The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug is the second in a three-part series, since director Peter Jackson wanted to turn a small book into another huge franchise, although with the visuals on display it’s entirely justified.
In what is most definitely a darker installment than last time, the pace is picked up early on as Bilbo (Martin Freeman), Thorin (Richard Armitage) and all the other dwarves go into the Kingdom of Erebor, on through Mirkwood, then Esgaroth and Dale with a view to going head-to-head with dragon Smaug (Benedict Cumberbatch) in Lonely Mountain and to retrive the Arkenstone, a dwarfish symbol of kingly rule. And for a major plus, there’s no songs to sit through this time.
Gandalf (Ian McKellen) also has his little side journey where he departs from the diminutive crew for a time, and while the content of that didn’t feature in the book, I understand it did come up in the appendicies and, as before, Jackson’s vision was to bring as much of Tolkein’s work to the screen as possible. But as I’ve said before, most of my ‘Hobbit’ knowledge comes from what I remembered from the 1982 ZX Spectrum game since, like every book-to-film adaption, apart from 1984 which I was forced to read while at school, I have never read the book and rely on the movie to tell the story. I just don’t read books. I’ve tried, but my mind wanders and I soon get bored.
There’s far more action in The Desolation of Smaug with many great scenes, particularly the giant spiders, the barrel chase and each appearance from the Orcs, too. I won’t go into detail about exactly what happens because that’s for you to discover and I let each section work its magic and impress me accordingly. Yes, there are some segments which feel they repeat themselves once or twice a bit, but then there are others which move on quicker than I thought they would. It still could cut around 15 minutes out without losing anything, but it’s still a definite must see on the big screen.
Again, it does take a little time to get into the 48fps filming process again, but that’s because I haven’t seen a film made that way since The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey, and I’m unlikely to again until There And Back Again in June next year. Last time round, I saw complaints that “it makes everything look like a film set” and another that read “I could see Gandalf’s contact lenses”. Okay, well, the light did shine off his eyes a bit, but I wouldn’t have thought about his eye-wear had I not read that, and as for looking at a film set… erm… I hate to break it to them but… Middle Earth isn’t real so it can *only* have been a film set!
Go to page 2 for more thoughts on the 48fps filming process.
Reviewer of movies, videogames and music since 1994. Aortic valve operation survivor from the same year. Running DVDfever.co.uk since 2000. Nobel Peace Prize winner 2021.