Sunday, 15 December 2013


It's sort of become a Christmas tradition that my friends and I go and watch the latest Hobbit film on the day of its release. Having enjoyed the first film in the franchise, I have been eagerly awaiting the sequel for pretty much the whole of the year. In this second installment to the franchise, Martin Freeman reprises his role as Bilbo Baggins, who we rejoin on his quest with Gandalf (Ian McKellen) and Thorin Oakenshield (Richard Armitage) among others, as they draw ever closer to regaining the dwarves' homeland and riches.

One of the main criticisms of An Unexpected Journey was that the film dragged out for too long and there wasn't that much action - The Desolation of Smaug, on the other hand, is much more fast-paced. Similarly to The Two Towers and The Return of the King, the film follows groups of characters doing different things, which keeps the film engaging. The fact that the quest is already underway when the film begins is probably one of the main contributors to the faster pace; however, this does mean that any new viewers to the franchise might get a little lost in some parts of the film.

As well as the faster pace, the overall mood of the series gets a bit of an overhaul in this installment. While An Unexpected Journey was quite light-hearted, its sequel places a greater emphasis on the consequences of the quest, resulting in a darker tone. This is due, in part, to the fact that both of the main antagonists of the series are fully introduced in this film - both Smaug and The Necromancer. Despite this, the film is still quite comical, with wisecracks and Lord of the Rings references in abundance. This helps to bring balance to the film - it is based on a childrens' book, after all.

Naturally, the special effects of a fantasy film are always in question, as they can arguably make or break the film. In some senses, this film does rely on CGI a little more than its predecessor, but this is mainly because of the introduction of Smaug (more on that later). The other uses of special effects aren't ground-breaking like the LOTR graphics were; they are the sort of standard that cinema-goers expect to see in any blockbuster. Visually, however, the film has made an improvement on An Unexpected Journey, as some of the camera work is a little more inventive. A particular note-worthy piece of cinematography/special effects is when Bilbo puts the ring on - instead of him disappearing, a sepia tone (that has become widely associate with wearing the ring) washes over the screen. Now - onto the subject of Smaug. I won't give away too much about what he looks like, but what I will say is that he is nothing short of impressive. Aided by Benedict Cumberbatch's vocals and motion-capture performance, the scenes where the gang finally behold the dragon are a triumph.

Overall, I'd say that the second installment in The Hobbit franchise is much more of an improvement on the last film - not that I didn't like the first film, but its successor is much more tense and action-packed. The recurring cast build on their performances well, but for me, its newcomers to the franchise that keep the film going strong, as they propel the quest closer to its end.

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