Directed by: Peter Jackson Written by: Fran Walsh , Philippa Boyens, Peter Jackson, Guillermo del Toro
Starring: Ian McKellen, Martin Freeman, Richard Armitage
The middle section of Peter Jackson’s adaptation of J.R.R. Tolkien’s The Hobbit was always going to be problematic for some. Having taken a slim story and expanded it over three films of nearly 3 hours apiece, Peter Jackson had set himself the task of not only ensuring there was enough plot to fill this middle section, but also to ensure it kept everyone’s attention long enough to bring us back to watch the final installment. Expanding 5 chapters of a book to 2 hours and 41 minutes of screen time meant there have had to be some stretches of the source material, including re-introducing some characters who were never in the book, notably the return (introduction?) of Orlando Bloom as Legolas. On the whole though, it has worked, and worked well.
The action sequences are exciting (in particular the water-based battle) and the visuals and effects are as beautiful as ever. The heroes are all swash-bucklingly heroic and the villains are evil, gruesome and frightening. Benedict Cumberbatch‘s Smaug is calculating, vain and somehow charismatic, while the orks are all grotesque and brutal. I still only know the name of two of the dwarves though, which considering we are now six hours in is not a great testament to their individuality.
The success or failure of The Hobbit was always going to hinge on the actor playing Bilbo, and Martin Freeman continues to be a marvel, playing both wide-eyed innocent and action hero with aplomb.
Most importantly, there are no interminable scenes of dwarves eating and singing this time around, with Jackson offering a small recap of past events before plummeting in to the action.
The Desolation of Smaug is an entertaining action film, with enough pace to keep us panting for part three.