Middle films in a trilogy are always difficult. They don’t have introductions; they don’t have epic final battles. They don’t begin and don’t end. They are movies where there is only ongoing conflict and no resolution. This was difficult in the original Lord of the Rings trilogy, and most critics still consider The Two Towers the weakest of the three. Still, Desolation of Smaug handles this difficult situation very skillfully and gives the spectator two and a half hours of varied fun.
The movie maintains a very good rhythm at all times, alternating the dwarves’ misadventures with Gandalf’s investigations. We travel from Beorn’s place to the black forest and then to Laketown, all the while enjoying the beautiful scenery while the characters are being chased and imprisoned by various foes. Special mention to Lee Pace as Thranduil, Legolas’ father, a very charismatic (although mean) Elf King.
And then we meet the dragon of the title: Smaug himself. The dragon does not disappoint at all, being as impressive and enormous as expected. The special effects used to create this beast are a thing of beauty, and the physical appearance of Smaug is simply stunning. Benedict Cumberbatch gives a powerful performance with just his voice, both scary and majestic. The scene with Bilbo is something memorable, and the sensation of danger is almost touchable.
Of course it’s not a flawless movie. In some moments the story feels like it’s been stretched too thin. The end feels quite abrupt; it’s really no end at all. Some people have complained about the Legolas-Tauriel-Kili love triangle, even if it doesn’t really take up much time. It’s quite enjoyable, and has a nice Romeo and Juliet feel to it, but it can feel forced, especially to Tolkien fans.
But all in all, there are more good scenes than bad (the barrels, the spiders, the parts in Lake town…) and the movie keeps the spectator entertained at all times. The new characters, like Tauriel and Bard, are welcome additions and the two hours pass very quickly. An action-filled fantasy movie fit for people of all ages, with elves, dwarves, monsters and — most importantly – a dragon. And a good setting up for the end of the trilogy.