter Jackson found a way to bring to a relevance to Erebor and why the company of Thorin's mission is so vital. This direction gave both the story relevance to its successor/predecessor as well as raising the stakes in the film's plot.
While I liked the performances in the first film, some would only see a chosen few from the new cast worth mentioning. This time around though is a different story as several the supporting dwarves had enough screentime to established their traits and back stories. Once again, Ian McKellen, Martin Freeman and Richard Armitage prove themselves to be worthy leads. Strangely though, Bilbo and Thorin's development were very much similar. Both characters meant well, but outside forces begin to take hold of them; and both Freeman and Armitage had the performances to back up their respected roles. Also, though it comes to no shock, Ian Mckellen graces the screen yet again as Gandalf the Grey.
While a Hobbit, a Wizard and 13 dwarves is enough to be ensemble, it just would not be a movie on Middle Earth if new characters were not introduce. Leading the new cast members is an old face: Legolas (reprised by Orlando Bloom). Legolas is certainly a different elf in this film which only helped the overall character. Along with Legolas was his father Thranduil ( Lee Pace). While there wasn't much of the Elven King, Pace still had a terrific performance. Another surprise was Evangeline Lilly as Tauriel. As an original character, Tauriel not only brought something new, but her character seemed vital in overall franchise. So many characters stood out in this film; from the returning Radagas the Brown (Sylvester McCoy) to Luke Evans as Bard the Bowman. Yet perhaps no one steals the show more then Benedict Cumberbatch as Smaug. Words cannot describe how effective Cumberbatch's performance or the character of Smaug was. It can only be seen.
Like the first film, this chapter in The Hobbit had the same quality in the movie's technical aspects. The film's effects were amazing to see and Howard Shore's score was breathtaking as usual. These elements help create many epic sequences for the film. The great moments of this film were too much to count. While I might be cheating on this, I would say that the defining moment of the film was the entire third act. From Bilbo's confrontation with Smaug to the action in Lake Town, my heart was pounding all the way to the end of the film.
If you were naysayer about An Unexpected Journey, then The Desolation of Smaug will surely win you over. The film not only continues the adventure but expands upon it by turning this quest into an epic. Everything about this film, from its solid plot to its wonderful characters, enticed me with excitement. The Desolation of Smaug rounds out the adventure of The Hobbit and the film is certainly Peter Jackson's boldest movie to date. Needless to say: There and Back Again can't come any sooner... I mean The Battle of The Five Armies!