(I did not steal any images or copyrights, please oh please do not sue me…)
I really enjoyed watching the original Lord of the Ring series when they first came out. My sisters and I would wait out front of the Uptown Cinema 1 in Cleveland Park in DC and get in for the midnight showing every time. While I absolutely loved the Fellowship of the Rings, I felt that the Two Towers and Return of the King had poor pacing and seemed to reek of studio interventions, especially in certain scenes (Legolas riding a shield down a stairway comes to mind). That aside, I really and truly enjoyed the Lord of the Rings.
When I heard the Hobbit was coming out, I got very excited, followed swiftly by nerd rage. Three movies? The book is 300 pages long! But, of course, I went to the first movie, and found myself bouncing along as Gandalf and Bilbo crossed mountains and deep caves. Hiring Martin Freeman was a stroke of genius, and he really shines as Bilbo Baggins.
The second installment, The Desolation of Smaug, suffers the same fate as many sequels, requiring viewers to know the opening story while still giving enough of an exposition to draw in new audiences. I felt disoriented for several moments in the beginning, trying to remember exactly how the first movie had ended. The movie makers wisely decided to remove some of the more onerous portions of the book, like the bargaining required to get into the house of Beorn and the month (!) that Bilbo spent in the Wood Elves realm before finding the keys, and expanded the more adventurous scenes, like the barrel ride and Bilbo’s interview with Smaug. I really enjoyed Smaug, Benedict Cumberbatch matched the character perfectly, and the graphical rendering of Smaug was flawless. Martin Freeman brought life to the movie, and several scenes that would have felt wooden or stale felt interactive, as if you were standing in his (big fuzzy hobbit feet)–shoes. I liked the darker appearance and mannerisms of Legolas (even if it isn’t canon), and I thought that his character had much more depth in this film than in any of the Lord of the Rings. I really and truly did not like Evangeline Lilly’s acting, which felt theatrical and amateurish compared with those around her. I felt like the choice to introduce a love triangle with her was sloppy, and felt like a very last-minute add-on.
Overall, I enjoyed the movie, with Martin Freeman and Benedict Cumberbatch stealing the show. I am excited for the third installment, although I hope they give Smaug plenty of screen time before the end.