Un­likely hero

Bilbo Bag­gins finds courage as he ven­tures into the dragon’s lair in The Hob­bit: The Des­o­la­tion Of Smaug.

The Star Malaysia - Star2 - - FRONT PAGE -

THE se­cond part of The Hob­bit tril­ogy, ti­tled The Des­o­la­tion Of Smaug, con­tin­ues with the 13 dwarves – led by Thorin Oak­en­shield (Richard Ar­mitage) – on a jour­ney to re­claim their home­land in the moun­tains from the fire-breath­ing dragon Smaug.

Ac­com­pa­ny­ing these dwarves is none other than the Hob­bit Bilbo Bag­gins (Martin Free­man), who leaves his peace­ful Shire and gets on the great­est ad­ven­ture of his life.

Set 60 years be­fore The Lord Of The Rings, the Dwarves have en­coun­tered not only ad­ven­tures, friends and foes, but have come upon a re­al­i­sa­tion that Bilbo Bag­gins is more than just a com­pe­tent thief.

As this un­ex­pected jour­ney gets the travellers closer to the Lonely Moun­tain and the lost Dwarf King­dom of Ere­bor, they meet a skin-changer, a swarm of giant spi­ders, the dan­ger­ous Wood-elves and the des­ti­tute folk of Lake-town. Of course, the big­gest threat of all is the dragon, Smaug, who lies sleep­ing cov­ered in gold that was once amassed by the Dwarves.

In this film – based on the novel by J.R.R. Tolkien – di­rec­tor Peter Jack­son not only deep­ens the con­flict and the dif­fi­cul­ties ex­pe­ri­enced by the char­ac­ters, he has also in­cluded the “iconic Tolkien mo­ment” of Bilbo com­ing face to face with the dragon.

Phillipa Boyens, who co-wrote the screen­play with Fran Walsh, Jack­son and Guillermo del Toro, said that for this par­tic­u­lar scene, they wanted to create a per­pet­ual un­der­ly­ing ten­sion as Smaug very subtly pumps Bilbo for in­for­ma­tion.

In a tran­script pro­vided by Warner Bros. Pic­tures, Boyens said: “You couldn’t have a smaller per­son than the Hob­bit, or a larger crea­ture than the dragon. The scale be­tween the two is huge, and yet they en­gage one-onone. It’s an in­cred­i­bly deadly game of cat and mouse.”

Free­man added: “It is a bat­tle of wits, though it is less about the wit for Bilbo and more about try­ing to stay alive. He’s not feel­ing very witty, but he does what he needs to do, at great ex­pense.”

Mean­while, Jack­son reck­oned what sets Smaug apart from other dragons is that he can talk, is in­tel­li­gent and a psy­chopath. Hence, he needed an ac­tor who can bring all this and more when voic­ing Smaug the Ter­ri­ble.

He found ex­actly what he was look­ing for in Bene­dict Cum­ber­batch, who au­di­tioned at the same time as Free­man when both ac­tors were shoot­ing the first sea­son of the pop­u­lar tele­vi­sion se­ries Sher­lock in Lon­don.

Cum­ber­batch re­called how his fa­ther read The Hob­bit to him as a child: “My dad is an ex­tra­or­di­nary ac­tor, so he brought to life for me this al­ready ex­tra­or­di­nary world of Hob­bits and dragons.

“It was a very rich way to be in­tro­duced to such an in­cred­i­ble book. So, when you

can go home and say to your dad, ‘ I’m play­ing Smaug, and I’ve got you to thank for it,’ it’s a very sat­is­fy­ing day in an ac­tor’s life. He played Smaug as this amaz­ing grav­elly, growl­ing crea­ture, so I ba­si­cally ripped off my dad for my per­for­mance.”

Thanks to the top notch per­for­mances by Free­man and Cum­ber­batch, this par­tic­u­lar scene will get the au­di­ence hold­ing their breath and at times chuckle at the di­a­logue be­tween the two char­ac­ters.

Ul­ti­mately, though, this is a jour­ney about the Hob­bit who finds his brav­ery so far away from home. For Free­man there were many as­pects to Bilbo that he en­joyed bring­ing to the film.

In The Des­o­la­tion Of Smaug par­tic­u­larly, it was the mo­ment when the char­ac­ter found his back­bone. “I was al­ways say­ing to Pete (Jack­son), ‘Is it now? Surely this is the time where he’s a bit stronger.’ And very of­ten he’d say, ‘ No, no, but it is com­ing, it is com­ing, not yet.’

“You spend so much time play­ing Bilbo as this ret­i­cent per­son who is just try­ing to find his voice and try­ing to find when to speak, just find­ing per­mis­sion to breathe al­most, that it is re­ally good fun in this film when he does have to find that bit of steel in­side him­self.

“He re­ally, re­ally has to find that for his own safety and that of his friends.”

Even though he is of­ten in dan­ger­ous sit­u­a­tions, Bilbo never hes­i­tates to do the right thing – which is to save his friends.

Free­man ex­plained: “It is not a choice. He has to do it. It is al­ways good to play hero­ism out of ne­ces­sity, which is what hero­ism is, I think, a playable, real thing that we can all re­late to – some­thing that you know is true or has a bit of re­al­ity to it. Most peo­ple don’t want to put them­selves in life and death sit­u­a­tions, but you will do it if you ab­so­lutely have to. It is a bit like that for Bilbo in this film.” – Mum­taj Begum

The Hob­bit: The Des­o­la­tion Of Smaug (3D and 2D) opens in cin­e­mas na­tion­wide today.

Ev­ery step you take: Bilbo Bag­gins (Martin Free­man) has no idea what lies be­neath.

Thorin Oak­en­shield (richard ar­mitage, fore­ground) leads his men into the moun­tains in a bid to re­claim their home­land.

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