Nothing makes me happier than to announce that the sequel to last year’s Hobbit film is absolutely enchanting. If not on an artistic level, on a level of pure cinematic joy, it is a resounding triumph. The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug is an adventurous thrill-ride that continues to exhilarate till the time you cannot take it any more (in a good way). It is less Tolkien and more Jackson, which is basically Tolkien-max.
Before being taken seriously, Jackson dabbled mostly in campy cinema. His influences were Ray Harryhausen (not a film director but a visual effects pundit with equal cinematic credence) that are probably every fantasy enthusiast’s delight. He aims to target the side that appealed to his own younger self. Combined with a Spielbergian sense of sweep and wonder, you have a film that satiates the child in you.
The film begins with a cameo by our main man, Peter Jackson (similar to the one in Fellowship of the Ring). Well, it actually begins with the meeting of Gandalf and Thorin at the Inn of the Prancing Pony in the village of Bree that is mentioned in the Unfinished Tales but not a part of The Hobbit. The plot is mainly the middle section of the book, which ends with the unleashing of the dragon, the mighty Smaug! The film follows an episodic structure and once the chapter with the Spiders arrives, there is no looking back and thus begins an avalanche of fun. There is a set piece with the dwarves escaping in barrels floating on a river that is as spectacular as they come.
Peter Jackson is trying hard to recapture the glory of the Lord of thr Rings films by blatantly reminding us of it at places. An Arwen-Aragorn-Eowyn like love triangle, the return of Legolas, the Kingsfoil application, words like Mellon and Athelas being thrown around for the Elven expert. It would be best to take the notion of seeing a definitive cinematic adaption of The Hobbit and throw it out of the window. These films are clearly nowhere close to being one. Several episodes are exaggerated, some are axed and some are invented. In fact, there is a new character that never existed on paper called Tauriel, played by Evangeline Lily that somehow fits right in. I loved what Peter Jackson has done with Beorn the skin-changer and Bard the Bowman. I can’t wait to see their return in the final film.
The final hour of the film is flat-out fantastic. I was a bit apprehensive to see how Smaug will be imagined on screen but the result is nothing short of marvelous. Voiced supremely by Benedict Cumberbatch with visual effects perfected by Weta Digital. There is one moment which I’m certain will send all fans into a collective gasp of astonishment. It involves the eye of Sauron, nothing like the way you’ve seen before.
Everybody has movies or books that give birth to a fanboy/girl in them and define their view of pure cinematic satisfaction. It is also a matter of timing and when you are born. The Lord of the Rings films came at the right time for me and never left me since. I’m not a blind fan (lies, all lies) and it was a crushing disappointment to see Peter Jackson not match up to the level of what he achieved earlier when The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey came out last year. I was never expecting great films like the ones that came before since even Tolkien’s books were different in tone and caliber. It would be unwise to look at the Hobbit films in the same vein since it was intended as a light adventure and a children’s book. That being said, the first Hobbit film, while enjoyable, felt bloated and boring at most places. This film is bloated as well but the kind you enjoy after a hearty meal.
The film ends on a well-staged cliffanger, which leaves you wanting for more. A yearlong anticipation awaits and I know there will be no room for disappointment (since the source material is strong). I remember this feeling way back in the opening years of the new millennium. If Peter Jackson has achieved a similar sense of excitement, it is one of the many signs that this film is a success. I could have gone into describing the film’s faults, but it is not this day. I could have been a purist and cringed at the changes made to the written material, but it is not this day. This day, we rejoice. The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug is stupendously superb.view less