MOTW: Why "The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug" Will End Up One of the Best Films of 2013

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The second of three epic fantasy adventure films directed, co-written and produced by Peter Jackson and based on J. R. R. Tolkien's fantasy novel of the same name. The plot picks up just as the Dwarfs, Bilbo and Gandalf have successfully crossed over the misty mountains. Bilbo has in his possession the one ring, but now the group must continue their journey to get their gold back from the Dragon.
Photo Credit: Warner Bros.
December 9th, 2013

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MOTW: Why "The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug" Will End Up One of the Best Films of 2013

Though it doesn't open until Dec. 13, "The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug" is forcing some critics who have seen a sneak preview to find room for the film on their year-end best of 2013 lists. It is the sequel to last year's "The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey," and longtime fans have plenty to look forward to.

The Visuals

Director Peter Jackson filmed the first movie in the trilogy using 48fps, or 48 frames per second. This is much faster than the fps rate of the average movie, which makes for improved visuals and more realistic computer-generated images (CGI). Since the film is heavily dependent on CGI for several things, including the main villain, Smaug, this means that viewers are in for a treat. All three films are due to be released using 48fps, so the quality of the visuals will remain consistent across the entire trilogy.

Benedict Cumberbatch as Smaug

Cumberbatch's star has risen quite a bit over the last year, and villains have been among his most promising roles. His deep, resonant voice is perfect for Smaug, the dragon who captured Erebor and rules over it with an iron fist. The actor wore a skintight motion capture suit to play the part, ensuring that he didn't just provide the voice for Smaug. Every movement and slink comes from Cumberbatch himself, much like Mark Ruffalo did for his role as the Hulk in "The Avengers." Since Cumberbatch has a reputation as not only a great actor but one who is willing to go all in for his roles, his portrayal is likely to be one of the highlights of the film.

Martin Freeman Coming into His Own

Cumberbatch's costar on the BBC's "Sherlock," Martin Freeman, plays second fiddle to Sherlock Holmes. In "The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug," Freeman will get the chance to take the lead against Cumberbatch while also establishing himself as a leading man. In the first film, Freeman played the protagonist, Bilbo Baggins, but due to the large cast of characters, he was occasionally relegated to the sidelines. Here, he is often front and center, which could help make him a household name after years of working as an actor.

The Source Material

J.R.R. Tolkien's masterpieces are widely considered to be some of the best fantasy novels ever written, so Jackson and company definitely have some great source material to draw from. Since Jackson is adapting "The Hobbit" into three different films, he has to make sure that he doesn't stretch the material too thin in any one film. Since "The Hobbit" is one of the best fantasy books of all time, Jackson has the added pressure of not disappointing longtime Tolkien fans. With the trailers that have already been released for "The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug," it is clear that Jackson and his crew have take the responsibility to heart, giving audiences what they want while pleasing Tolkien fans.

The Addition of Evangeline Lilly

The Tolkien books do have some female characters, but the books and therefore the films are still heavily male-centric. In order to help balance the scales a bit, Jackson had a brand-new female character created in Tauriel, played by Evangeline Lilly of "Lost" fame. The addition of Tauriel means that even the most astute Tolkien fans have no idea what to expect from the character, who is the head of the Mirkwood Elven Guard. She isn't just a female character for the sake of having a female character; she is a warrior who is not to be messed with. She also has a love interest in the film, which will please moviegoers who like a little romantic undercurrent to their films.

The Stakes Are Increased Dramatically

The first movie in the series spent a lot of time world building and introducing audiences to a slew of new characters who were not in "The Lord of the Rings" trilogy. In "The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug," the introductions are mostly done, so now it is time to get down to business. The second film has lots of action, and the stakes are higher than ever for Bilbo and the elves. This kind of excitement is sure to have audiences and critics alike clamoring to declare that the film is one of the best of the year.