The internet has been down over here for the last few days (thanks, SNOW), but we’ve got it all back on and humming now. During the blackout period, I went and saw part two of Peter Jackson’s Hobbit trilogy, The Desolation of Smaug.
I am a big fan of Tolkien and his fiction, and of Peter Jackson and his films, and of Jackson’s Middle-Earth adaptations. I really resonate with Jackson’s directatorial style and intense approach to cinema, so I was obviously looking forward to the film immensely.
The Desolation of Smaug is much faster-paced than An Unexpected Journey, for those who thought it was too slow. I had no problem with the pacing on AUJ, personally, and found it captivating and excellent the whole way through. We used to call the slow parts of films “character development,” but the blockbuster mentality seems to have made us forget this. Anyway, we’re talking about DoS.
** I WILL TRY TO STAY SPOILER-FREE, IF YOU’VE READ THE BOOK YOU’RE FINE **
The film is fantastic. We get a glimpse of scenes and moments from Tolkien’s other Hobbit-related material, such as the “The Quest for Erebor” retelling in Unfinished Tales. We get a great cameo of Peter Jackson in the second or third shot of the film, a reprise of his cameo in Fellowship of the Ring (for those of you who care about this).
Otherwise, the film was fantastic. We start out with a race to Beorn’s house, which was perfectly realized from the book. Mirkwood was exactly as it should have been, and we get a lot of great details from the book there. Some bits are omitted entirely in Mirkwood – logically, gone are the frolicking elves, an idea that would have been hard to keep with the darker, more serious tone of the films.
The Woodland Realm of the elves is also fantastic, and one of the best sections of the film. Thranduil is wonderfully realized, while it is a relief and pleasant to have Legolas back (he is Thranduil’s son and would have been in the Hobbit had his character been invented at the time it was written). Because the book skimps on so many details, the filmmakers saw fit to invent a new character, Tauriel (Evangeline Lilly). Some had concerns about her presence in the film prior to its release, but she integrates herself seamlessly and effortlessly into Middle Earth and proves to be one of the most interesting and compelling characters, in my opinion.
The escape by barrels is present here, now a lengthy (and spectacular) action sequence, which even features one of the best Bombur moments in the Hobbit films yet. Bard is perfectly realized as the grim but heroic character from the book, now expanded a bit to provide some backstory. Lake-town was beautifully realized and exactly what it needed to be. Likewise, the arrival upon the doorstep, while having some changes from the book, was moving and wonderful. The interior of Erebor was great, as was the reveal and confrontation with Smaug. Best. Dragon. Ever. I’m not even joking.
The film really is worth your time to go see. Just expect that they have altered some things, but nothing, in my opinion, that endangers the integrity of the book or its central thematic core.