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THE HOBBIT: THE DESOLATION OF SMAUG (2013)

The second installment of THE HOBBIT Trilogy called THE DESOLATION OF SMAUG works even better than the first. It’s as if now free from the shackles of having to set up everything, the filmmakers can let the story breathe and run with wild abandon. Feeling much more like what I hoped from the new films, it delivers on the promise of the original trilogy.
 
Starting with a flashback of how Thorin and Gandalf met, the story then picks up right where the last one left off. The company that includes the hobbit Bilbo Baggins (Martin Freeman), the wizard Gandalf the Grey (Sir Ian McKellen) and the dwarves lead by Thorin Oakenshield (Richard Armitage) are rushing to make it to Erebor on time to open a secret passage into the heart of the kingdom.
 
But as they get closer, so does a pack of Orcs tasked with wiping them off the face of Middle-Earth. There are dangers at every turn, whether it is from massive spiders in the mirkwood, to the elves that could care less about the dwarves attempt to reclaim their land, or to humans themselves, still gun-shy from the first time the dragon Smaug burnt their river town to ashes.
 
This film sees the return of fan-favorite Legolas (Orlando Bloom), but it is the elf Tauriel (Evangeline Lilly) who truly owns the movie. A construct by writers Phillipa Boyens, Peter Jackson, Fran Walsh and Guillermo del Toro, she was created to not only bring some much needed heart into the film, but also some much needed female characters. Lilly does a dazzling job, so much so that it feels like she has been a part of the entire franchise from the beginning. It’s a natural fit and she looks stunning in her pointy ears.
 
Also worthy of mention is the addition of the dragon Smaug himself. Voiced by Benedict Cumberbatch, he is an unworldly foe. One so sure of his dominion over Middle-Earth that he can toy with his prey at his leisure or destroy them with no further thought. We’ve seen a lot of dragons recently and I was concerned that Smaug might be underwhelming, as they have kept his appearance a secret up until the release of the film. It seemed that he could not possible live up to my expectations. I’m pleased to say that Smaug is as grand as his ego. Technically flawless, it’s not only an awe-inspiring marvel to behold visually, but Cumberbatch gives another brilliant performance that instills the CGI creature with a sinister edge, dripping with menace and dread.
 
My only complaint about THE DESOLATION OF SMAUG is that it is long and I felt it. But like AN UNEXPECTED JOURNEY, I was never bored. So just be aware that when you go see it you’re in for the long haul. The irony of course, is that I will probably purchase the “Extended Edition” on Blu-Ray and love it even more.

DECEMBER 17, 2013