The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug by Alicia Christian
Cast: Martin Freeman, Ian McKellen, Lee Pace, Benedict Cumberbatch, Orlando Bloom and Evangeline Lilly
Synopsis: In this second installment of The Hobbit film trilogy, Bilbo Baggins (Martin Freeman) and Gandalf the Grey (Ian McKellen) continue alongside their thirteen dwarven companions on a quest to fulfill an ancient prophecy. Their journey to reclaim the majestic Arkenstone and the mountain of Erebor from the monstrous dragon Smaug is not without its share of challenges. From escaping the prisons of the Wood Elves to defeating giant spiders, the epic undertaking of this band of heroes puts them all to the ultimate test.
Splitting a single volume into multiple movies has been a popular trend recently for books that have been brought to the big screen, including but not limited to J.K. Rowling’s Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows and Stephanie Meyer’s Breaking Dawn. Smaug director Peter Jackson’s motives for splitting the roughly 276-305 page book into three films were (fittingly) threefold: to allow the characters to drive the story (as opposed to having a story-telling narrator), to enable more complex character development, and to create a sense of unity between The Lord of the Rings trilogy and The Hobbit films. His goal was to make it so that The Lord of the Rings would not undermine The Hobbit, and that each could instead elaborate upon the other to further develop the mystical and enchanting world of Middle Earth.
The musical composition of The Hobbit enhances the sensation of actually being on the expedition with the characters. Four time Academy Award winner and Canadian composer Howard Shore scored the music for the film. Shore says his intention with the music was to “transport the audience into the work in a very seamless way,” and that “it was so important to continue that connection [to Middle Earth].” Production designer Dan Hennah, who worked on Underworld: Rise of the Lycans and as the set designer for The Lord of the Rings trilogy, also acknowledged the importance of creating unity in the work. To produce this unity, he ensured that the set designs reflected the idea that the characters were on a continuation of the journey that was begun in the first film. Hennah describes the tone reflected by the set design as being reminiscent of the work of Tchaikovsky- a famous Russian composer- in that it “gets darker as it goes along, but there is always a ray of hope in there somewhere.”
The characters and their actors in The Desolation of Smaug are perhaps one of the most intriguing aspects of the film. Ironically, while Smaug the dragon and Bilbo the hobbit may be portrayed as enemies in this movie, in the BBC hit television show Sherlock, Martin Freeman and Benedict Cumberbatch work together as the iconic crime solving duo John Watson and Sherlock Holmes.
Perhaps just for show, or simply to add more content, the Wood Elves Legolas (Orlando Bloom) and Tauriel (Evangeline Lily) were added to the film, though neither character appears in the original novel.
Possibly the most unexpected character to enthrall audiences was none other than Elvenking Thranduil, portrayed by Lee Pace. Best known for his work in the film Lincoln and the television show Pushing Daisies, Pace imbues Thranduil with an intense, arrogant, yet reserved demeanor that perfectly suits the plot of the story. Thranduil easily overshadows his son, Prince Legolas, and a newfound appreciation for the character has been sparked in Hobbit fans around the globe.
Popular opinion of the film is that The Desolation of Smaug is superior to An Unexpected Journey. Many can agree however, that the film (which clocks in at 161 minutes) is around half an hour too long, as the movie does drag on unnecessarily at times. Regardless of this pacing issue, the final film There and Back Again remains anxiously anticipated. It is expected to be released this December, about a year after The Desolation of Smaug‘s theater release, and two years after An Unexpected Journey.