As the Smaug of the title indicates, The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug promises a confrontation with dragon flesh. The creature is worth the wait: it’s a massive, meaty and terrifying specimen (threateningly yet seductively voiced by Benedict Cumberbatch) that slithers across the screen like a speeding freight train.
Smaug lives within the earth in Lonely Mountain, guarding what used to be the dwarf kingdom of Erebor which it destroyed. In the mountain, along with the artifacts of the lost city, is a considerable amount of stolen gold, as well as the glowing, white Arkenstone, which can put top dwarf Thorin Oakenshield (Richard Armitage) back on the throne.
Directed by Peter Jackson, The Desolation of Smaug opens as the ever-bickering dwarves set out on their destined mission to the mountain. They’ve asked Bilbo Baggins (Martin Freeman) to accompany them and, once inside the mountain, to steal the Arkenstone. On their way, the group meets up with orcs, a shape-shifting bear and the spiders of Mirkwood. Gandalf (Ian McKellen) and Bard (Luke Evans), the boatman in Lake-town – it’s a run-down city of canals, just at the foot of the mountain – provide the dwarves with critical help. So do Elf archers Legolas (Orlando Bloom) and Tauriel (Evangeline Lilly). There’s even a bit of budding romance thrown in as Tauriel and good-looking dwarf Kili (Aidan Turner) lock eyes. And, of course, Bilbo’s ability to disappear at will – there’s this matter of a gold ring imbued with magic that he’s found, after all – doesn’t hurt.
All the derring do provides the conduit to the dwarves’ climactic encounter with Smaug, with some satisfying suspense reserved for how the tribe figures out a way to unlock passage into the mountain.
Ultimately, this literary and cinematic franchise is about power – life vs. death, light vs. dark and good vs. evil – all the domain of archetypal Pluto. The terrain of Pluto – which, not surprisingly, rules dragons – is the underworld. Here, that place is the innards of Erebor, where the dwarves keep descending further and further below the earth. It’s also the unconscious, well out of range of the ego.
While the movie provides riveting eye candy, the core of The Desolation of Smaug is character. The closer Thorin gets to the gold, the more greed he seems to exude. As for Bilbo, he’s not only the courageous thief that Thorin wants him to be. This hobbit has committed an even greater theft by hanging on to another piece of gold that can control the lives of an entire population.
Inside Erebor, Smaug’s telling Bilbo that Thorin is merely using him is a piece of truth that’s chilling to hear. The biggest battle of all – the Pluto kind – is the one within that goes deep, secretive and personal, as ego fights desperately to keep our true nastiness, well, Smaug-buried.
Astrology Film Rating: ♇ (Pluto)