After four long months The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug came home to blu-ray and DVD last week. The film was in theaters in December and raked in impressive earnings making it one of the highest grossing movies of 2013.
The Desolation of Smaug is the second installment of director Peter Jackson’s Hobbit trilogy which is based off of J.R.R Tolkien’s timeless book, The Hobbit. In this second chapter we find our heroes Gandalf the wizard (Ian Mckellan), Bilbo Baggins the hobbit (Martin Freeman), and the 13 dwarves led by Thorin Oakenshield (Richard Armitage), continuing their quest to reclaim the Dwarf homeland of Erebor, which resides in the Lonely Mountain.
In the end of the first Hobbit movie, An Unexpected Journey, Bilbo Baggins declares, “I do believe the worst is behind us.” Too bad he had no idea what lie ahead. From the moment The Desolation of Smaug begins we find the company running from a pack of Orcs that have been hunting them, to being chased by a giant skin-changing bear – he is either a man who can transform into bear or a bear who transform into a man, it’s never clear which – to facing giant spiders, then being captured by Elves, then taking a ride down a raging river in barrels, and finally being smuggled into the struggling establishment of Laketown.
As if all that was not enough, upon entering the Lonely Mountain they must face the proud, fire breathing dragon, Smaug, who attacked Erebor decades earlier and claimed it as his own along with all the treasures that were contained within the city.
While Bilbo and the dwarves are dealing with those obstacles, Gandalf is sniffing out a growing concern along with his fellow wizard Radagast the Brown (Sylvester McCoy), who is the nature-loving, care taker of animals, who quickly became a fan favorite in An Unexpected Journey. Gandalf follows the trail to the desolate, ancient fortress of Dol Guldur only to uncover a dark presence, which is suspected to be the beginning of the return of Sauron, who was the main antagonist from The Lord of the Rings trilogy. Needless to say, there is a lot of action that will keep viewers on the edge of their seat throughout this near three hour adventure.
The Desolation of Smaug contains several added elements from Peter Jackson and his fellow writers that were not included in the book, but not in a bad way, everything fits and feels natural. The most notable addition is the created character of Tauriel (Evangeline Lilly) who plays a fierce elven warrior who also has a charming romance with the best looking dwarf in the company, Kili (Aidan Turner), which is done very tastefully. Those who have seen The Lord of the Rings will recognize one of the coolest characters of Middle-earth make a return in The Hobbit; Legolas the elf, and much like in The Lord of the Rings he showcases graceful fighting and creative ways to kill monsters.
With all these interactions of friends and foes the audience is once again treated to the breathtaking locations of New Zealand, which has served as home for Jackson’s Middle-earth for over a decade and it is always a treat to enter this world on the big screen. With the rolling hills, majestic mountain ranges, large plains, and rushing rivers, it is hard for viewers to not want to book a flight to New Zealand immediately after the credits roll.
Not only does the audience get to see beautiful New Zealand landscapes, but also an incredible mix between sets and computer effects that add depth to the world itself. From the house of Beorn, the skin-changing bear, whose home rests on a plain, to the wicked Mirkwood forest, to the magnificent woodland kingdom of the elves, to the dreary town of Laketown, and finally the immaculate halls of the once great Erebor, which now houses Smaug and mountains of treasure as far as the eye can see, it is easy to get lost in this world. Smaug alone may be one of the greatest CGI creations of all time. Voiced and motion captured by Benedict Cumberbatch (Sherlock, Star Trek: into Darkness), the dragon moves so realistically that for a split second viewers may believe that the fire he breathes will break through their TV’s and scorch their living rooms.
Clocking in at almost three hours, The Desolation of Smaug will have you wishing it was longer. Peter Jackson crafts another hit as he continues the story of The Hobbit and has created much anticipation for the concluding chapter, The Hobbit: There and Back Again, which will hit theaters this December.