The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug (New Zealand/ UK/ USA, 2013)
Directed by Peter Jackson
Starring Martin Freeman, Ian McKellen, Richard Armitage, Benedict Cumberbatch
IMDb Top 250: #200 (20/1/14)
In my review of the first Hobbit film, An Unexpected Journey, I concluded by saying that we couldn't entirely judge it without the context of its subsequent sequels. I spent a lot of my time addressing audience expectations of the film rather than reviewing the film itself, something that I will correct when I inevitably revisit the trilogy however long after its completion next Christmas.
Lord of the Rings appendices. Here, there is the underlying feeling of a gathering darkness, reflected in both the journey of the dwarfs and Gandalf's investigations of the Necromancer. The success of this latter section could also be used to justify Jackson's decision to draw on the appendices - but we shall come onto that a little later.
The Fellowship of the Ring didn't, possibly because it took a long time to adjust to Jackson's approach with weaving in the extra material. This film, by contrast, starts off very briskly and keeps the pace up all the way through. Even though it's still much too long, we aren't quite so conscious of it this time around.
Moulin Rouge! deprived us of seeing the spectacular sets. But Jackson does a very good job, aided by Benedict Cumberbatch's sinister performance and wonderful delivery.
The Two Towers succeeded in having an end-point of tension and catharsis. Frodo and Sam's journey had reached a point where the trials that had survived were balanced by the scale of what was still facing them, enabling the film to stand on its own. Here, the ending feels altogether arbitrary, as though Jackson had cut where Del Toro would have cut but hadn't rewritten the script around it.
NEXT REVIEW: Percy Jackson and the Lightning Thief (2010)