If you’re a purist of novel-to-movie translations, then turn away, because this one could get messy. If not, then strap in, because The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug is a lot of fun. Yes, Peter Jackson and company make up a character for story purposes (it’s Tauriel for those interested), but, I have to say, it did not bother me as much as I thought it would. Maybe it was because Evangeline Lilly, who plays Tauriel, is awesome. She may be a she-elf, but boy, she packs a punch. And, thematically, she works.
What doesn’t really work though is the story line with her love interest with Kili, one of the dwarves. It just feels really forced at times, but as it plays out, it makes a little more sense, as there needs to be a reason for Tauriel to leave the forest and aid the dwarves on their journey.
You won’t see me complain about Legolas though, who is not made up like Tauriel, but is not in the book. However, Legolas is a familiar face and it makes sense from a creative aspect as well to include him. Plus, he just kicks a bunch of ass.
Okay, enough about the book, because the movie itself is pretty good. As opposed to the first installment of The Hobbit, which can drag at times, The Desolation of Smaug has a quicker pace and a more consistent tone. There is no more exposition that Jackson has to get through, like he did in the first, so he is able to use his full creative powers to create more of an adventure movie. The stakes were already set, all we have to do is watch and see how the dwarves traverse the perilous grounds of Middle Earth.
Mirkwood Forest is captured beautifully by Jackson. Both the claustrophobic feel the forest creates along with the endlessness of all the trails were spot on. And the imagery of Bilbo atop the trees and gazing upon the Lonely Mountain is a nice moment.
Another great transition from the book to the film is the barrel sequence, which is filmed in such a great way by Jackson and really demonstrates his will to depict the lightheartedness of the book. And combine that with the addition of the orcs who are in hot pursuit and you have yourself a great action-adventure scene. What makes the scene really pop for me is Jackson’s use of real footage as opposed to only CGI. He sporadically uses actual shots of water smashing the camera. Even some of the orcs standing on the riverbank seemed as though they were men in make-up. That type of realism only improves the quality of the film. This realism was a large part of The Lord of the Rings trilogy.
But what takes the cake by a large margin is Smaug and all of the awesomeness that is Benedict Cumberbatch’s voice. What a perfect match they are. When you read about a dragon, you put all of these grand and majestic images in your head, ones that you don’t think could be topped. Well, Peter Jackson’s Smaug comes awfully close to that image. He is large, smart, and, most importantly, full of fire and fury. Everything about Smaug in this film is a huge huge win for everyone.
But, unfortunately, the movie ends and we have to wait until next December to see how the story concludes. I mean, there is the book, but with all of the liberties that Jackson has already taken, I fully expect him to continue changing some aspects. Which, by the way, is completely fine. In some ways, not knowing exactly what happens only enhances the viewing experience, because we all like to be surprised. Hopefully, though, he will surprise us with only with good surprises and not bad ones (Not having Gandalf decapitate the Goblin King in the first movie still sorta bums me out). Liberties aside, there is plenty of good material in The Desolation of Smaug to give you ample excitement for next year’s version, even if you did not read the books. So many story lines converging. It’s going to be a long wait!