There have been several reviews for “The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug” that criticize the film because they feel like Martin Freeman’s Bilbo Baggins gets lost in the film.
While I’m not sure I agree, I can see why that would frustrate. After all, Bilbo is the Hobbit that the title refers to, and ultimately, this is him telling the story of his adventures in book form. It definitely makes the structure of the film tricker, because there are so many things that happen in these films that Bilbo is not present to witness that you have to wonder when he finally heard all of these details and how he remembered all of them so vividly to write them down.
What I like about Freeman’s take on Bilbo is that it really isn’t what I expected. After all, when Freeman played Arthur Dent in “The Hitchhiker’s Guide To The Galaxy,” he played him as the complaining, vaguely incompetent Arthur that we all know and love. With Bilbo, though, there’s a very different character emerging over the course of the films than what I expected.
For one thing, Bilbo’s no bumbler. There are several scenes in the new film where the only reason everyone is able to survive is because of Bilbo. He handles himself quite capably in several of the fight scenes, and when he has to confront Smaug (voiced by Benedict Cumberbatch), he isn’t paralyzed by fear. This is a bravery, more capable Bilbo than I think I expected from the movies, and Freeman’s playing him with an increasing sense of knowing his place in the world.
Freeman’s a very talented comic and dramatic actor, and I’m glad to see him as the center of these films. I don’t think he’s been used anywhere near enough on film so far, and hopefully as people see this series and “The World’s End” and the ongoing great work he does on “Sherlock,” it will result in even more movies where we get a chance to see what else can do.
For now, though, I’m just excited to see how everything wraps up for Bilbo next year. In the meantime, “The Hobbit: The Desolation Of Smaug” opens in theaters tomorrow.