After successfully crossing over (and under) the Misty Mountains, Thorin and Company must seek aid from a powerful stranger before taking on the dangers of Mirkwood Forest--without their Wizard. If they reach the human settlement of Lake-town it will be time for the hobbit Bilbo Baggins to fulfill his contract with the dwarves. The party must complete the journey to Lonely Mountain and burglar Baggins must seek out the Secret Door that will give them access to the hoard of the dragon Smaug. And, where has Gandalf got off to? And what is his secret business to the south? Written by
While I enjoyed the first Hobbit film, it did feel like it left a bit to be desired. This was no surprise, as everything that I loved about the book was in the second half. I knew that I would be waiting for all the good stuff with the second and third films. And sure enough, the second film delivers where the first film didn't quite excite as much as I had wanted. While it isn't perfect and does unnecessarily deviate a bit, this is easily better than the first film, giving us a bigger, bolder adventure and a more interesting Bilbo Baggins this time around.
Before I get to the good stuff, let me get my complaints out of the way. My biggest complaint are the unnecessary plot threads. There seems to be a big need for this series of films to tie into LotR, and I really don't understand why. A great deal of time is taken in this film to introduce us to things we already know the outcome of. We're, at points, taken away from the dwarfs and Bilbo to follow Gandalf as he goes off on his own adventure to uncover the growing evil of Sauron and his armies. Like the first film, it's completely unnecessary, but unlike that film, it's jarring. We're ripped from a fantastic adventure to a story that we don't really need to know and has no real relation to the dwarfs and their adventure. In fact, any time we're taken out of the company of the dwarfs, it almost feels cheap. The almost romance between Evangeline Lily's elf and the dwarf Kili feels something of the same, the whole lot of these stories coming off as filler in an effort to make time for three movies instead of just two. It feels like a stretch and brings a screeching halt to the momentum of the main story.
That said, the rest of the film is an excellent and expertly crafted adaptation. There is a definite sense of character growth, especially from Bilbo, who seems to struggle with the power of the ring and it's greed. We already know where this goes, but it is none the less fascinating considering who he was when we first met him. The dwarfs seem to almost take a back seat here. They are less prominent, with the exception of Thorin and Balin, who take front and center. That isn't to say they aren't entertaining, as they usually are every time they are on screen. Thorin is the real standout though, as he goes through similar changes as Bilbo, which lends them an interesting comparison in their mutual struggles. The actors are all excellent once again in their respective roles, with Freeman once again being the standout. Evangeline Lily is also a pleasant surprise in an original role as an elf created for the film. She adds a much needed feminine touch to an otherwise predominantly male cast. She proves herself to be a fine silver screen presence and hopefully this will net her some further film roles.
While the film does an excellent job of not simply being the middle film, something The Two Towers struggled with in the LotR trilogy, it is the action, set pieces, and effects which are the true stars. This may not be a LotR movie, but it's close. We almost immediately start out with a bang and it rarely lets up. Of course, much of what happens early on, as exciting as it may be, pales in comparison to it's explosive and lengthy climax. Smaug is quite possibly the best creation of any of the film, Hobbit or LotR. He is as awesome as you could have hoped for and Benedict Cumberbatch is excellent in the role. While effects have been applied to his voice to give it more boom, he does a fantastic job as the sneering, wise, and boastful dragon. Watching and listening to him face off against Bilbo is a delightful treat, and that is before we get to any fire breathing and chasing. What follows is a lengthy conclusion to the film that will excite and delight all. I have no qualms in saying that Smaug makes the entire film worth the admission of price. But don't go in expecting a solid conclusion. This is, after all, the second of a trilogy, so you can surely expect the film to leave you salivating for the next one.
While this new Hobbit film still doesn't reach LotR heights, it is superior to the previous film, especially when it comes to being an enjoyable adventure. It feels like it matters to the trilogy and delivers on being an epic. And I simply can't rave enough about Smaug. If you didn't enjoy the first film, you may find yourself feeling about the same here. But at least this one has a cool dragon.
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