I’ve already described a few times (for instance, here), the brilliant qualities of Tolkien’s most beloved (and feared) dragon. It should come as no surprise, therefore, that Peter Jackson and his team spent a long time trying to get everything just right.
Tolkien presents us with Smaug as the greatest dragon of the Third Age, a fire-breathing, winged creature capable of inflicting damage and destruction both through sheer physical strength and hypnotic-like speech.
Indeed, Smaug’s true essence lies in his apparent charm and ability to twist aspects of reality.
There seems to be a very distinct quality to the character of Smaug – a mixture of intrigue and malice, that affect both the behaviour and speech of the dragon.
Tolkien didn’t have much to base Smaug on. He himself had declared that literature was scarce on dragons and the only two ‘real’ winged-creatures could be found in Beowulf and the tale of Sigurd the dragon-slayer, in the Volsunga Saga.
Smaug is indeed a combination of these creatures; the result of a perfected recipe of how a proper literary dragon is supposed to be and act like – even though situated within a children’s book.
Although the story is less dark than The Lord of the Rings, nonetheless, the presence of Smaug near the third act of the book cleverly transforms the tone of the narrative – weaving in elements of dread and horror; leaving readers seriously fearing for Bilbo’s life and the other characters.
What Peter Jackson has done with this character in The Desolation of Smaug, is truly wonderful. Jackson may not completely adhere to Tolkien’s writing in the strictest of sense, but he certainly proved he can pull off the character of Smaug.
Sure, not everyone may agree – but as for myself, and I imagine a lot of you viewers, I fell under the dragon-spell that was its performance. Benedict Cumberbatch did a brilliant job – both vocally and behaviorally (greatly assisted by WETA’s photo-realistic animations) – in bringing a most famous literary character on screen.
Whilst the book provides the required blueprint for portraying the character, it is the visuals that really bring out the best of the performance – the bewitching voice, the penetrating stare or the reptilian movement …
Film 3 should promise more Smaug and an even more memorable portrayal of the character in one of the main highlights of The Hobbit …