top of page
  • Writer's pictureBen Kemper

The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug

Or: “We didn’t start the fire (it was the great scaly thing over yonder)”

If there’s one thing to be said for this, the second installment of the “There and Back Again” trilogy, it’s that unlike it’s predecessor it hits the ground running. The trouble it keeps running, through beautiful New Zealand scenery and rambunctious battles, until it drops over the cliff-hanger ending and plummets away from sight, its legs still windmilling away as it accelerates toward war, death, and calamity. It never drags, but it never breathes either and we need air amid the twenty minute long spates of pitched battles and endless flavors the peril and all the severed Orc heads. Soooooo many severed Orc heads. They’re not even humorous, after a while, those severed Orc heads.

The Story thus Far: Having come into possession of the One Ring, Bilbo Baggins (Martin Freeman) continues on with the Dwarfs to take bak the city under the Lonely Mountain, claim the bewitching Arkenstone and crown Thorin (Richard Armitage) king under the mountain. To do so they must pass through the sinister Mirkwood, ruled over by the isolationist Elf-King Thranduil (Lee Pace) and his son Legolas (Orlando Bloom), make there way through the byzantine intrigues of Laketown and its greedy Master (Stephen Fry), and finally face the Dragon Smaug (Benidict Cumberbatch) in the ancient halls. Meanwhile Azog (Manu Bennett) ‘The Pale Orc’ continues his hunt for Thorin along with his son Bolg (Lawrence Makoare) and Gandalf (Sir Ian Mckellen) the great wizard seeks to confront the vile Necromancer (Bendict Cumberbatch, again) in his fortress at Dol Guldur. Get it. Got it? Good.

In spite of the absurdly long battle sequences, of which there are many, and the under cooking of any sort of character development for our heroes, I must confess I enjoyed the film. If Jackson and his crew have failed to carry the heart of the story along they have at least made the body a very fit and attractive one, taking especial care to detail and flesh out the daily lives of Dwarfs, Elves and Men.

And if the dwarf's good fortune and plans at escaping roasting/skewering/cleaving is at times laughably unbelievable, its all right to laugh. There promises to be plenty of tragedy upcoming. Sadly, as before stated, our heroes have had all breath squeezed out of them by the long run. Mckellen is just mysterious and snide and foreboding as he always is, but Armitage, who showed such promise, has now backslid, a film too early, into the madness of power and the lust for gold. The same can be said of Freeman who’s genius time and time again has proved to be playing the ordinary bloke placed in the extraordinary situation. Here, neither script nor pace allow him to reflect how he’d rather be in his nice hole by the fire with the kettle just beginning to whistle. The Ring is also working on him much to fast to be effective, and Bilbo’s savage stabbing of a child who’s come a hair’s breath too close to his “precious” is downright disturbing. Granted said child is a monstrous spider spawn, but you feel he’d stab it with as much zest even if it wasn’t an abomination. Freeman falls more into his stride while sneaking about, snarking with, and fleeing from Smaug (the chemistry still combusts despite the addition of hight, distortion of voice, and the mass of CGI scales that stand between them.) The worst waste though is Stephen Fry, who could have made an odious and humorous symphony from the Master of Lake town, but instead is forced to play a continual tune of authoritarian nastiness.

One actor who manages to balance on the rolling barrel of the film with comfort is new comer Evangeline Lilly as Tauriel, captain of the Mirkwood Guard and Legolas’s erstwhile companion. From Lilly we finally get an elf who is neither unbelievably serene, overly stoic, nor unbearably moony. She is just as adapt at gracefully killing things as Bloom, but in between the slaughter Lilly also gives Tauriel something in the way of a soul and the semblance of a malleable expression. She is matched in her elf-awkwardness (Awkward elves! It’s a Christmas Miracle!) by Pace’s Thranduil, a partially crazed and trigger haired king who finally, finally, finally highlights how divorced his species is from humanity and just how inhuman they can be. Creatures of Light and Grace they undoubtedly are but in no way are Elves supposed to be “Nice”.

For my own part the highlight of the film was seeing Smaug, dear Smaug, beloved Smaug, my childhood defender and imaginary friend, pouring and coiling his way across the silver screen. The folks at WETA have outdone themselves with creating a great glowing, sneering Wyvern, sliding and gliding through his treasure cave,s toying with his prey before attempting to crush/charbroil/devour it. So what if his attempts are so laughably unsuccessful, his near thirty minute fight is breath taking first to last. Cumberbatch gives the dragon as much urbanity as power. While everyone else, even the orcs are given to old timey sentence structures, the Dragons lines are steely sharp and to the point. “I, am Fire,” purrs Smaug as he wings off at the films end, set to deal out catastrophe, “I, am......Death.” Hear you there ol’ pal, hear you there.

0 views0 comments

Recent Posts

See All

Season on the Line

Or: Loomings. Despite what you may have heard dear reader, Moby Dick is a strong and vibrant novel. Funny, touching, reflective, and adventuresome, and centered upon that most compelling of plots, the

The Hundred Foot Journey

Or: Flavorful fusion The best advice I can offer for seeing the Hundred Foot Journey is not to come hungry. Lasse Hallstrom’s direction balances itself on the pillar of food appreciation (equally divi

Steel Magnolias at the Idaho Shakespeare Festival

Or: Hail Ouiser Robert Harling’s 1987 Steel Magnolia’s is a play with a origin as captivating as its plot. Created in 10 days during “a 24/7 tsunami of Southernness”, Harling’s dauntless comedy is not


bottom of page