The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug


Hobbit desolation of smaug movie poster

An unexpected improvement

As hard as it tries, the Hobbit trilogy (or perhaps ‘miniseries’ would be a better descriptor) can’t make Bilbo Baggins’ journey to Smaug’s mountain as gripping as Frodo’s journey to Mordor in Lord of the Rings was. That’s not Peter Jackson’s goal with this prequel series – the jury’s still out on what the goal here actually is. Still, The Desolation of Smaug improves upon its predecessor in almost every conceivable way, and even though it trails dangerously close to the 3-hour mark, the majority swings by with a confidence the first one lacked.

Somehow, somewhere, someone involved with this movie decided it would be a good idea to kick things off with a newly imagined exposition scene occurring sequentially before the first movie, as if the 40 minutes of exposition provided by that film just weren’t enough. That scene, starring Gandalf the Grey (Ian McKellan, basically just Gandalf) and dwarf king and current mission leader Thorin Oakenshield (Richard Armitage) lasts longer than it should, but soon we rightfully rejoin Bilbo (Martin Freeman) where the last film left off.

Growing into his position as the group’s resident burglar, one of the few fabrications the movie actually gets right is Bilbo’s development from tea-sipper to confident traveler. This is aided by his unnatural obsession with a shiny golden ring he picked up last time. Bilbo’s transformation seems Gollum-like at points, but perhaps this is just because he’s learning how to use his sword and newfound powers of invisibility effectively. Either way, Freeman’s appealing every day guy-persona is betrayed here wonderfully, and as Gandalf observes, he’s a different Hobbit than the one that left the Shire.

THE HOBBIT: THE DESOLATION OF SMAUG

Bilbo, Gandalf, and approximately 600 dwarves travel across Middle Earth to reach the Lonely Mountain, where the old dwarf kingdom is buried along with the Arkenstone, a gem so powerful obtaining it will apparently reunite all the dwarves or something. Along the way they are captured by elves, an event faithfully covered from the original novel, but one of these kidnappers happens to be Legolas (Orlando Bloom), a character who has absolutely nothing to do with the novel.

the hobbit smaug elves

Joining Legolas is a completely fabricated character Tauriel (Evangeline Lilly), who was presumably created so, unlike the book, the film can feature a single female character. This would be tolerable if the two elves weren’t engaged in a demi-romance so out of place and poorly written that Legolas resembles a jealous 13-year-old boy too nervous to tell his feelings. It’s depressingly obvious this subplot is freshly added to the mix, because Tolkien would probably never even think to include something like this in the books. To make matters worse, Tauriel seems to be randomly falling in love with dwarf Fili (Aidan Turner). The awkward Tauriel/Fili subplot lingers throughout the entire script, and leaves no hints as to where it’s going in the trilogy’s third installment, as nothing similar to it was mentioned in the book whatsoever. It’s really freaking weird. As far as elaboration goes, fleshing out the elves wasn’t a bad idea, but somehow it became the worst of all the original creations.

APphoto_Film Review The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug

Our heroes find themselves being tracked by a different gang of orcs than the first (that’s right, not one but two fabricated orc plots, when one was barely needed in the first place). Unlike in the first film, these orcs don’t detract from the story (at least usually). They did contribute to the film’s most exciting action sequence, in which the dwarves and Bilbo find themselves bobbing down rapids and waterfalls in wooden barrels. The idea appeared in the book, but the film added an attack from the pursuing orcs and a counterattack from the elves during the scene. The scene was a barely comprehensible frenzy of barrel flips, elf stunts and orc dominoes, but was an electric ride from start to finish. Not all action scenes give the adrenaline rush this one offers.

THE HOBBIT: THE DESOLATION OF SMAUG

Once we overcome the weird elf scenes (including Legolas randomly interrogating an orc, which would have cut to the point better and faster if Bloom had directly shouted to the camera, ‘This is a prequel to Lord of the Rings if you didn’t know!!!’) and an unneeded dive into the politics of a town at the base of Lonely Mountain, we finally get to what we’ve been sitting around for about five hours for: Smaug. Equipped with hills of treasure, a triumphant CGI design, and the voice of Benedict Cumberbatch, the films are worth sitting through for him.

the hobbit smaug

Even though the climax was as fabricated as the first one (which is to say, almost completely), it’s the highlight of the film to see the spectacle of moviemaking that is Smaug in action. The best scenes come from Smaug’s initial confrontation of the thieving Bilbo, as, piece by piece, the enormous scope Smaug’s entire body is revealed from beneath piles of gold, though somehow Cumberbatch’s rumbling monologue is even scarier. In all of Middle Earth, we’ve never seen anything as realistically terrifying as this dragon.

The film’s closing hour is the highpoint of the prequel miniseries thus far, leaving with a satisfying ring, even if it could have been reached 20 minutes earlier. Jackson-ian Middle Earth takes place in a dimension separate from the original, where ideas and characters from the original converge through time pointlessly. If the runtime must be extended, the new additions should at least somehow not detract from the story, and even though this movie is a huge step in the right direction, these additions are still mostly unjustified. If this is the kind of movie fans wanted to see, sure. But it’s difficult to see how anyone not devoted to Middle Earth is going to appreciate it.

4/5 stars

the hobbit desolation of smaug bilbo

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About Logan Krum Movie Reviews

Hi. I’m Logan Krum, now going into my third year of studying journalism at Temple University. I created this blog to help create a portfolio of my work as an entertainment journalist and screenwriter. Though I usually disagree with the Tomato Meter, I hope you enjoy my thoughts on current pop culture movies. I can be contacted at logan.krum@gmail.com.

3 responses to “The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug”

  1. boxofficebuzzab says :

    Good review! I agree, Smaug was the best part of the movie. The CGI work was amazing, and I loved Cumberbatch’s voice acting for the character.

  2. CMrok93 says :

    Good review Logan. While it may still feel as if Jackson is dong whatever he possibly can to keep this franchise alive, some of it is still fun. However, some of it is also quite unnecessary.

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