The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug (2013)

The Hobbit - The Desolation of Smaug theatrical poster.jpgDesolating the competition

The dwarves, along with Bilbo Baggins and Gandalf the Grey, continue their quest to reclaim Erebor, their homeland, from Smaug. Bilbo Baggins is in possession of a mysterious and magical ring.

After a stellar, yet disappointing, reintegration into Middle Earth 10 years after the original trilogy, Peter Jackson follows it with the middle chapter in the Hobbit trilogy, which proves to be even more disappointing.

The plot fails to remain focused, jumping from subplot to subplot, as we aimlessly wander through an elven kingdom, a nest of giant spiders and a town run by Stephen Fry, until we finally reach the Misty Mountain and the titular dragon.

The returning cast continue to play their roles well, with Martin Freeman continuously excelling in the lead, while the new additions do a good job, but fail to be memorable. While a few of the Dwarves get more to do, giving a better feel to their characters, a large part of them still have little more of a purpose than to beef up the already large cast.

Ian McKellen spends nearly all of his screentime away from Bilbo and the Dwarves, and his storyline serves little purpose than to further connect the necromancer subplot to the original trilogy, with the Necromancers identity being far from surprising.

Evangeline Lilly plays Tauriel, a character not from Tolkein's source material. While she plays the role well, it's a shame the character is defined primarily through a much unneeded love triangle. Her character could have been defined in many other ways, through a need to hunt orcs, through a sense of respect for the Dwarves who helped her fight orcs earlier, but the decision to relegate her to the center of a love triangle is cheap and dated.

Martin denies that the 3 film split was done cause of money

While the CG is still overused, with the orcs still looking obviously CG, the highlight here is Smaug, who proves to be one of the finest CG creations since Gollum. Benedict Cumberbatch breaths life into this fire-breathing antagonist with his smooth voice, showcasing sparks of chemistry with his Sherlock co-star.

The action scenes are well directed, with the river ride in barrels being one of the years best sequences. It's just a shame the final scene feels as though it runs for too long, adding to the overlong runtime alongside a superfluous appearance from Beorn the Skinwalker, who serves little purpose other than to deliver exposition about how terrible the orcs are.

Peter Jackson's latest entry into Middle Earth proves to be his weakest. We can only hope that the final entry into the Hobbit trilogy justifies the decision to make three films out of one book, because the other two chapters aren't doing a good job of that.