The film picks back up with the plucky hobbit Bilbo Baggins (Martin Freeman), the scruffy, yet noble and courageous, wizard Gandalf the Grey (Ian McKellen), the hard-edged Dwarf warrior Thorin Oakenshield (Richard Armitage) and their merry band of dwarven companions, following their escape from the Goblin King’s underground kingdom and near-death at the (remaining) hand of Azog the Defiler, a.k.a. The White Orc. However, the greatest danger of them all still lies ahead – in the form of the dragon Smaug – awaiting in the treasure room at Erebor, the Lonely Mountain.
Bilbo and his fellow travelers encounter the Elves of Mirkwood – which includes King Thandruil (Lee Pace), Legolas (Orlando Bloom) and the lady warrior Tauriel (Evangeline Lilly) – before making their way to the sparse and barren lands that surround the Lonely Mountain (a place known as ‘The Desolation of Smaug’). Meanwhile, Gandalf splits off from the company, in an effort to learn more about the mysterious Necromancer – who resides at Dol Guldur – and his connection to the forces of darkness (e.g. Sauron), long believed to have vanished from Middle-earth.
Bilbo’s up close and personal meeting with the eponymous scaly beast is expected to be one of the highlights of The Desolation of Smaug, similar to the exchange between Bilbo and Gollum (Andy Serkis) in the first Hobbit movie installment, An Unexpected Journey (a.k.a. the ‘Riddles in the Dark’ sequence). Smaug is voiced by Freeman’s Sherlock costar, Benedict Cumberbatch, but it’s unlikely that New Line Cinema will unveil the dragon in full during the marketing campaign for Jackson’s second Hobbit film (That would call back to how the studio kept Gollum mostly behind the curtain, prior to the theatrical release of The Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers.)
The newly-released Desolation of Smaug trailer does just that, by literally keeping the beast in the shadows (and voice-less). Similarly, we get a nice peak at some of the majestic landscapes and the new Middle-earth locales visited by Bilbo and his companions; storywise, the emphasis is on the new character additions – especially the aforementioned Mirkwood Elves – and that includes a brief glimpse at the human Bard the Bowman (Fast & Furious 6 star Luke Evans), who will play a pivotal role in events to come.
Overall, it looks as though The Desolation of Smaug will up the ante and better please those who were frustrated by how much of the first Hobbit installment was devoted to setting up future developments in the over-arching story.
Sandy Schaefer blogs at Screen Rant.