Peter Jackson returns to J.R.R. Tolkien’s immersive Middle Earth for the second of three films inspired by The Hobbit. In The Desolation of Smaug, Gandalf sends the brave dwarves and the sneaky Bilbo Baggins off on their own again to reach Erebor before the keyhole to the former dwarf castle will be hidden for another year. Bilbo’s team encounters a less than hospitable kingdom of familiar Elves while Gandalf sets out to stop the rise of the Necromancer before the world is overrun by darkness.
Unlike An Unexpected Journey, The Desolation of Smaug is not afraid of going darker with The Hobbit. It mostly works. The story has already been stretched out and altered so much that the lighter tone in the funnier scenes acts as a nice buffer for the darker visuals and action sequences.
Even though Bilbo is not front and center in the second chapter, it’s still very much Bilbo’s story. At the start of The Desolation of Smaug, he almost shows Gandalf the ring he stole from Gollum in the last film but chooses not to. The sneaky hobbit hired to sneak is now harboring a deep secret. Gandalf clearly knows, but no one else does. And as Bilbo uses the ring more to go about undetected, he starts to become more aggressive. He’s not comfortable with that at all.