By Matthew E. Milliken
Dec. 31, 2013
Director Peter Jackson’s latest take on the fantasy novels of J.R.R. Tolkien is The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug. This, the second entry in Jackson’s trilogy based on The Hobbit, begins with a brief prologue setting up the quest at the heart of the story: The wise, powerful and quirky wizard Gandalf the Grey (Ian McKellen) arranges a meeting with Thorin Oakenshield (Richard Armitage), the heir to a dwarven kingdom that the dragon Smaug has conquered, dispersed and occupied.
Gandalf tells Oakenshield what he told the dwarf’s father: Rally the seven dwarven armies and drive the fire-breathing lizard from its roost in the dwarven-carved caverns beneath the Lonely Mountain. Oakenshield is willing to try this, but he has a problem. His people’s armies will only unite under the command of he who wields the Arkenstone, and that gem is among the jewels and precious metals that Smaug is lounging upon right now. Gandalf smiles upon hearing this, for he knows a thief that might be able to spirit away the Arkenstone…
Cut to the present moment. Gandalf, Oakenshield, a certain Hobbit thief (Martin Freeman) and a company of 12 dwarves are working their way toward the Lonely Mountain whilst being hunted by a band of powerful, bloodthirsty orcs. Gandalf leaves the group just before they enter the foreboding Mirkwood Forest. The short-of-stature travelers are captured first by hungry spiders and then by irate elves. Heroism by the titular Hobbit, Bilbo Baggins by name, is required in both cases to extend the quest.