This is a masterful second installment of the trilogy, with an ending that will make next year the longest wait yet for one of Jackson’s Tolkien films.
The last time we saw the company they had just escaped the Pale Orc with the aid of the eagles. Before following on from that, we start this movie in Bree where it’s raining cats and dogs and Thorin Oakenshield has arrived at the Prancing Pony for a ‘chance’ meeting with the Grey Wizard. They discuss the need for a thief if the company is to have any chance of succeeding in its quest to reclaim the Lonely Mountain. Probably unnecessary but Jackson got his usual cameo in as the same carrot chewing drunk as appeared in Fellowship. Immediately thereafter, Jackson plunges us into a classically desperate situation. The Pale Orc and his posse of orc soldiers are again hot on Gandalf, Thorin, Bilbo and co.’s heels. And there’s a massive bear in the mix that looks as though it might tear them to all to shreds.
The menacing presence of the Pale Orc is overshadowed by the bristling power of the great bear who faithful Hobbit fans know all too well is Beorn, one of the good guys. Or is he? Jackson, as usual, has even the most faithful fan second guessing whether Beorn will actually come through. As his snarling snout crashes into the door the company is frantically trying to close, you have to do a quick reality check that this is the first ten minutes of the movie so common sense says he’s gotta still be a goodie.
That the dwarves hold Beorn off and Gandalf suggests they’re safe (he thinks) gives us our first breather.
We return to Beorn’s house to find he’s true to the book, telling the dwarves he doesn’t care for them but that he hates Orcs more. They get some ponies and are sent on their way. Destination Mirkwood.
There are a great many departures from the book, as there were in the first Hobbit film. None of it matters due to Jackson’s brilliant understanding of what makes a good film. While the purists might quibble over the fact that Legolas simply doesn’t figure in The Hobbit and the barrels were actually sealed, the rest of us just thank our lucky stars we lived to see these films made.
The spiders slow the company down, and they all get sleepy, not just Bombur. And we move rather quickly through the dwarves being locked in the Elven king’s dungeon. The Orcs fighting them the minute they get out onto the river and the way in which Bombur takes out a bunch of orcs by busting out of his barrel and spinning takes a bit of effort to accept, but we got used to this in the first movie as between them they scythed their way through hundreds of the Goblin King’s horde.
The introduction of the beautiful and deadly she-Elven warrior who we learn Legolas cares for but who instead develops feelings for Kili adds some spice to things. And the skirmish between the company, the elves and orcs on the river is as good an action scene as Jackson can deliver. Reminded me of the battle between Theodin and the warg riding orcs as they left for Helm’s Deep in The Two Towers. The close ups on the orcs as they copped a sword through the head or arrow through the neck were special effects gold.
The way that Bard smuggles them into Dale has its problems and if I’m being picky, Bard himself isn’t presented in the way I’d imagined him. But he’s still earnest and made of the right stuff; so much so that we realise Thorin’s growing departure from essentially good dwarf to lustful king through Bard’s imploring that the dwarves be ejected from Dale once he realises their quest will awaken the sleeping dragon. It’s the way Jackson handles this that most impresses me. Somehow, yet again, he gets it right. Tolkien must be up there smiling.
But the show is stolen by the enigmatic dragon, Smaug. The scenes where Bilbo meets and parlays with the beast are pure magic. And the first time the Jackson films go from being as good as the books… to better.
Enough time is given to Bilbo’s clever responses to the dragon’s uncanny knowledge of what’s going on around him. Bilbo is perfectly depicted as shitting himself while simultaneously having the wherewithal to say just enough to keep the red monster from burning him to smithereens.
And the voice of Smaug is as well cast as any throughout the five films to date. I thought Viggo Mortensen was perfect as Aragorn but this is better.
The last act as Thorin and his loyal brigade, albeit with a disenchanted Balin in their ranks, take on an enraged Smaug inside the deserted halls of the underground dwarf kingdom is again classic, epic scale Jackson with the usual rock riding and death defying leaps. And altogether satisfying. As Smaug writhes in his golden death bed, the blood is pumping hard and we are left that way as we see the great beast make his bee line for Dale, possibly uttering the best line of all time.
Enjoy. This is one of the great Jackson movies and will go down as one of the great movie making feats of modern times. Bravo Peter Jackson, bravo.
Rating: 5/5View Movie Quotes