Corsair’s Chronicles: The Desolation of Smaug Hits Its Mark

By the Corsair's Closet's Liz Carlie, the 'Mad Woman with a Box

SMAUGJust when you thought it was safe to go to the movies again . . . enter Peter Jackson.

For some time now, the world has been waiting for the arrival of The Hobbit. With the devoted following that The Lord of the Rings trilogy has garnered worldwide, there is no shortage of fans willing to shell out still more of their hard-earned cash for another chance to lose themselves in the lush fantasy landscape of the world of Tolkien, as brought to the silver screen from the mind of Peter Jackson. Prior to the release of the first Hobbit film, fan speculation ran wild. Social media crawled with fanart and casting gossip, and even major theaters got in on the action, running marathons of the original trilogy prior to the release of An Unexpected Journey.

Having seen and fallen in love with the first film, I knew going into The Desolation of Smaug that it was a trilogy . . . the problem? I got so caught up in the film after the first twenty minutes that I ended up forgetting that there was still one movie to go.

For many fans, the entire film trilogy is a trip down Memory Lane, as The Hobbit is a book many read for the first time as children. With the release of An Unexpected Journey, everything old was new again as the world was reintroduced to Gandalf the Gray, a younger and more reluctant Bilbo Baggins, and the mighty dwarven company led by Thorin Oakenshield, the rightful King Under the Mountain. In The Desolation of Smaug, the movie resumes the intrepid quest, gently easing us back into the story where we left off in the first film. The continuity with the novel follows fairly well with a visit in the den of Beorn, the skin changer, played by Mikael Persbrandt. His role, while brief, was highly engaging and very likable. From there, the company moved into the legendary battle with giant spiders deep in the forests of Mirkwood . . . and an encounter with the elves of the wood that fans have been awaiting for quite some time.

While it was a joy to see Orlando Bloom as Legolas again, as well as a far lengthier appearance by Lee Pace as Thranduil, the most anticipated and controversial elf on screen this time around was Tauriel, portrayed by Evangeline Lily. A character created specifically for the film, there has been a lot of chatter about whether or not her presence would help or harm the franchise. Fans, however, can rest easy, because the Lost alumnus not only enriched the story with her performance, but became one of the highlights of the film. Carrying herself with quiet grace and handling the difficult task of the Elvish dialogue very well, not to mention the heavy actions scenes, there is little question that Tauriel was the role Evangeline Lily was born to play.

From the rollicking and action packed barrel escape in Mirkwood to the journey through Laketown, The Desolation of Smaug continued to capture the lighthearted spirit of a children’s book while still carrying the same weight we saw in Jackson’s previous films within the Tolkien franchise. Luke Evans as Bard delivers an especially noteworthy performance, bringing the ideal presence of Men to this story much as Viggo Mortensen did as Aragorn in the original trilogy. He’s a loving father, a good provider, and a virtuous soul that, although human and flawed by default, is the kind of person everyone strives to be…and in the world of Middle Earth, the kind of man that even the highest of elves must respect.

The point of the movie that most fans were waiting for, the arrival at the Lonely Mountain and the door to Erebor, does not disappoint, nor does the moment when Bilbo and Smaug meet. Martin and Benedict Cumberbatch, the voice of Smaug, play very well off each other despite the disparate nature of their appearances in the film, and it’s very clear that Cumberbatch has a bright future in voice acting. Forgetting his naturally appealing timbre, I got shivers every time he started talking about the terrors he was going to inflict upon his enemies.

While all this is going on, we also witness the other side of the story: Gandalf’s quest to find out the true nature of the dark power rising in Middle Earth. He parts from the company before they enter Mirkwood and meets with Radagast the Brown in the prison that once held the Nazgul. The revelation of what they were looking at gave me chills, and only added to the creep out factor later when we see Gandalf get ready to take on Big Evil itself, and get our first real glimpse of Sauron before he rises to his fiery-eyed perch high above Mount Doom.

With regard to the ending, all I will say is that when the smash cut to the credits came up, I was shocked and a little horrified because, as I said, I had forgotten that a part three is imminent. It’s truly a testament to the journey the film takes you on, and while I’m no Tolkien scholar or purist, I can honestly say that what I’ve seen on the screen so far feels like something ripped from the pages of the book that captured my imagination as a kid.

A few other highlights that deserve mention are:

  • The adventures of the dwarven company in Erebor. That first moment beyond the door with Richard Armitage was heartbreaking, but the flight from Smaug had far more impact because it’s really a homecoming. This is Thorin’s world, Thorin’s home, and as he leads his people onward to escape the clutches of Smaug, it was wonderful to see the dwarves come to life on their home turf.
  • Orlando Bloom: I don’t know who he sold his soul to, but the man simply doesn’t age. It made me happy in a very nostalgic way.
  • Sylvester McCoy as Radagast the Brown: flawless. Little more can be said, and his appearance in this movie was all too brief. Still, the former Seventh Doctor managed to earn a few giggles as only he can.

Did you have a favorite moment from the film that you’d like to discuss? Who was your favorite character? How excited are you for the final installment? Be sure to let me know in the comments, or catch me on Twitter or Tumblr to tell me about your favorite moments from The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug!

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The Corsair’s Closet  features Elizabeth Carlie as the Mad Woman With A Box and Kristine Cherry as the Time Siren. The pair co-host Krypton Radio’s wacky and high-energy Doctor Who-themed cosplay show in which they get their geek on by squeeing about Doctor Who, cosplay, pop culture, and fan creativity.

The Corsair’s Closet airs with a new episode each Wednesday at 4PM, and repeats Friday at 5PM.

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About Elizabeth Carlie

Liz Carlie, the Mad Woman with a Box, a regular book reviewer for Krypton Radio and a regular guest on 'The Event Horizon'. She has been in and around science fiction fandom for years, and works with the American Red Cross on blood drives at science fiction conventions all over Southern California.

2 Comments

  1. Good review Liz. This movie does a good job of getting the audience immediately sucked into the adventure, while also still making us feel like there’s more to this world than ever before.

    • Madwoman with a Box

      Aww, thank you so much! 🙂 That really is the beauty of Jackson’s films, he gives the world of Tolkien so much depth and shade. Sometimes the source material for Tolkien can feel a little dry, but the films are wonderfully rich and textured. The final installment of THE HOBBIT is sure to be sensational!

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