Review: ‘The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug’

The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug is a fast-paced film and an improvement over its predecessor. The film doesn’t drag at all even though the running time is merely nine minutes less than The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey. There is action throughout including terrifying Spiders, more battles with Orcs, and an escape from captivity in empty barrels from the Wood-elves while braving raging waters and arrows.

Once again Martin Freeman is in his element as the diminutive Hobbit, Bilbo Baggins. His scene with Smaug the Dragon (voiced by Benedict Cumberbatch) is brilliant with much of their dialogue lifted from the novel. Smaug steals the show (and the excuse for a second viewing of this film) not only with great CGI effects, but with the voice stylings of Cumberbatch. Cumberbatch also lends his voice to the mysterious Necromancer, whose showdown with Gandalf (Ian McKellen) is another must watch scene in this film. Other new characters in this film that appear in the novel include Bard the Bowman (Luke Evans), the master of Laketown (Stephen Fry), and Beorn (Mikael Persbrandt).

The film tries hard to be like the Lord of the Rings films. The first scene in Bree where Thorin Oakenshield (Richard Armitage) is having a meal in a familiar tavern while looking over his shoulder at two unsavory characters staring at him is eerily reminiscent of a scene in The Fellowship of the Ring. Much more blatant is another scene where Kili (Aidan Turner) suffers a leg wound after being hit with a Morgul arrow (does this exist?) from an Orc. Sickened with delirium in Laketown, Kili’s condition worsens so Bofur (James Nesbitt) tries to look for some athelas (or kingsfoil, a healing herb) before Tauriel (Evangeline Lilly), a Wood-elf of Peter Jackson’s invention, tends to his wounds. Substitute Kili for Frodo, Bofur for Sam, and Tauriel for Arwen (yes Aragorn tends Frodo’s wounds with the same herb, but the light around Tauriel invokes images of Arwen over Frodo) and you get the idea. By the way, what is a mere Orc doing with a Morgul anything to begin with? The inclusion of Legolas (Orlando Bloom) though brings some continuity with the previous trilogy. He is the son of Thranduil (Lee Pace), the Elvenking, so even if he wasn’t in the novel, his appearance in the movie as one of the Wood-elves is not so far-fetched.

Another problem with this film (and the trilogy) is the character of Azog the Defiler (Manu Bennett). He gets passing mention in the novel when Gandalf tells Thorin, “Your grandfather Thrór was killed, you remember, in the mines of Moria by Azog the Goblin.” Thorin responds by saying, “Curse his name, yes.” The killing of Thrór led to The War of the Dwarves and Orcs culminating in the Battle of Azanulbizar where Azog was killed by Thorin’s cousin, Dáin Ironfoot. This is spelled out in detail in the Appendices behind The Lord of the Rings trilogy. Azog’s son Bolg leads the Orc armies in The Battle of the Five Armies, but Azog has no part in this story. Jackson brings Azog back to add more action and hardship for Thorin and his Company, but I can only wonder if it wasn’t for this added story arc, would there be a trilogy at all? Two films would’ve been enough.

The Desolation of Smaug is an epic, action-packed film that leaves you at the edge of your seat and yet leaves you with the annoyed feeling that another film will be released in another 12 months and the long wait that comes with it. What this film does do also is make the viewer want to read The Hobbit again, all 365 pages of it, in all its original glory without the added fat or fluff.

7 thoughts on “Review: ‘The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug’

  1. Way too many problems, mostly caused by Peter Jackson, for me to stomach watching it. This is the way it was with the LOTR trilogy. I made it through the first movie okay but then lost it with Two Towers. I made it through the first Hobbit film but I’m not ready for another Two Towers moment.

    I think I’ll rent the movie when it comes out on Amazon Instant Video & just watch the scenes with Smaug. Nice review, Johnny. Thanks!

  2. I saw it on Friday, I liked it, even though it made me think of Lord of the Rings in many ways. It’s been too long since I read the Hobbit, and I was asking myself if someone (the writers, the director ;)) hadn’t been carried away a bit too much because it sometimes felt like “Hobbit fan fiction” to me.

    Anyway, I had a good time at the movies, I even didn’t mind the 3D glasses too much.

  3. I like that way of putting it, Minerva, “Hobbit fan fiction.” Really, really bad fan fiction, maybe, but fan fiction nevertheless. I can almost imagine seeing the movie then by chanting that mantra over & over again in my head, “It’s only fan fiction.” :)

  4. i just saw it this afternoon…as an adventure film, good movie. great pacing and the basic storyline advanced in line with the book. having said that, … i can tolerate a level of omission from the book for the sake of pacing, but insertions into the story that are not in the book give me a hard time. i have a better appreciation for christopher tolkein’s dislike of the films after this one (see john granger’s post over at hogwartsprofessor from a while back). more of the orc pursuit, the new elf characters (as in not in the book), the proplonged interaction with smaug under the mountain, and the new subplot with gandalf and the necromancer all became a cumulative disappointment for me. my hope is that younger viewers will not be satisfied that they “know the story now” once they have seen these films and will be inquisitive enough to go to the books, both this and lotr…

    for what it’s worth, i agree with the designaton of “fan fiction”…

  5. It’s not that I didn’t enjoy the movie, but I kept thinking that some of the scenes with the orcs were way too long. Cut out some of the same kind of thing from the first movie and from this one, and it sounds like two movies would have been a better choice. I’ve gotten used to characters or storylines being omitted or combined (after all the Harry Potter movies), but I agree that I don’t like it when characters or events are added. While I liked seeing Legolas (who did make some sense in the story) and whats-her-name (girl elf) was a good character, she just wasn’t necessary. What? So we can have a hint of a love interest between an elf and a dwarf? And the glowing light was a bit much.

    My husband’s comment on the way out was “I wonder how many orcs Legolas killed – thousands maybe.” My feeling exactly. The sequence was really over-done. I like a lot of things that Jackson does, but he seems to be too fascinated with special effects just for the sake of using them, rather than for the sake of advancing the story.

    Bilbo and Gandalf and all the dwarves, actually, were great. But that side story with Gandalf just seemed to be another way to extend the film. It didn’t fit and should have been left out.

    It does make me want to re-read the book. I listened to it about a year ago, but it’s not the same as picking up the book. I hope everyone else will do the same.

  6. I watched the first film and enjoyed the Shire part with a few quiet moments here and there. Overall “meh” about it though. Decided not to watch this one just from the look of the trailer it was WAY too obvious what they were doing to change the story, so if I see it, it will probably be when it’s out on blu-ray/dvd :)

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