This is a reprint of my review which
was published on this blog in January, with a number of minor revisions. That version of the review can be found here.
The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug (New Zealand/ USA, 2013)
Directed by Peter Jackson
Starring Martin Freeman, Ian McKellen, Richard Armitage, Benedict Cumberbatch
In my original review of the first Hobbit film, I concluded by saying that we couldn't entirely judge it without the context of its subsequent sequels. I spent a lot of my review (both versions of it) addressing audience expectations of the film rather than reviewing the film itself, at least not as directly as perhaps I would normally. As I explained, this was necessary in dealing with a lot of the baggage that comes with comparisons with The Lord of the Rings, which the film inevitably invites.
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 they 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: Just Friends (2005)