"If you awaken that beast, you'll destroy us all!"
Peter Jackson has awakened my interest for the resolution of this franchise after a somewhat disappointing first installment. Being a huge fan of The Lord of the Rings trilogy, I was disappointed with An Unexpected Journey and found the film long, tedious, and boring. The last 40 minutes of that film were what kept me interested for what Jackson could do in this sequel. I honestly didn't remember much about An Unexpected Journey, but I was glad that The Desolation of Smaug began more promising than its predecessor, and as the story unfolded my memory began to freshen up a bit. One of the issues I had with the first film was that the comedy didn't work too well and I really couldn't differentiate most of the dwarves. The dilemma was solved here because there were several funny moments to lighten up the mood, and the dwarves were developed much better and had distinct personalities with more meat to their characters. The film really picked up when Legolas and Tauriel entered the picture. I think Tauriel was my favorite character in this film considering how much I like Evangeline Lilly (sorry but being a huge Lost fan she will always be Freckles to me) and how well she executed each action sequence. The film has a couple of great action sequences, but the one that stood out above the rest was the barrel scene. It is honestly one of the best and funnest action scenes of the year. I was pleased with this film and would've given this a higher grade if it weren't for the overlong running time that did feel a bit tedious once again. The cliffhanger at the end worked really well for me as it definitely left me hooked for the final film of the franchise.
Bilbo (Martin Freeman), Gandalf (Ian McKellen), and the 13 dwarves led by Thorin (Richard Armitage) continue their journey to Lonely Mountain to try to reclaim their kingdom. The film picks up right where the first one left us, as they were approaching the Mirkwood Forest while the orcs were right behind their backs. Their journey to Lonely Mountain is not an easy one as they have to face all sorts of threats before arriving at their destination to try to reclaim the throne that was taken away from them by the gold digging dragon, Smaug (voiced by Benedict Cumberbatch). In the forest they first have to deal with giant spiders, but Bilbo who now possesses the ring is able to rescue them. Then they are captured by elves where they run into Legolas (Orlando Bloom) and Tauriel (Evangeline Lilly). Bilbo comes to the rescue yet again, but this is just the beginning of a long journey as the enemy seems to be getting stronger each minute that passes and he begins to become more self aware about the effects of the ring.
To say that The Desolation of Smaug is visually stunning is an understatement considering we have already seen what Peter Jackson can do with Middle Earth. Being the huge fan of Tolkien that he is, the attention to detail and love for his book translates to the big screen perfectly. The build up to the final confrontation with Smaug is full of thrills and excitements and the dragon is carefully crafted here. The face off of words between Smaug and Bilbo is also very well done. There are several scenes that worked masterfully here, but unfortunately there was simply too many things going on at times and the film felt overlong, although I must admit that the waiting does pay off. I was glad the characters were developed much better this time around and I was drawn into their world. This is an improvement over An Unexpected Journey and hopefully Jackson will end the trilogy with a bang. This was an exciting and thrilling adventure that sets the table for what is coming next.