Tolkien purists may grumble at the liberties Peter Jackson is taking with his The Hobbit trilogy. After all, stretching a children’s book into three feature-length films means that there are quite a few things in the movies that aren’t in the book. But there is no denying that the second installment, The Desolation of Smaug, out this Friday December 13, is a fun adventure filled with plenty of action.
Smaug has a very Indiana Jones feel to it, including an extended barrel sequence (when the Dwarves are escaping the Elves of Mirkwood) that seems to have been lifted directly from The Temple of Doom. There are several small-scale Elves versus Orcs battles featuring fan favorite Legolas (Orlando Bloom) and original character Tauriel (Evangeline Lilly) being badasses. And the action doesn’t stop once the Dwarves reach the Lonely Mountain, with Thorin (Richard Armitage) and the others taking a heavily CGI-laden stand against the feared dragon, Smaug (Benedict Cumberbatch), in the forges of Erebor. There were several points during the film where I legitimately worried about the fate of several characters I KNOW make it through, because they’re in The Lord of the Rings.
Martin Freeman plays Bilbo with subtle tenacity, a character who is changing both because he must and because he is being molded and corrupted by the ring of power. There is so much in his eyes and his expressions. He does so much more with so much less. You can tell that he seems to be aware of his growing attachment to the ring, yet he is forced to continue using it in order to accomplish his task. And his relationship with Thorin is fracturing just as his relationships with the other Dwarves is strengthening. His interactions with Smaug are stupendous, and may I say that Smaug himself is spectacular. (They did a much better job rendering Smaug than they did with, say, some of the fight sequences.)