Well, there have been plenty of movies and books about dragons, from the Eragon series to those creatures that briefly appear in the Harry Potter books. Large, scaly and monstrous with the ability to reduce the world around them to so much ash, dragons have always been a staple of any work of high fantasy. Also note that in most media, they are usually classified into two types with Western dragons usually being bestial and malevolent with a mind akin to that of a wild animal. What intelligence they may have may be more similar to that of a bear or tiger, possessing little mind of their own and are ruled mostly by their hunger. Then there are their Eastern equivalents that are god-like beings that are relatively benign or at least neutral in temperament. Wise and kind, they are thought to be ancient and immortal, having seen and done much in their very long lifespan.
J.R.R. Tolkien broke barriers and paved the way for the modern high fantasy settings of today, inspiring works such as Dungeons and Dragons and Warhammer. He also reintroduced the idea of dragons into literature with Smaug, the dragon featured in both the book and movie adaptations of the Hobbit. The dragon is one of the earliest instances of the “modern” dragon that is not found in earlier instances. Fully sentient, able to talk, able to reason to an extent that it can even influence others all the while retaining its characteristic appearance with scales and the ability to breathe fire. And, unfortunately for our heroes, he is far from benevolent and is motivated solely by greed and hunger, this despite his enormous intelligence and experience that has lasted for centuries if not millennia! Truly a frightening monster to encounter and definitely not something meant for happy little stories meant for very young children.
Very little is actually shown of him in the first movie, giving him an air of mystery and dread. After all, the fact that you never actually get to see him just adds more to the terror factor of the giant talking lizard. Rightly feared by all the good races of Middle-Earth, even the eye and nostril that is shown of him in Unexpected Journey is enough to give me nightmares for quite a few evenings. And Peter Jackson is most assuredly upping the ante for the second movie: Desolation of Smaug.
This time, it is likely we’ll get to see Tolkien’s dragon in the flesh and in action. One of the few movies about dragons that I found genuinely frightening was Reign of Fire with its Western style dragons that ravaged the world into the apocalypse. I found it frightening because the dragons were made into realistic predators with only the need to feed and destroyed hard-wired into their bestial brains. With the hobbit, we are introduced to a dragon that possesses the same savage mindset with an intelligence akin to that of Hannibal Lecter straight from Silence of the Lambs.
With British actor Benedict Cumberbatch taking the role of Smaug, one can already assume the great dragon to possess both a suave and baritone voice that befits the rather smug (pardon the pun) dragon. Known for his roles in Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy, one can hope for a truly villainous personality and feel that Smaug will possess with Benedict Cumberbatch as its voice actor. With the anticipated movie in the making, one can’t help but feel fear and fascination with how Smaug’s character will be portrayed.