Copyright © 2013 by Warner Bros. Pictures
In this portion of ‘The Hobbit’, the actual reason for Bilbo Baggin’s (Martin Freeman) selection into the team is revealed. Thorin Oakenshield (Richard Armitage) has to retrieve the Arkenstone in the hoard of treasure buried in the Lonely Mountain guarded by Smaug (Benedict Cumberbatch) to unite all Dwarves. The journey ahead for the company is still a long one and at every turn they make, danger is always present. The Orcs led by Azog (Manu Bennett) are still on their trail and the appearance of Mirkwood Elves particularly from Legolas (Orlando Bloom) and Tauriel (Evangeline Lilly) does not ease the matter. The dwarves are imprisoned until Bilbo breaks them out with the use of his new found ‘weapon’. The group finally reaches the mountain through assistance from the villagers of Lake-town. It is here that they have to device a plan to find the Arkenstone undetected by Smaug.
After the overlong and underwhelming interpretation of ‘An Unexpected Journey’, it is a marked improvement for ‘The Desolation of Smaug’ in many aspects, especially the pacing is more fluid in addition to more purposeful plotting. Peter Jackson must have heeded the criticisms and refined the editing this time around via a tauter script. What a thrill ride from the get go. When the opening reveals the reason Bilbo’s skills is required for this task, it does not linger for long and moves forward to the present with the gang running from the pursuant Orc army.
The group is assisted by Beorn (Mikael Persbrandt), a shape shifter to lose the trailing Orcs and the events which follow right after are hair-raising as well as anticipated. The mess Bilbo and his dwarf companions get entangled with reaches a new high for the burglar to really shine and showcase not only his bravery but intelligence to outmanoeuvre their not-so-friendly eight-legged beasts. His highly bright mind is consistently put to good use in another outrageous rescue operation with the most daring coming face-to-face amid one very tick off dragon (the most realistic looking of the lot although what sets it apart is the intimidating voice work from Cumberbatch).
A second time in the shoes (or feet) of our very cautious hobbit, Freeman’s confidence is increasingly more exuberant, a trait Gandalf (Ian McKellen) noticed just before he leaves for Dol Guldur. As in many arduous journeys, it is a natural progression for our protagonists to grow and be more than what they are made out to be. Courage is a recurrence throughout the course of this tale for many of them. In Bilbo’s case, he coyly tells Gandalf it is the ‘thing’ he found for his changed perception in life.
That is the power of the One Ring. Its degenerative influence is beginning to rear its ugly head on its finder, turning from pacifist into aggressor. Freeman successfully balances the needed emotions to convey his stronger state (but not necessarily better). He steps it up and even surpasses ‘Rings’ veteran, McKellen. As the escalating threat in Dol Guldur is currently not the focus, Gandalf’s shine does fade away slightly unlike his ever dependable magical staff (though it is not enough to refute a familiar foe).
And what of Bloom’s revisit to his blond Elven heritage? It is always a treat for the choreographers to conjure nifty fight situations for this light-footed archer and Legolas once again does not disappoint in a watery combat. He is well complimented by his right-hand woman Tauriel, a newly conceived character by Jackson and Fran Walsh. A Silvan Elf, she is the Chief of the Guards to King Thranduil (Lee Pace), who incidentally is Legolas’ father.
A cross between Arwen and Éowyn, Tauriel is tough as implied by her lower social status but is never afraid to show her vulnerability, as seen in her attraction toward Kili (Aidan Turner). A far cry from his earlier turn as Aragorn’s cohort, our skilled bowman is hardened and is the widest range of emotions I have seen so far from Bloom. While it is comforting to see Bloom trying his hardest to emote with varying results, pulling it off more easily come in Armitage’s Thorin and Luke Evans’ Bard the Bowman, a stranger from Lake-town whose alliance with the wanderers is more than meets the eye.
The commonality which both dwarf and man share is of their imperial ancestry. As stated a while back, courage is significantly crucial to not only Bilbo but is also extended to his diverse acquaintances. The hindrance preventing these men from fully achieving greatness is governed by their complicated past and Jackson explores the conflict admirably. For our Elf duo, one is too conformed to his father’s orders whereas the other is torn asunder on her choice to aid her dwarf lover. The ramifications to these acts are yet to be resolved but you can count on me to be first in line when the conclusion opens on December 2014.
Rated PG-13 for extended sequences of intense fantasy action violence, and frightening images