Before I begin to talk about “The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug“, I’d like to clarify 1 thing. While I simply adore “The Lord of the Rings” trilogy, undoubtedly the most critically and commercially successful trilogy in the history of cinema, I am by no means a fan. Though I liked all 3 films quite equally, as I did “The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey“, none of the films are as close to my heart as they are to the legions of fans across the globe. So, the following views do not belong to a biased nerd, but are quite neutral. And now that I have made myself clear, and in the process discredited my opinions in the eyes of millions (or more realistically, the few who are reading this), let’s get down to business.
The storyline continues the events of the first installment, in which the hobbit Bilbo Baggins travels with the wizard Gandalf and a company of thirteen dwarves, led by Thorin Oakenshield into the Kingdom of Erebor, taking them through Mirkwood, Esgaroth, and Dale to combat with the dragon Smaug.
When you follow-up such a prestigious set of films, (harsh) comparisons are going to be inevitable. But this film is a perfect representative of all 4 films that it follows. Like each of them, there is not a single dull moment throughout its (substantial) running time, with sub-plot after sub-plot and successive action set pieces. There is a lot of mythology, various creatures, more back stories than your history syllabus, which is all good. But also, like them, not all the sub-plots work. While some make you jump up and down with excitement like a little child, others just act as fillers, probably to uphold it’s reputation of running lengths that push the 3-hours mark. Also, the reluctance/refusal to kill off any characters in all the films is astounding.
While this film is the first not to feature Gollum/Smeagle, my favourite character throughout the series, it does mark the return of Legolas, a favourite amongst the girls. It also wonderfully touches upon things that we had come across in the previous trilogy, including Bilbo’s growing obsession and attachment to the ring. One thing to be noted is that this film and the previous one contain a lot more humour, which was one complaint I had against the LOTR trilogy. But in the process, it has lost some of the grimmer tones of the previous films, something that I had loved about them. As a result, the stakes just don’t appear to be as high as they were previously. So, none of the films have quite managed to strike the right balance when it comes to tone.
But despite tonal problems, you have to give it to Peter Jackson. The guy’s commitment to the film is unrivalled. Admittedly, his decision to make 3 films out of a single J.R.R Tolkien novel, as opposed to the 3 novels that the previous trilogy was adapted from, seemed dodgy at first and maybe even money-oriented, but the guy has managed to create 2 extremely exciting films so far that never seem short of adventure. Having spent almost half his career making the two trilogies, he seems so well-versed with Middle Earth that I suspect he cuts vegetables at his home with a sword. At no point does his direction crumble under the weight of expectations and never does he try to outdo the LOTR trilogy, all the while just trying to tell a story of a common hobbit (common in Middle Earth, that is). He, along with his team of screenwriters (that most notably contains director Guillermo Del Toro) crams the film with exciting episodes and characters that look and act crazy. Also, his ability to create exciting action set pieces is probably one of the highest order across the globe, and his command over the technical aspects of the film and the special effects is remarkable to say the least.
At the cost of further aggravating the LOTR fans out there, I feel Bilbo is a much better central protagonist to build around than Frodo was. While Frodo’s bravery was unquestionable, Bilbo is every bit as brave, but much more captivating, useful, capable and much less prone to making mistakes and causing accidental harm to people around him. I believe if Sam had been the ring bearer in the first trilogy rather than Frodo, he probably would’ve made it to Mordor and back before supper was ready. On the other hand, Bilbo has saved the people around him and proven himself worthy of responsibility on countless occasions. Martin Freeman has done a swell job of playing Bilbo and exhibiting all the character’s shades. From initial confusion and refusal to growing confidence to the dark shades (courtesy of the ring) to heroism, he does everything with considerable charm and makes the character so likeable.
Benedict Cumberbatch, who plays Sherlock Holmes to Martin Freeman’s Watson in the BBC series “Sherlock”, does the voice work for both the Necromancer and that gorgeous, gorgeous, simply gorgeous dragon Smaug. He doesn’t get to do much as the former, but excels in the latter role, spewing venom with every word that he utters. But considering the vast talent of the guy, he probably could’ve pulled this off in his sleep. Ian McKellen returns in his role as Gandalf The Grey, and once again manages to bring considerable intensity and humour to his character at the same time. Orlando Bloom, as Legolas, must probably be a treat to women’s eyes while he manages to kill dozens of Orcs, but doesn’t get to speak much. All the actors play the dwarves act admirably, but just can’t make us care for them as the supporting characters did in the LOTR films. The acting, though, remains great across the board, with nobody being an eyesore.
I’d like to end this review with a rant and cautionary advice. The quality of 3D has deteriorated so much across the country, it is hard to believe. 3D is by far the the biggest turn-off about watching a film theatrically, even more so than the anti-tobacco advertisement preceding the films. This is literally the worse experience that I’ve had in a cinema hall, and I saw “Joker” and “Himmatwala” in the theatre. I would seriously recommend you to watch this film in a cinema hall to fully appreciate its grand scale, and I guarantee that you won’t be disappointed, never mind if you’re a fan or not. But I plead to you to watch it in 2D, even if you have to watch it in a theatre in a slum. Just go for it.
©Piyush Chopra for PosterGully.com