Rotten Tomatoes Rating: 89% (Critics) / 93% (Audience)
Directed By: Peter Jackson
Written By: Fran Walsh, Philippa Boyens, Peter Jackson, and Guillermo del Toro
Starring: Ian McKellen, Martin Freeman, Richard Armitage, Evangeline Lilly and Benedict Cumberbatch
Studio: Warner Bros
Synopsis: The dwarves, along with Bilbo Baggins and Gandalf the Grey, continue their quest to reclaim Erebor, their homeland, from Smaug. Bilbo Baggins is in possession of a mysterious and magical ring. – (Source)
I really liked the sense of impending doom that Peter Jackson was able to convey in this film. No matter how upbeat a moment may be you still have that feeling that something really bad is coming down the pike and it creates a really nice tension throughout the movie. Jackson also made Sauron seem legit badass in just one 5 minute sequence when I never was convinced of his evil bonafides in 9 hours of the LORDS OF THE RINGS trilogy. This film also features some really fun action sequences that helped to make the extended running time seem to fly by.
Jackson also deserves props for the seamless introduction of the Tauriel character. She may not have existed in the source material but she was instantly cool and quickly became a favorite of mine despite my bias towards her portrayer. I was expecting to be annoyed at having to watch Kate from LOST shoot arrows and play with dwarves but I totally forgot about Kate and just enjoyed the way Evangeline Lilly played this character.
The way that we were shown how the Ring is slowly corrupting Bilbo was nicely done too and plays to some of Martin Freeman’s other acting strengths…he is capable of much more than just dry sarcasm. The moment when he gave in to the darker impulses the Ring brings out of it’s owner was chilling because it was so out of character for the Bilbo we have gotten to know.
The voice acting from Benedict Cumberbatch as Smaug was amazing. The intelligent malevolence that dripped from his every word was so gripping and the playfully dark back and forth Smaug had with Bilbo were my favorite scenes in the movie.
And finally a special nod has to go out to the hammy, haughty and campily foppish performance of Lee Pace as the elf king Thranduil. Pace makes Thranduil’s every gesture from the large (beheading an Orc) to the small (the cutting of his eyes) into the most fabulous thing to ever be put on film. He was a hoot and a half to behold.
The Insta-True Love between Kili and Tauriel was a bit too rushed for me. At least it made Kili stand out from the pack a bit more. One of my other issues is that the majority of the dwarves are like set pieces who provide nothing more to the film than being something to look at.
I still cannot figure out why the first film’s main baddie, Azog was taken off screen only to be replaced by another Orc who was just like him in almost every way.
This movie’s ending is the first time I have really questioned whether splitting The Hobbit story up into three parts was a good move based solely on the way the film ended. It seemed like such an odd choice to end the movie where Jackson did and has me expecting a really disjointed and oddly paced final film in the trilogy.
Final Verdict: The second in the trilogy of films ratcheted up the action and the march towards war with the evil Sauron which helped the pacing and made the overall feel of the movie much more dark which I like. There were issues with the way the film ended and the attempt at stretching a fairly short story out into three full length movie was really evident in this installment but aside from that sticking point and a few minor quibbles, this was a very entertaining movie.