That title might seem misleading: why would I be comparing the Peter Jackson saga with one of the most important trilogies of all time? First of all, I believe it is unfair to say one is better than the other, mainly because they are opposite genres, and therefore it is impossible to try and make a proper comparison. They are just different.
But I don’t want to stray, as always: I compared them for the simple reason that both sequels are better than their first movies. I said in the past that An Unexpected Journey was a good film, but despairingly long, even for a Lord of the Rings film. Some scenes even induced me slumber.
Not that The Desolation of Smaug is shorter. Of course not, but it is more entertaining. Stuff happens, basically all the time, which is what a film needs. This sequel keeps you hooked, wanting to know what is going to happen next, until it suddenly ends and you have nothing left to do but curse Peter Jackson for making you wait another year.
The pace changes with The Desolation of Smaug – TDOS from now on – and everything happens for a reason. Even the addition of Legolas is well suited for the story – I should warn that I have not read the book, so all I know about it is from people who have, and I am not going to read it until I see the three films.
All the actors make good use of their time onscreen. With Martin Freeman’s Bilbo and Ian McKellen’s Gandalf in less leading roles, others have the chance to shine. Of course, Richard Armitage continues being perfect as Dwarf King Thorin Oakenshield – I am not ashamed to admit he is my favourite character of this trilogy -, and all the other dwarfs get to spend more time on the spotlight.
And one of the best surprises is Evangeline Lilly as Tauriel, a new character that doesn’t appear in the books – as I have been told. Still, bonus points to whoever created her – Jackson, I presume -, because within five minutes, she got me completely invested in her story and her forbidden elf-dwarf romance with Aidan Turner’s Kili, the only dwarf apart from Thorin who is objectively good-looking. Their scene together at Lake-town is heart-melting. That is if you have a heart.
Another new character that gives the film a fresher look is Luke Evans as Bard, a man who, if things go as they seem, will be playing a pivotal role in the final instalment. Evans plays the seriousness of the role in the most natural way. And before I forget, a special mention should go to Benedict Cumberbatch, for voicing Smaug and depriving everyone under the age of ten of sleeping well for a month.
About the plot, the main thing that one should know is that Gandalf, Bilbo and the dwarfs are still on their way to the Lonely Mountain. They are being chased by the Orcs – the final fight from the first film was against them – and on the run, they meet the Wood Elves and their king Thranduil, who is not a very pleasant elf and takes them prisoners because he seems to have a problem with other races. Luckily, they escape – the best scene of the film – and they make it to the Lonely Mountain. Other 150 minutes of things happen in between, but that is the magic of cinema: you have to watch it.
The only regret is that McKellen doesn’t appear that much, as his sarcastic Gandalf is one of the best things – maybe he was taking some time off to hang out with his BFF -, but he does create a storyline of his own with Sauron, and it serves to welcome back Sylvester McCoy, which I have always thought to be the funniest name to say out loud. Sylvester McCoy. Now say it faster.
I would say TDOS can be enjoyed even if one has not seen the first movie, although the vast amount of names and places can get you lost. One thing is sure: it will make you want to see the next one.
The Hobbit: There and Back Again will be released on 17 December 2014.
Last minute thought: Does Orlando Bloom have so many wrinkles that he requires that amount of Photoshop? I don’t think so.