With The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug, director Peter Jackson continues the adventures of the¬†courageous Hobbit, Bilbo Baggins, in the second in the trilogy of films adapting J.R.R. Tolkien’s iconic fantasy novel. There is no doubt Jackson is a master story teller, film maker and director with this film being a brilliant, gorgeous example of scenery, epic scope and imagination. The action scenes alone are amazing to witness and experience, especially in its high frame rate, 3D presentation.
The effects are marvelous; the variety of fantasy characters entirely fascinating and bewitching, hobbits, dwarves, elves, orcs, spiders and, of course, dragons; and, the landscapes, locations and sets are breathtaking. Even with all this at his hip, the maverick director lets character development, emotional arcs and pacing slip through the cracks preventing the audience from becoming fully engulfed in the story, except for those who are already invested in the source material. It has its moments, such as the elven archer Tauriels’ decision to persue the violent band of orcs or stay and save a single dwarf, a dwarf for which she may or may not have affections, but the major beats with Bilbo and Thorin get buried under the scope, the action and the effects – no doubt left to the next, final installment of the trilogy. By no means a failure, The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug is a visual triumph, a¬†monumental¬†achievement in presenting a fully realized, living, breathing fantasy world, Middle-Earth, that is only slightly marred by odd pacing, too many characters with not enough emotional investment and a frustrating cliffhanger.
The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug is very similar to The Empire Strikes Back and The Hunger Games: Catching Fire being the middle story in a fantasy trilogy that is basically the second act of a larger story ending on a cliff hanger. The other films benefit from being designed as such a beast at the time of their creation while¬†The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug is a product of dividing a single story. The film suffers from that manufacturing providing an uneven pace and a divisive conclusion.
It also has to hold much of its emotional weight and character arcs to the next and final film in the trilogy leaving the film a tad dramatically hollow. Tauriel fills in the gasps some, but only as much as a supporting character can in the grander scheme of things. However, the film is a thrilling adventure, a miracle of technical¬†achievement. It is rich and beautiful, amazing to behold bringing to life a fully realized Middle-Earth as much or perhaps more than Lord of the Rings with elves, orcs, hobbits, dwarves, wizards, humans, spiders and dragons. It succeeds in drawing its audience into its fantasy world leading them along an adventure with Bilbo, Thorin and the other 12 dwarves as they encounter challenge after challenge in their quest to recover the Archenstone from the fire-breathing dragon Smaug so that an entire race of dwarves can recover their lost homeland.