No movie settings have the depth and appeal as Peter Jackson’s Middle Earth. The sequel to last winters “The Hobbit” has been highly anticipated this year. The middle movie takes the plot from where “The Hobbit” left off, to just before Tolkien’s original climax.
This epic feels a bit stretched out though. Reflecting on the events of the film, one sees not a whole lot of progress gets made. At the end of the first film the members of the dwarf party could see the mountain they were seeking. They make it there at the end of this movie, but not before Gandalf goes on his little Similarion errands with the wizard Radagast.
Despite the stretching, the film was well-paced and the action was balanced. There were some beautifully shot action sequences showing Orlando Bloom’s reprisal as Legolas. Evangeline Lilly and Bloom have several intense archery and dagger combat sequences. The longest action scene takes place with the dwarves in barrels on the river, where the viewer really gets to see the combat effectiveness of dwarves – something not emphasized enough in “The Lord of the Rings.”
Like every film in Jackson’s Middle Earth saga, the music is phenomenal and the orchestration fits everything perfectly. Nothing brings a grin to a fan’s face faster than a short reprise of the theme “The Shire.” Music in a fantasy epic has to hit all of its marks and “The Desolation of Smaug” does not disappoint.
Now to the dragon. Smaug is a very important character in “The Hobbit.” He is a majority of the original book’s conflict. He has to be clever, he has to be vicious and he has to be terrifying. Benedict Cumberbatch was a perfect choice for the role, both because of his chemistry with Martin Freeman (from BBC’s “Sherlock”) and his talent as a villain (which we saw in “Star Trek: Into Darkness”). It comes together in a marvelous way. Cumberbatch brings a certain zest to the character with nothing but his voice work.
Overall, the movie was put together in an excellent way. The production value is just as high as it has been in any of Jackson’s Middle Earth films. It has some lighthearted elements for children and plenty of classic elements for those who are fans of the book. It picks up right where the previous installment left off, so it would be advised to watch “An Unexpected Journey” before experiencing “The Desolation of Smaug.”