“Come now, don’t be shy. Step into the light,” says Smaug (Benedict Cumberbatch), the powerful and terrifying dragon who’s been slumbering under piles of gold in the dwarves old kingdom to Bilbo (Martin Freeman) who accidentally awoke the beast while he was searching for a special stone in the second installment of the movie trilogy, The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug.
The dwarves, led by their rightful King, Thorin (Richard Armitage), continue their quest to reclaim their home Erebor along with their friend and burglar Bilbo while Gandalf (Ian McKellen), the great grey wizard, travels off to confront the ‘Necromancer’ – a powerful evil entity who is responsible it seems for all the dark forces coming to life in Middle Earth. The small band of travelers get sidetracked, however, when they become prisoners of the elves who at this point dislike all dwarves and see them as only bringing disaster to all of Middle Earth by disturbing the sleeping dragon. It falls to Bilbo, once again using his magical ring that gives him the gift of invisibility while wearing it, to free his comrades and escape the dungeon of the elves. This leads to a spectacular battle between the orcs, the elves, and the fleeing dwarves.
Finally reaching the Lonely Mountain where Smaug hibernates, it’s time for Bilbo to enter the lair of the dragon and do his best not to disturb the beast while searching for a magical stone.
Unlike the first installment of the trilogy, The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug is an action-packed thrilling adventure that begins with – and almost never stops – being suspenseful. It has excellent special effects and a solid cast. Martin Freeman is perfect as Bilbo the reluctant little hobbit who keeps saving his friends time and time again as well as salvaging the quest when all is considered lost. He brings just the right balance of humor, determination, and fear to the role and makes the character even more likable than he was in the novel. Ian McKellen has made the role of Gandalf his own so much it’s now impossible to imagine anyone else playing the part. It is a disappointment though that his character, the most dynamic and interesting of all in the film, disappears for at least half of the picture on his side errand. The loss of his presence on screen is a huge void which is impossible for the audience not to feel.
The best performance in the film has to go to the actor who is only heard and never seen: Benedict Cumberbatch, the voice of the fire-breathing dragon Smaug. Cumberbatch’s menacing and droll delivery of Smaug’s lines to Bilbo once he realizes there is an intruder in his lair is truly eerie and frightening.
The fantastic CGI special effects are wonderful in bringing Middle Earth back to the big screen but it’s greatest accomplishment is creating the best-looking and sounding dragon to ever appear on screen. The look, movement, and action of Smaug is the most superb triumph of the film.
With grade A special effects, thrilling battle scenes, and a terrifying, self-absorbed flying dragon, The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug is a breathtaking cinematic adventure not to be missed up on the big screen.
The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug is rated PG-13 for extended sequences of intense fantasy action violence, and frightening images.