The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug – A Rollicking and Tempting Adventure

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I am a great fan of J.R.R. Tolkien’s writings and Peter Jackson’s “Lord of the Rings”, “Hobbit” Franchises. So, I’d like to disagree when someone says Jackson fumbled with first “Hobbit” movie. Yeah, it took a great time to get into the story, was too long (169 min.), and strayed a lot from the source, but I’d prefer the adventures of Bilbo and Frodo to any other noisy, emotionally devoid blockbusters. The decision to film a small book (around 300 pages) into a trilogy is wholly based upon the financial viewpoint. Nonetheless, it’s rather beside the point to argue with Jackson’s approach, since the first part brought in more than $1 billion. And merrily, “Desolation of Smaug” is funnier and adventurous and by remaining true to the blithesome source material, Peter Jackson once again tributes Tolkien. Those who hated “Unexpected Journey” will surely get immersed in this sequel and will witness the sweeping exuberance and action that helped the “Rings trilogy” to become a cultural phenomenon.

In the first frames of the film, Jackson makes a blink-and-miss cameo appearance, chomping a carrot. As for the tale, it gets right into the quest of a lively band of dwarves and Bilbo (Martin Freeman). The quest, led by Thorin Oakenshield (Richard Armitage) and Gandalf the Grey (Ian McKellen), is to reclaim the mountain kingdom of Erebor from the frightening usurper, dragon ‘Smaug’ (voiced by Benedict Cumberbatch). Gandalf leaves the band earlier, to visit Dol Guldur, where mysterious stories about an evil Necromancer were heard. As usual, difficulties take different forms: menacing Orcs, hallucinatory forest and giant spiders.

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The merely suspicious wood-Elves, including Legolas (Orlando Bloom) and Tauriel (Evangeline Lilly) free the group from spiders but imprison them due to long unresolved animosity. An unexpected bond forms between Killi (Aidan Turner) –one of the dwarf — and Tauriel as Bilbo, with the use of his newly found ring, plots the escape. The escape takes them to Lake-town near ‘Lonely Mountain.’ Bard (Luke Evans), the boatman of this town smuggles the dwarves towards their destination. Here, they face resistance from the narcissistic autocrat (Stephen Fry). As Gandalf discovers the secret of Dol Guldur, Bilbo wriggles with ‘Smaug’ to find Arkenstone. The film ends with the same petrifying feeling as in “Two Towers”, as Jackson saves the best for the last.

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The imagination of Jackson and his team is so stupefying. The images they conjure up for every locale has its own distinct, richly individualized texture. As his camera surges and soars, you can’t fail to admire evocative and breathtaking locations. Every corner of a frame shows the craftsmanship of thousand workers behind the screen. By taking a walk into the Lake-town and peering into the vast treasure trove of Smaug, we see the full-scale deployment of marvelous special effects. In the first part, the set-pieces were a bit mundane, but here, it is packed with highlights: a were-bear; chilling dragon action; entangling spider attack; a riotous river escape in barrels (best part of the movie); a duel between Gandalf’s smothering light and Necromancer’s diffusing darkness.

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Jackson and his co-writers Fran Walsh, Philippa Boyens and Guillermo del Toro have either created new or reinforced old characters to add more emotional core. Neither Tauriel nor Legolas appears in Tolkien’s “Hobbit”, but the writers’ inclusion of these characters provides an additional emotional core. Legolas is cool as always, showcasing his rapid-fire archery skills. Lilly’s Tauriel might enrage Tolkien purists, but hers is a welcome female addition. One might feel that the climactic confrontation with dragon could have reduced by 15 or 20, but what’s 15 minutes, when Jackson & co could make nine hour story with “Hobbit.”

As Bilbo, Martin Freeman adds layer of confidence to his character, after every new adventure. McKellen exhibits consummate commitment as ever in the role of pointy-hatted wizard. Armitage depicts the inner-conflict of Thorin — whether the head dwarf will share his gold pile with others is a big question. Cumberbatch’s voice for the avaricious dragon resonates with balefulness.

“The Desolation of Smaug” triumphantly moves the story forward and once again provides a unique movie experience. It makes us fervently anticipate for the thrilling conclusion next December.

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