As a huge fan of Lord of the Rings this review comes with some bias; the Lord of the Rings trilogy, in my opinion (thus a fact) is probably the best trilogy ever made, rivalled only, off the top of my head, by the Dark Knight Trilogy. Obviously I was very excited about the Hobbit and despite people twining about them being too long and it being a trilogy I simply can’t get enough. An Unexpected Journey was very good but in the light of the Desolation of Smaug, it was underwhelming because the Desolation of Smaug truly is good.
The adventure continues with Thorin’s company of dwarves as Gandalf leaves the pack to investigate the growing influence of an evil power (Sauron) throughout middle earth. Bilbo and the dwarves encounter Mirkwood, giant spiders, Legolas and Lake Town before finally reaching the lonely mountain and the moment everyone has been waiting for since the Hobbit movies were announced… SMAUG.
Let’s get the boring bit out the way first. Cast are staggeringly magnificent. It never caeses to amaze me how they carry such huge expectations on their shoulders and deliver it flawlessly every time. McKellen obviously fantastic as Gandalf, Freeman was born to play the awkward yet growing Bilbo Baggins and Armitage is intense as the ever-developing Thorin Oakenshield. Evangeline Lily puts in a powerful performance as the non-canon character Tauriel and creates a sweet love triangle with Legolas and Kili… yes, Kili. How is Cumberbatch as the necromancer AND Smaug? I’ll come onto that in a bit.
If you’re wondering why I picked the above image to represent this review the answer is simple; it is a truly beautiful moment in the movie where all of Peter Jackson’s effects work to maximum wonder. Howard Shaw’s mesmerising and chillingly gorgeous soundtrack plays as the beautiful high frame rate colours expand across middle earth, a wonderful scene. This is a movie full of wonderful, emotional scenes, doing what Lord of the Rings did best. It’s all action packed and 100mph from the get go, so if you were expecting some of the slower pacing of the first one you’re in for a huge surprise. This works well, the whole movie being a chase and the different story lines accumulating to one massive cross cut finale that is breathtaking.
But the showpiece? Smaug. He is probably the greatest CGI creation ever made. He is huge, booming and intricately detailed. Benedict Cumberbatch’s sultry voice caressed the cinema speakers and vibrated the entire room… it was pretty sexy, but a hell of a lot more terrifying. The arrogance of Smaug in the book is shown perfectly on screen if you get beyond his visual wonder to actually concentrate on the brilliant interplay between him and his fellow Sherlock co-star Freeman; I should add here the script is as good as ever. I can’t overstate how amazing Smaug looks on screen, as Bilbo says, ‘truly the tales and songs fall utterly short.’
Bad things? I’d say it was missing the good old ‘hobbit music’ which is only used once over the course of the movie, but the cliffhanger ending (which works tremendously well and frustrated me beyond belief in a good way) made this feel like the first part of a two part story leading into the final movie, so I’m sure there will be a lot more memorable scenes to come in the recently renamed ‘Battle of the Five Armies’ (Jackson’s worst ever decision.)
Utterly astonishing. Jackson does it again. 5 stars and I DO NOT give those out easily. The Lord of the Cinema retains his title.