To most, The Lord of the Rings Trilogy is a masterpiece of modern cinema; an epic adaptation of J.R.R. Tolkien’s trilogy for the battle of middle earth. However to me and even amongst those who define film as their greatest passion, the trilogy is overstrung and quite frankly boring. For those rare few, the announcement that Peter Jackson was to journey once more to middle earth to adapt his trilogies prequel, The Hobbit, wasn’t of importance.
The fact that Mr Jackson intended to make three films out of the one short book seemed ludicrous
But how does the second instalment in this franchise, The Desolation of Smaug, feel to a non Middle Earth fan girl?
Peter Jackson is, of course, famed for his adaptation of J.R.R. Tolkien’s Lord of the Rings novels. Here, Jackson turns his attention to Tolkien’s original work The Hobbit. The story itself is classic fantasy adventure. It follows the peril filled journey of its main players. The advantage of this film is that it doesn’t have to set the scene like its predecessor, its able to go right into the action. Although, the journey of the dwarves is the central story; it constantly switches to other characters such as the elves or the Orcs. This can be somewhat distracting but all the creatures are fascinating enough to over come the whip lash effect of the film.
The one aspect that not even non Ring fans can deny is that visually Jackson’s film are breathtaking. To create middle earth no expense, (financial or man power) has been spared. From its lavish scenic views, grand set pieces, CGI creations to creative make-up and costumes. Jackson is happy to use not just CGI but more hard grit to weave his fantasy world together. The result is a beautiful interpretation of Tolkien’s world. By using the great landscape of New Zealand the size and scale of middle earth and the journey that Bilbo and his dwarves must undertake is established. This scale pulls you into its mythical world. The man made world of Lake Town is a testament to built set pieces. An icy fishing village that sits within view of the Lonely Mountain. There's something unreachable about the town and the detail involved in creating it.
The large ensembled cast is lead by Martin Freeman as Bilbo Baggins. Here, Freeman does well as the dwarf seduced by the power of the ring he posses. The role is a great mix of action, adventure, drama as well as brief moments of humour. Despite this the film does feel as if it doesn’t have a lead role. With all the players fighting for screen time, it feels like its talented cast don’t have much to do individually. With actors such as Freeman this is a shame. Ian Mckellen’s role as Gandalf is minimal in this instalment. Though he still manages to dominate any scene hes in with his authoritarian voice and impressive beard. Although, many Tolkien purists objected to the character of Tauriel played by Eavangeline Lilly, *a character created purely for the film.) She's a great addition to the cast.
The major problem with this film, (and almost everything Jackson touches) is that its too long. With a running time of just under three hours you find yourself waiting for the interval to pop to the bathroom. Baring in mind that the three parts are an adaptation of one book, how are they still so long? The answer to this is in Jackson’s visual style. The visuals of this film are stunning and Jackson clearly likes showing them off. Easily a quarter of the film is dedicated to scenic set ups and creature close-up. Its admirable that Jackson has gone to such work to create the world of middle earth but showing it in such scale before every scene takes away from the plot. These set ups, though breathtaking, don’t push the plot forward merely show off the visual handy work. The film would work so much better and still establish its otherworldly setting without this. Despite this it does still boast a great story filled with interesting characters.
For fans of the franchise expect more of the same. For those who are new, if you can handle the long running time its an entertaining adventure. If Lord of the Rings didn’t convert you to the dwarf side then this might be the one to break you.
3 out of 5