The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug

The Hobbit - The Desolation of Smaug

  • On par with the first film in this prequel trilogy, The Desolation of Smaug is often entertaining and makes for decent escapism, but it remains flawed.
  • The visual effects are fantastic. The dwarves’ barrel run, the spiders they fight, and Smaug are easy effects to praise, but so are the less obvious examples. Witness the momentary burn that appears on Thranduil’s (Lee Pace) face, the wound that plaques Killi’s (Aidan Turner) leg, the orc horde Gandalf must face and The Necromancer who commands them, amongst others.
  • The Desolation of Smaug’s score is beautiful and compliments the rest of the film. Plus, it serves as a reintroduction to Middle Earth, but is new enough to stand on its own.
  • The performances are all gamely solid, with Martin Freeman’s turn as Bilbo remaining the standout.
  • Director Peter Jackson skillfully interweaves multiple story lines.
  • For these reasons alone, the Desolation of Smaug is watchable.
  • But that doesn’t make it good.
  • The action sequences are one obvious flaw, if only because they can collectively be summarized as such: thirteen dwarves, one very powerful wizard and a single hobbit fleeing from danger; two elves killing everything in their wake, with barely a challenge; and evil creatures, be they orc or dragon, behaving stupidly, and/or inexplicably mercifully. Multiple times over almost all of the dwarves could have been killed, as could have Bilbo and Gandalf. Yet all repeatedly survive.
  • The above is especially bothersome in Smaug’s scenes. Jackson’s rendering makes Smaug easily distracted and never committed to killing anyone, all of his boasting to the contrary notwithstanding.
  • The characters are an even bigger flaw. First, there are still too many of them. The dwarves blend into each other, never developing personalities of their own. Even Bilbo is underdeveloped, as are Legolas (Orlando Bloom), Tauriel (Evangeline Lilly) and Bard (Luke Evans).
  • Equally problematically, the central plot is so thin that Jackson and his team of writers opt to fill the film with multiple subplots, including a terribly developed love-triangle, an equally under-explored disagreement between Tauriel and Thranduil, and ultimately pointless dwarven and orc attempts at stealth.
  • All of which is to say The Desolation of Smaug doesn’t have enough story, characterization or interesting action to justify its length. It would have benefited from hatchet editing of battle sequences and subplots alike. As a ninety-minute action film, this might have been good. As is, it is overlong.
  • In other words, while somewhat entertaining, The Desolation of Smaug is flawed, and, like its predecessor, a lackluster prequel.
  • Final Grade: D+
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14 thoughts on “The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug

  1. Wow. I definitely enjoyed it more than you. Haha. I figured you’d feel this way about it. I still liked the film well enough, but I agree with your qualms–they just didn’t bother me quite to the same degree. Bottom line: The Hobbit should’ve been no more than two films. I only wish Jackson understood that instead of desperately trying to make it LOTR all over again.

  2. Great review, a good summary of the film’s good qualities alongside its flaws. I’m going to hold off seeing these films until some talented lass or lad edits the whole thing down to two or three hours total. I object to watching any film (or series of films) that take about as long to watch as the book they’re adapted from takes to read!

    • There’s a part of me that wishes I’d held off, too.

      At this point, I’ve accepted that Jackson’s not really making The Hobbit; he’s using it as inspiration for a prequel trilogy. So I guess I’ll begrudgingly move on from how he’s adding to the book.

      I just wish he’d add to it better than he is.

    • Smaug was amazing. I think the scene far too long and the action borderline silly by the end (SPOILER ALERT),

      as when he could have, at turns, killed dwarves and Bilbo repeatedly but instead gets distracted and starts chasing a different group. I didn’t know Smaug was Homer Simpson. Why not just kill the dwarves in front of you, oh all powerful dragon, and then chase the ones behind you?

      (END SPOILER)

      But still, he was an amazingly well conceived effect. No doubting that.

  3. See, this is why I won’t be seeing this in cinemas. I really loved the story of The Hobbit, but I don’t see why they had to ruin the greatness of it over three films… There is a lot that will be going for it, Peter Jackson is good and Middle Earth is always worth checking out but overall I think that I can wait on this. Great review!

    • I think you can, too. A part of me wishes I would have done the same (though that was never going to happen).

      I’ve accepted that Jackson’s not really making a film adaptation of The Hobbit, so I’m fine with the fact that he’s adding so much to the book. I just wish he were adding to it better than he is.

      • I thought I would be lining up to see them all in theatre, but then I saw the first one and it was just… ok. And that stung. My friends thought I would be biased seeing as I have a terrible obsession with Middle Earth and all that comes with it, but this just didn’t work too well for me.

        Yeah I had to deal with that, but there is so much… I don’t know, stuff that doesn’t really grab me. See, we agree. He could be adding better. Doesn’t change the fact that when the trilogy releases as a collector’s edition box set that I will definitely be getting it, even if just to add to my Lord of the Rings collection!

      • I think we’re definitely agreeing.

        Except that I will not be buying The Hobbit. (Course, I don’t buy any movies anymore, and am still in process of bleeding off the DVDs I purchased when I was younger.) 🙂

      • HAHA! But it HAS to be a collector’s to match my LOTR, otherwise it will not find a way in to my home.

        I love collector’s editions and things. I think it is going to give my other half a heart attack one day, he will never be able to keep up! 😛

        Amazing how things change over the years hey!

    • Personally, not really. A Bilbo centered prequel of The Lord of Rings might have worked. But trying to base it on a 300 page, frivolous kid’s book isn’t, as far as I’m concerned.

      Maybe the bigger issue is they have too many characters and are putting too little focus on any of them. I don’t see why that would change in the next film.

  4. Pingback: The ORACLE Awards 2014 | Oracle of Film

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