This is the second in The Hobbit trilogy of films and although it might seem odd to split what is seen by many as a relatively small book into three films; speaking as someone who has the unabridged audiobook of the novel (yes, I am a nerd); it seems the correct number of films, and the right length of each, in order to make an (almost) truly faithful adaptation.
The second of The Hobbit films follows the title character Bilbo Baggins (Martin Freeman), wizard Gandalf the Grey (Ian McKellen) and a band of dwarfs lead by Thorin Oakenshield (Richard Armitage) as they continue on their quest to the Lonely Mountain, to slay the evil dragon Smaug (voiced by Benedict Cumberbatch) and retrieve the precious treasure in the mountain, including the Arkenstone. All the time Bilbo is secretly in possession of a magical ring that makes him invisible.
During their journey, while being tracked by orcs, the questers meet the skin-changing Beorn (Mikael Persbrandt) who can take on the guise of a giant bear; venture into the dark Mirkwood Forest where they encounter the local elves including one called Legolas (Orlando Bloom), and make their way to Lake-town, a settlement near to the Lonely Mountain somewhat decaying under the rule of its selfish leader (Stephen Fry).
The Desolation of Smaug is a pretty decent film, whether you’re into the works of Tolkien or not. For the most part it’s well told and well performed. Peter Jackson certainly deserves the credit he gets for producing such a wonderfully directed film. Everything from the set, the location, special effects and so on – it all comes together superbly. The best bits, personally, are the scenes with Smaug. They combine the believable effects to create a realistic-looking dragon (or as close as you can get to a realistic depiction of a mythical being) with a delightful and slightly scary performance from Cumberbatch.
It has to be highlighted that there some issues, for which Jackson is responsible for. The main one is that he has taken some liberties with the plot. The biggest of these, and the one that has garnered the most complaints from die-hard Tolkien fans, is the creation of a character that does not appear in the book, a female elf called Tauriel (Evangeline Lilly).
Tauriel is a Mirkwood elf alongside Legolas who develops some feelings for one of the dwarves. Many fans hate the new character; others defend Jackson’s view that she does represent more of the Mirkwood elves and helps to include more female characters into the mix. I have mixed views on the character. Yes, it does help with the issue of gender balance, but it does seem a bit annoying to add new characters to the original work. It is known Tauriel will appear in the final film There and Back Again.
But in general The Desolation of Smaug is fine movie, and for people who are not into Tolkien the issue of Tauriel is not one that is any concern.
The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug is available to own on DVD from April 7