Dr. Donna Copeland’s






 The highly anticipated second film, or middle part, to Peter Jackson’s trilogy The Hobbit isn’t exactly what I had hoped for. Like The Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers, The Desolation of Smaug doesn’t feel like it has a beginning or an ending. It’s actually the conclusion, or lack thereof, that makes this film seem so unnecessarily prolonged. The Desolation of Smaug is nearly all action, very little pondering, and worst of all, truly lacking in depth and emotion compared to every trip Jackson has taken us on in Middle Earth. The production quality of new cities, new characters and literally every scene with Gandalf is spectacular as we clearly gear up for one heck of a final conclusion--next year.

When we last saw Gandalf (McKellen), the 13 dwarves and Bilbo the hobbit (Freeman), they had barely escaped with their lives. Their journey continues toward The Lonely Mountain where the dragon Smaug (Cumberbatch) lays watch over their kingdom. Gandalf, worried about the growing darkness from Dol Guldur, breaks from his companions to find who this Necromancer really is. Bilbo (Freeman), who joined the company as their thief, really comes in handy as they face a nest of killer spiders in the dank forest of Mirkwood and when they are captured by a wood elf named Legolas (Bloom) and thrown in prison by his father, King Thanduil (Pace). Yet Bilbo’s resourcefulness and unfamiliar smell to the tyrannical dragon might be his most useful quality yet.

Like I said in my review for An Unexpected Journey, the more familiar you are with The Fellowship of the Ring (especially the extended edition in this case), the richer this experience will be. The addition and creation of she-elf Tauriel (Lilly) appears to be a new favorite from audiences coming out of the screenings. She has a wonderfully tough presence and, while similar, is far more action packed that Liv Tyler’s Arwen, but of course a different race of elf. It's Ironic that Legolas gets more central screen time here (when he doesn’t appear in the book) than he did in any of the ‘Rings’ films. He is, however, a highlight here and this certainly gives a new dimension to the character.

45 minutes are devoted to conversations with Smaug the dragon, almost to the point where I wanted him to scorch the cunning Bilbo just so the endless banter would cease. The overall lack of emotion, death, and soul tugging is what really loses me here and makes this my least favorite film of the Middle Earth adaptations. Even Howard Shore’s score this time is so abrasive, as it just accompanies action sequence after action scene. With that being said, the barrel sequence is what this film will be remembered for; it’s a high octane, river rush that is enjoyably over the top. Yes, the final film There and Back Again will likely define the whole trilogy, as Jackson is saving all the best material for part three.

Final Thought – Maybe more fun for audiences, but this is the most emotionally void journey to Middle Earth yet.

Grade B

By: Dustin Chase

 This second of the three Hobbit films directed by Peter Jackson, based on J. R. R. Tolkien’s 1937 novel, is as colorful and awe-inspiring in its special effects as the one last year, The Hobbit:  An Unexpected Journey.  This episode involves Gandalf (Ian McKellen) finding Thorin (Richard Armitage) in a pub, and directing him to continue the dangerous journey with the elves to regain his kingdom of Erebor under the Lonely Mountain, which is being held by the dragon Smaug (voice of Benedict Cumberbatch), who usurped the throne from Thorin’s ancestors.  Jackson will conclude the Hobbit series next year with The Hobbit:  There and Back Again.  

 Bilbo Baggins (Martin Freeman) and 12 other dwarfs led by Thorin enter the Forest of Mirkwood and are attacked by giant spiders but Bilbo rescues them by becoming invisible and using his magic sword.  They escape only to be captured by wood elves, all except for Bilbo.  He manages to help them escape once again, and they travel on to Lake-town where they meet the Master of the town and Bard (Luke Evans), a boatman, who agrees to carry them across the lake to the Lonely Mountain.  When they arrive, finding the door with the keyhole that fits Thorin’s key is a challenge.  And when they finally enter, Bilbo is sent down to capture the precious Arkenstone, but the catch is that that is where the dragon lies.  He has to keep the dragon at bay while he searches for the stone.  As is typical, Gandalf has to leave the dwarves before they enter the Mirkwood to contend with the Necromancer in Dol Guldur, and we see few of his encounters, but he will likely reappear in the next film.

 The special effects are rife in the characters’ adventures.  The elves get wrapped up in spider webs, and get tossed into the lake in barrels, are taken down the river with rapids and fight the orcs all at the same time.  One character gets doused from a pot of boiling gold.  A new character, Tauriel (Evangeline Lilly), is a Woodland Elf who serves as a guard in the Elvan King Thranduil’s court.  Her skills with the bow and arrow are stunning, and she and the king’s son Lagolas (Orland Bloom) help rescue the elves from the orcs.

 This episode ends rather abruptly, which will leave some viewers dismayed, but the filmmakers seem to be setting everything up for the third part of the trilogy.

Grade:  A-

By:  Donna R. Copeland