"Desolation of Smaug" Review: Craigs First Take

Photo Credit: Photo by Courtesy of Warner Bros. Picture – © 2013 Warner Bros. Entertainment Inc. and Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer Pictures Inc.

Peter Jackson doesn’t so much direct J.R.R Tolkien’s stories as he feasts upon them. The sets, costumes, make-up, special effects, acting, all are given equal time to take your breath away and i’ve come to realize that your either into this world of hobbits, wizards, dwarves, orcs, and elves thoroughly or your amazed with just how slow the whole thing can be.

For me, “Unexpected Journey” was an amazing start (others did not apparently) but the performances he gets, particularly out of Ian McKellan (Gandalf), Martin Freeman (Bilbo), Richard Armitage (Thorin) and again by Andy Serkis (Gollum), plus his usual creations, come off like a thrilling delight. “Desolation of Smaug” is a darker film, considerably cut down on the jovial good-humor that existed between Bilbo and the dwarves.

Here, cities have gone to ruin, there are several underground caves, and at the beginning of the film Bilbo and the dwarves must pass through a forest of illusion called Mirkwood, if that’s any indication for you. We’re a long way from the shire but there is still a ways to go for Thorin the brave, as he, his dwarvish mates, and Bilbo continue their journey toward the mountain of Erebor, where Bilbo will be called upon to steal an emerald that has power to help Thorin reclaim his family’s throne.

There is no shortage of peril here as they’re continually chased by the Orcs, plus other creatures. New characters such as Tauriel (Evangeline Lilly), an elvish warrior who has feelings for one of the dwarfish crew, and Bard (Luke Evans), a troublemaker from the once thriving city of Laketown, both help the team on their journey. Legolas (Orlando Bloom) also makes his return. Sword-fighting, bow-and-arrow, and daring escapes (one involving barrels and grand rapids is both awe-inspiring and very funny) abound, before we get to the thrilling dragon Smaug (Voice by Benedict Cumberbatch) in the third act.

Unfortunately “Desolation” has those second movie problems “Catching Fire” seemed to bypass so well. It ends very abruptly, the exquisite world Jackson has created doesn’t feel nearly as fresh, and much of the minimal plot involves dwarves running from things. Frankly the only point that really comes up-the idea of ignoring injustice-hardly matters as Jackson wants to just get to the next special effect. Chapter 1 built-up some goodwill but chapter 2, while entertaining, just sets up for an involving chapter 3.