For anybody who had just about given up on Peter Jackson’s ever-longer-seeming series of J.R.R. Tolkien films, there comes the improbably named The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug. Who knows how next year’s final installment will come off, but the second Hobbit film mostly chucks aside everything that was wrong with An Unexpected Journey and relocates the joy of storytelling. Plus: Benedict Cumberbatch as Smaug.
The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug opens everywhere this Friday. My full review is at Film Journal International:
The elements click smartly together in The Desolation of Smaug like they haven’t since The Fellowship of the Ring. This is partly due to Jackson having better material to work with. With its characters fresh out of the Misty Mountains, the film hurls them from one danger to the next. In short order they’ve been taken in by a shape-shifting man-bear friend of Gandalf’s, sent into the inky-black vastness of the perfectly named Mirkwood, fought off giant hissing spiders, and imprisoned in the Escher-like underground palace of the wood-elf king Thranduil (Lee Pace). Looming in the distance is the treasure-filled Lonely Mountain, with its dragon guardian Smaug, and the unspoken worry that this tiny band of homeless dwarves and their unlikely burglar Bilbo (Martin Freeman) will be utterly outmatched once they arrive…
Here’s the trailer: