'Desolation' is already my favourite of the 'Hobbit' trilogy, but I have to say that I have a very special place in my heart for Part 2, specifically. And I might add that I think this is an area where adding really makes it better. This part focuses mainly on Smaug; the dragon everyone, including myself, came to see. I still remember being excited at the voice-casting for him. Not so much because it was Benedict Cumberbatch (which was a great choice), but just the fact that they were going to let him talk.
If there's one thing I truly appreciate about the 'Hobbit' films, it's that they manage to give it that fairy-tale whimsy while maintaining the darkness the 'Lord of the Rings' films carried with them. It still manages to feel like it's the same world, but when you read 'The Hobbit' and follow it up with 'Lord of the Rings', it takes a gigantic leap between "children's epic tale of adventure" to "look how much detail I can put into a thousand some-odd paged book". And truly, I believe that's what Jackson was trying to do - bring the worlds together so it all makes sense, hence the addition of varying material.
When we last left our troop, the dwarves, along with Bilbo (Martin Freeman), had just arrived in Lake Town, smuggled in by a man named Bard (Luke Evans). Heading the party, Thorin (Richard Armitage) promises the people of Lake Town that they can yet see better days, if they help them on their journey to reclaim Erebor. They are helped, but once again, I'm gonna be getting into some specific groups, as Kili (Aidan Turner), at the very least, must stay behind, as he's been injured and poisoned by a Morgul shaft. His brother, Fili (Dean O'Gorman) stays behind with him, and they are also joined by Bofur (James Nesbitt) who got too drunk and missed the boat, and Oin (John Callen) because I guess he gives a damn. We'll call these guys the "Lake-Town Group".
Meanwhile, Thorin, Bilbo, and the other dwarves head to the Lonely Mountain to fulfill their mission. They send Bilbo in to find the Arkenstone; which will be able to give Thorin power under the mountain, reclaiming his throne. But here is where he meets the great dragon, Smaug; the biggest threat that stands in the way of their victory. Meanwhile again, Gandalf (Ian McKellen) meets Radagast (Sylvester McCoy) to investigate the tombs of the Nazgul, which are empty (these will eventually become the Ring Wraiths). As Radagast heads off to warn Galadriel (Cate Blanchett) of the upcoming danger, Gandalf investigates further, and this is basically where we find out (spoiler alert) that the Necromancer they've been checking out has been Sauron this whole time.
Now, what about Tauriel (Evangeline Lilly) and Legolas (Orlando Bloom)? Well, during the whole barrel scene I mentioned in my last review, an orc is captured and reveals information about a dark army, soon rising up, lead by a dark power. All things considered, Tauriel head off to find and help the dwarves, and Legolas chases after her. Meanwhile, Elf King, Thranduil (Lee Pace) seals off his kingdom, due to the darkness brewing outside of it, thus locking out Legolas and Tauriel. And even though neither character really needs to be here, I must say, Legolas does his fan-service fighting altogether very well, and Tauriel shows us some elfish healing, which I guess is... pretty cool.
There's more going on here, but I feel like I can cover it in my next review. This chapter, at least for myself, is a good example of when bringing "extra" to the screen really adds to what the book described. Another good example from this whole saga is the Battle of Helm's Deep in 'Two Towers'. In reading that same chapter, I must say, the book doesn't make it seem like the epic battle that it was on screen - and that looked amazing. Here, a big part of that is the encounter with Smaug. The book tells of the whole thing pretty basically, but the movie portrays a badass showdown between Smaug, Bilbo and the dwarves. It's full of creativity and awesome camera angles that really make for an exciting time.
One thing I mentioned previously that I also appreciated about these movies was the idea that they tend to divide these dwarves up a bit more for recognition. Now, without having to Google-search pictures for them, I can tell you who Thorin (most obviously), Kili, Fili, Bofur, Oin, Bombur and Balin, and that's largely between splitting up the group here, and giving Balin a fair amount of dialogue. He comes off as the experienced one; the "Yoda" to a group of Jedi, if you will. The others, I still have a bit of a time with, but I'm certain at this point that all of their names have probably been mentioned. So as long as you're paying close enough attention, you can probably distinguish between them. 13 dwarves IS a lot though.
Another thing I appreciated about this a great deal was where it cuts off in the story. To put it bluntly, the film pulls an 'Empire Strikes Back', where the chips are down at the end, leaving things with a great cliff-hanger. There's nothing quite like a movie that leaves you with the notion that all hope is lost. That sounds morbid, but think about what that does for the viewer's mind. From my perspective, especially when you know there's another chapter on its way, it lends itself to the idea of hope and routing for your heroes to eventually prosper. 'Infinity War' does a great job of it as well, to add another example to the list.
A couple of characters I've failed to bring up are the Master of Laketown (Stephen Fry) and his servant, Alfrid Lickspittle (Ryan Gage). One might remember "The Master" from the book, but Alfrid is another new character, essentially based on the mention of a counselor in the book. He's one of those characters you sort of love to hate, and just wanna give a good smack to. There are worse, but the man's look doesn't help, either. Just think, they created a servant named "Alfrid" (an easy go-to with Batman existing, and the changing of one letter) "Lickspittle"... I mean, "Lick... Spittle". Might as well call the guy "Jeeves Drool" or "Mr. Butler Barfer". With that said, his character does play well off of both the more suave and charming Bard as well as The Master. They make for half decent comedy relief here.
Despite an unlikable addition to this story, this sixth of the 'Hobbit' film series is, hands down, my favourite of the bunch. And though some are sure to disagree with me on this (purists and the like), once again, I'm just gonna mention that I feel it gave me the book AND more. It's like going the other way on something like 'Harry Potter' when almost every complaint was about leaving something out. Once again, I have to hand it to Jackson's creativity. I never felt like he soiled Tolkien's work, and always felt that he managed to pull of what others deemed impossible with 'Lord of the Rings'. As far as I'm concerned, he helped make Smaug and the spiders much more exciting than they were in the book, and those were my two favourite pats of the book. So, no real complaints from this guy about this chapter!