Peter Jackson directs The Hobbit: The Desolation Of Smaug, the 2nd movie in The Hobbit trilogy, the continuation of the prequels’ story as the company of travelling dwarves, Bilbo and Gandalf draw closer to Erebor and to Smaug, encountering new challenges and threats along the way. The main cast returns with new additions in Elf king Thranduil (Lee Pace), Tauriel (Evangeline Lilly), the returning Legolas (Orlando Bloom) and Bard the bowman (Luke Evans), Mikael Persbrandt (Beorn). Lee Pace is geat as Thranduil, a reluctant an harsh ruler, out to safeguard his people, not caring for Dwarves, while Tauriel, a character invented for the films specifically brings a nice, different take on Elves to the story and Evangeline Lilly plays the role well.
The Desolation Of Smaug picks up where The Hobbit left off as the company continues onto the mountain and the film has slightly darker tone to the plot, with the story of the necromancer (Sauron) gradually returning to power in Minas Morgul as an interesting side story. And we also get the side stories that the setting of Laketown provides, with Bard the Bowman and the towns mayor. Meanwhile Saurons evil influence and power is felt across middle earth with increasing numbers of Orcs and giant spiders, this sub plot as a nod to the rise of Sauron was a nice touch, not really relevant to the story of The Hobbit but cool easter eggs for Lord Of The Rings fans. Though the main story of The Desolation Of Smaug follows along the same lines as An Unexpected Journey with a lot of trekking across middle earth and the company encountering different challenges as they get captured 3 times in the film alone, in varying circumstances.
The Dwarves are again a driving force of the plot with their bantering and playing off of each other, though there is more depth and new dimensions to certain characters explored via Thorin and Killi, as well as Bilbo, who grows as a character throughout the trilogy and you see active development in his character. More development of the different dwarves would have been a nice but fleshing them all out would understandably have been a logistical nightmare with the runtime the film already has and as it is, I feel that Desolation is well paced and flows well enough.
There is a bit more action in the film and the set pieces are somewhat bigger in scope and definitely more long winded, especially that river chase sequence involving the Dwarves and the orcs, you know that I’m talking about, the set pieces are again CG heavy and some scenes do look even more like cartoons but the story is still an engaging watch. Not using Smaug himself that much in the film is a criticism, though for the little we do see of him, he does come across as a menacing and formidable evil force feeling voiced fantastically by the evergreen Benedict Cumberbatch.
The Desolation Of Smaug stands as a more well rounded, evenly balanced film than The Hobbit which may have felt a bit too light in tone for some, the action and set pieces are bigger in scope and it’s great to see even more new, different parts of middle earth, the stakes are higher and the story is told well, with a bit of a darker tone and more action as the Dwarves converge on the Lonely Mountain.
. Plot adds more depth to some characters, good dramatic moments
. Great, fun set pieces with some good action scenes
. New character additions to the plot fit in with the story well
. People may be disappointed with the lack of desolation in relation to Smaug