I went to see The Desolation of Smaug with my brother last week. Having loved The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey (more than the original 3 installments…wait, I didn't say that…), I was beyond excited to be seeing this after waiting a year.
**Unlike most of my reviews, this contains a LOT of spoilers. Skip to the very end to get to my overall thoughts**
The Desolation of Smaug begins twelve months before the essence of the movie begins, when Gandalf and Thorin meet. From there, we jump right into where An Unexpected Journey left off. My mind had to piece together everything very quickly, so I wish I had been able to see the first movie right beforehand, but I caught up easily enough.
This. movie. was. AMAZING. Charm and hilarity mixed with awing action scenes and special effects is what you get when you mix Tolkien and Jackson.
First I'll address the main concern I had walking into the theater — Tauriel. We all know butt-kicking, rebellious female characters are more often than not overplayed in movies, and more than anything I didn't want that to be the case. It wasn't. I actually really enjoyed her character and found myself likening her to a mix of Arwen and Eowyn. Besides, her name means Daughter of the Forests. How awesome is that?
The budding "romance" between Tauriel and Kili was more interesting than anything. I wouldn't say I didn't like, I wouldn't say yet that I did. However, Tauriel is not your typical she-elf, and Kili is set aside as being different from the other dwarves, and they are both a bit reckless and rebellious. I think their romance is more of a curiosity and wonder in each other than something that could develop into a relationship. It's fun to think about though ;)
And Legolas…now, I don't know about you, but he's one of my absolute least favorite characters in The Lord of the Rings movies. However, this time he has more than just looking off into the sunset and saying a line of importance (we have Balin for that now, it would seem). His fight scenes…honestly, some of the best stuff I've seen in ANYTHING.
Mirkwood. Ever since reading the books and seeing the first three movies (and having not read The Hobbit), I've always dreamed about what Mirkwood was like. How was it different from Lothlorien? What was different about the elves living there? Mirkwood has somber feeling, like Lothlorien, but also an air of strong will, rebellion, mysteriousness, and danger. Oh, and you hated the spider, Shelob? Just wait, oh unsuspecting non-viewer…just wait.
The one thing I felt off about the movie was Esgaroth (Lake-town). It could just be this very human aspect is nothing I've ever seen before in Tolkien's universe, even with Rohan, and I'll love it the second time around, but the Master played by Stephen Fry seemed so… common.
However…Smaug. Smaug. SMAUG. After spending a year watching Merlin and being dulled down by the horrible dragon in that TV series, I was mind-blown. I've never seen anything like him look so real on the screen. Benedict Cumberbatch is the best dragon yet - can we just pause and take a moment to appreciate magnificent portrayal?
Bilbo was just as funny and charming (no one but Martin Freeman could play him), though we start to see his descent as the ring begins to take hold. I'll be interested to see how Thorin plays out in the final installment after seeing all the treasure in the Lonely Mountain. Plus, can you say CLIFFHANGER?! I'm doing a bit of rebelling myself and NOT reading The Hobbit before watching these movies (*gasp*), so the movie ended and I was just like, "Wait…wait, this is like when Sam and Frodo were going to die at the "end" of The Return of the King, right? It hasn't been 2 1/2 hours yet. Wait, why is Ed Sheeran singing that awesome song? NOOO."
Overall thoughts: You haven't seen The Desolation of Smaug? Get yourself to a movie theater!