Bilbo Baggins (Martin Freeman) joins with Gandalf (Ian McKellen) and Thorin (Richard Armitage), the king of the dwarves, to reclaim the Arkenstone. The Arkenstone is the only thing that can unite the dwarf armies. Only by combining the armies, can they defeat Smaug (Benedict Cumberbatch), the dragon who laid waste to the city of Dale, and reclaim their land.
The journey takes them through elven territory. The path through the elven woods is dangerous, but necessary, as the group is being hunted by Azog (Manu Bennett) and his army of Orcs. Their orders are to stop Thorin before he can return to his kingdom.
Along the way, they meet up with Tauriel (Evangeline Lilly), an elven warrior who seems intrigued by one of the dwarves. As the dwarves flee, being chased by the Orcs, Tauriel follows behind to try to save them. Legolas (Orlando Bloom), son of the Elvenking, enforcing his father’s orders to make sure no one enters or leaves the kingdom, chases after Tauriel.
The dwarves, and their allies must make it to the mountain, steal back the Arkenstone, and defeat Smaug, all under the threat of impending war as the Orc army grows larger and more deadly under the command of the Necromancer.
It must be said that I have yet to watch any of Peter Jackson’s movies covering the J.R.R. Tolkien novels about the Hobbits and their journeys. Nor have I read any of the novels themselves. I do, however have a fair understanding of the tale. I grew up having seen animated versions of the movies from the late 1970s countless times. Without this, I fear I would have been almost completely lost in the story. I’m sure most have a rudimentary understanding of the ring and it’s powers, but the knowledge most likely ends there, if it even gets that far.
Having said that, the story moves along at a decent pace. The story, and the genre itself, lends itself to plenty of action to fill the time. Time which must be filled. Why they chose to stretch The Hobbit, a relatively short novel, into 3 films is beyond me. The original Lord of the Rings as a trilogy made sense, as the original book was divided into 3 volumes. This seems like an attempt to squeeze more money out of Hobbit fans.
Ian McKellen is as delightful as ever as Gandalf. This is no surprise. Martin Freeman gives us a very likeable Bilbo. Orlando Bloom reprises his role as Legolas the elf. While he does a decent job, most of his character’s role is just for action. And most of that is CGI. (More on that later.) From what I gather, there is supposed to be some sort of chemistry between Legolas and Evangeline Lilly’s Tauriel. My only basis for this is from comments from the elven king. I didn’t feel any real chemistry between them, especially as her sights were set on someone else. Benedict Cumberbatch fans will no doubt fawn over him as Smaug and the Necromancer, even if they only ever get to hear his voice. An excellent choice for these roles, to be sure. He gives it just enough edge without becoming grating.
The story is decent. I have no real complaints here. Granted, as I stated above, I have a fairly good understanding of where we’ve been and where we’re going in this tale. That said, this type of epic movie isn’t for everyone. It clocks in around 2 hours, 40 minutes. This will naturally keep those less interested from seeing it. Even given its long run time, I never really felt like the movie was dragging. And I wasn’t checking my watch to see how much longer it was. Surprising for such a long movie.
Where my real complaint lies is with the effects. With the budgets these films seem to have, I’m really surprised at how lacking they were. The worlds they created were magnificent. You could tell a lot of attention was paid to minor details. It is when we get to the action that things start to fall apart. The Orcs look like they were ripped from a video game. As do many of the fight scenes. It is especially evident when there is fast motion, say riding a horse or giant wolf. It comes off very fake. The CGI is nowhere near the level I expect from these blockbuster films. Maybe Peter Jackson should have thrown some money George Lucas’ way and had his team help out with the effects. (Not the directing, of course. Just making the CGI more believable.)
Overall, not a bad film, if you’re into this type of film. It just could have been done a little better. I almost recommend waiting until it comes out to buy or rent, solely in the hopes that the poor CGI won’t be as noticeable at home. If you can get past that, by all means, see it on the big screen.