In theatres today from director Peter Jackson based on the beloved J.R.R. Tolkien books and New Line Cinema is THE HOBBIT: THE DESOLATION OF SMAUG.
Leaving off with the last installment, Bilbo (Martin Freeman) and Gandalf (Ian McKellen) are still helping Thorin (Richard Armitage), Balin (Ken Stott), Dwalin (Graham McTavish), Bifur (William Kircher), Bofur (James Nesbitt), Bombur (Stephen Hunter), Fili (Dean O’Gorman), Kili (Aidan Turner), Oin (John Callen) and Gloin (Peter Hambleton), Nori (Jed Brophy), Dori (Mark Hadlow) and Ori (Adam Brown) to reclaim the throne of Erebor from the dragon Smaug.
But there is more here as Gandalf must leave the dwarfs behind to find out what is stirring with the Necromancer yet still unaware that Bilbo has the one ring. Now the dwarfs and Bilbo must go through the Mirkwood Forest. There they find the realm of the elves as Thranduil (Lee Pace) seeks to question them looking for a particular stone.
Watched over by Tauriel (Evangeline Lilly) and Legolas (Orlando Bloom), Bilbo helps the dwarfs escape and the elves must follow. Being chased by Orcs, they are rescued by Bard (Luke Evans) who takes them to Laketown.
Fearing they will not reach the door of the Lonely Mountain, the dwarfs along with Bilbo leave Laketown. Once they discover entry into the kingdom, Thorin sends Bilbo inside to find the Arkenstone but instead they awaken Smaug (Benedict Cumberbatch) who is going to punish everyone – including the residents of Laketown.
FINAL WORD: I don’t think there is enough room to name every actor and talk about their part so I’m going to try to get in as much as possible. Freeman as Bilbo has relaxed into his role. The first film felt a bit stiff and now he’s found himself (and a ring) mixing the powers of said ring and the courage he finds within himself the longer he stays away from the Shire. He is loveable at times, quirky at times and I know the best is yet to come.
McKellen as Gandalf – need I really say more? I realize this grand actor has done so many worthwhile parts in films and theatre but can I say that when Jackson cast McKellen, he is exactly whom I always thought Gandalf the Grey would and should look like. Getting smacked around again by the Necromancer, it’s nice to see that he can still give as good as he gets.
Armitage as Thorin is another character that is coming into his own. You have to admit it takes some time to warm up to this dwarf-with-a-chip on his shoulder. In this film he begins to understand that all of this cannot be done alone. There is also that moment where you see how absolute power corrupts absolutely and the dwarf who would be king comes creeping in. Waiting for Armitage to take Thorin full circle will be a treat indeed.
The dwarf cast is wonderful – from humor, courage, friendship, loyalty and wanting to go home, each of these actors definitely brings something defining to the film. If it can be said they do a dwarf people proud!
Lilly as Tauriel is an elf with a purpose. Painfully obvious she is not a member of the royal realm it doesn’t stop her from protecting those who need it and defying her own leader to do what’s right. Bloom is back as Legolas but not as fair. Here is an angry elf whose been hitting the tanning bed. Think back if you don’t remember how fair Legolas is in the Lord of the Rings films. Still, it’s good to see him return with his magic bow and never ending supply of arrows.
Evans is the new character here as Bard who has a small history of his own in dealing with the dwarfs. As for Smaug – that gold-thirsty big ole dragon, it took me a moment or two to realize whose voice I was hearing. That Cumberbatch sure gets around doesn’t he?
Other cast include: Stephen Fry as Master of Laketown, John Bell as Bain, Mary Nesbitt as Tilda, Manu Bennett as Azog, Cate Blanchette as Galadriel, Christopher Lee as Saruman and Andy Serkis as Gollum.
TUBS OF POPCORN: I give THE HOBBIT: THE DESOLATION OF SMAUG five tubs of popcorn out of five. I can do this because not only am I a Tolkien fan and a Jackson fan but with all the garbage being thrown out in theatres; it is nice to see something I want to see.
Once again I am whisked away to Middle Earth and I like it there. Jackson doesn’t cut corners on action, special effects, letting the story lead us gratefully with characters that we trust to tell the story we want to see. It is deep and rich with color, sad and gray when necessary, action at every turn and still there are moments of thoughtfulness about the constant surprises of Hobbits.
Tolkien is the original author of the long story filled with the details that we would expect Jackson to keep in mind. Of course I will get the longer version when it comes out because in it will lie more details and more story that I wish would make it into the theatre cut.
The good news is that THE HOBBIT: THERE AND BACK AGAIN will be out next year but the sad news is there are no more Jackson rabbits to be pulled out of a Tolkien hat. Leave us happy Mr. Jackson – remember we forgave you King Kong; we will not forgive so lightly the next time. Yea, I said that!
In the end – beyond darkness, beyond desolation is the greatest danger of them all!