Bursting with danger, drama, and dragons, The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug offers an engaging second installment to the popular movie trilogy. Director Peter Jackson’s vision—combined with original author JRR Tolkien’s ingenuity—provides the audience with high quality acting and effects, as well as a satisfying plot line that draws viewers in and leaves them hungry for more of Bilbo Baggins’ epic odyssey.
At the start of The Desolation of Smaug, we find a party of protagonists—hobbit Bilbo (Martin Freeman), wizard Gandalf (Ian McKellen), and 12 dwarves led by their king, Thorin (Richard Armitage)—in the mountains. The expedition is on its way to reconquer the kingdom of the dwarves, taken generations ago by the greedy dragon Smaug.
Viewers who did not see the first film may have a little trouble understanding the plot, but as the action progresses, Jackson does a good job of subtly inserting the relevant details of the first installment through the actions and dialogue of characters.
As for fans of the original Lord of the Rings trilogy, this movie sees the return of popular characters from both the series and books, including elven prince Legolas (Orlando Bloom) and sorcerer Sauron. This movie also introduces a character not found in the book: Tauriel (Evangeline Lilly), a female elf who becomes entangled in a love triangle with two central characters. Inventing a completely new cast member was a risky move on Jackson’s part, but he justifies his decision by integrating her well into the script and giving her the vital role of bridging the gap between the clashing elves and dwarves.
The Hobbit series as a whole seems to be much more lighthearted than its sister trilogy. In contrast to the frequent deaths of principal characters in The Lord of the Rings, the heroes of The Hobbit seem to always avoid death by the skin of their teeth. Even though this arguably takes away from the credibility of the story, it does not interfere too much with the plot, which runs more on character relationships and the journey, rather than the fighting scenes. But the defeat of the towering and fearsome Orcs by diminutive dwarves is quite humorous.
Although The Desolation of Smaug lacks the element of a climactic battle scene present in many of the Lord of the Rings movies, Jackson makes up for it with character evolution. When Bilbo leaves his small home in the Shire at the beginning of An Unexpected Journey, he has no idea what he has gotten himself into, and he is not ready to be brave. However, by the end of this film, he has courageously saved his company several times, having fought off giant spiders, outsmarted elven guards, and come face to face with a dragon.
This movie not only provides absorbing action, but also creates a stable base and builds suspense for the final film. The threat of Orcs, Smaug, and Sauron still loom; this will surely make the final segment, There and Back Again, an epic conclusion at the end of next year.
Despite the fact that The Desolation of Smaug is largely transitional, bridging the gap between the bookending first and third films of the trilogy, it is a pleasure to watch with its adventure and develops nuances of character and plot that, overall, will make the trilogy more unified.