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Review: The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug

Dec. 13, 2013by: Chris Bumbray

Read JimmyO's review here!

PLOT: Picking up where the first film left off, Bilbo Baggins (Martin Freeman) and his dwarf companions, led by Thorin Oakenshield (Richard Armitrage) continue their journey to Erebor to face Smaug the dragon (voiced by Benedict Cumberbatch). Along the way, they encounter elves- including Legolas (Orlando Bloom) and Tauriel (Evangeline Lily)- and human Bard the Bowman (Luke Evans), heir to the throne of old Dale.

REVIEW: THE HOBBIT: THE DESOLATION OF SMAUG is the second part of Peter Jackson new epic trilogy, all of which are based on a rather slim volume, J.R.R Tolkien’s ‘The Hobbit’, which is only about 300 pages depending on the edition. Many felt the films would be stretched out, being based on such a limited amount of material. To that end, Jackson and co-writers Fran Walsh and Phillippa Boyens have expanded on the novel with material from Tolkien’s LORD OF THE RINGS appendices, and original material of their own.

The first film, AN UNEXPECTED JOURNEY, seemed to give the naysayers (including myself) ammunition. It was too long, and felt stretched to epic length just to be consistent with the original LOTR trilogy- to which the simpler plot of THE HOBBIT just can't compare. The good news for the faithful is that THE DESOLATION OF SMAUG is actually quite a bit better than the first film, even if it suffers from a lot of the same issues- chiefly the length.

The best thing about THE DESOLATION OF SMAUG is that the action starts right away. There are no more long drawn-out sequences set in The Shire. Rather, we pick up on our heroes right after Bilbo’s confrontation with Gollum, as the ring is starting to work its evil magic on the poor Hobbit. The first part of the film deals with Bilbo using his new powers to help the Dwarves escape their various foes (including a great water-barrel escape), with Ian McKellen’s Gandalf going on a quest early on that pretty much takes him out of the film, other than a handful of appearances.

THE DESOLATION OF SMAUG hits its stride around the time Legolas and Tauriel get introduced. Ten years later, Bloom looks the same as he did in the original LOTR trilogy, and hasn’t lost a beat, although he’s portrayed as slightly sterner than he was in the first trilogy, having not yet been matured by his quest as part of the fellowship. Evangeline Lilly’s addition as Tauriel is inspired, with her bringing a much needed feminine energy to the trilogy, giving the films the touch of romance and sex appeal that AN UNEXPECTED JOURNEY desperately lacked (although die-hard Tolkien fans may disagree).

The middle section of THE DESOLATION OF SMAUG deals mostly with Luke Evans’ Bard the Bowman, and here Bilbo and the dwarves end up downgraded to supporting actor status, with them being regulated to a few cutaway shots and gags. To some this may seem a misstep, but Evans brings a rugged energy to the films that’s closer to what Viggo Mortensen did in the original trilogy than anyone here has gotten.

However, while most of the new additions are good, THE DESOLATION OF SMAUG still suffers from one major problem: it’s too slow. Once again, Jackson feels like he’s drawing things out, and large chunks of the movie play out like something that should have been left for the “extended cut” rather than the theatrical version. The first trilogy earned the running times. Here, a borderline three hour movie seems unnecessary, and the pace lags frequently, especially in the second half of the film. Things pick up once Smaug is introduced, with Weta outdoing themselves in the VFX department. Cumberbatch's voice acting is the icing on the cake.

It’s worth noting that unlike the first film, the press screening I attended did not feature the controversial 48fps version, so I can’t say whether or not the jarring process has been improved. However, the conventional 24fps version I saw suffered from some issues. The colors felt oddly bland for a series that’s known to be so striking visually, and everything has a bit of a muted, greasy look. The 3D also felt flat, although it’ll likely look much better in 48fps.

Overall, I was fine with THE HOBBIT: THE DESOLATION OF SMAUG, even if the series will likely never come close to the heights achieved by the original trilogy. Those films were made with passion, and to me that urgency is lacking from these films. If you’re a fan, you’ll probably still love this (and I hope you do) but to a casual fan like myself, it’s good, if far from great.

Source: JoBlo.com

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+3
8:05PM on 12/15/2013
What a worthless review...
What a worthless review...
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7:09PM on 12/15/2013

A fair review

While I don't necessarily agree with the issue of its length, it was nice to see something more unbiased then other bloated reviews I've read either positive or negative. I will agree that there are some pacing issues that bugged me a bit early on, but neither I nor my wife felt the near-three-hour run time and that is a feat.

8/10 ... on the same level as Two Towers, but that is just my opinion.
While I don't necessarily agree with the issue of its length, it was nice to see something more unbiased then other bloated reviews I've read either positive or negative. I will agree that there are some pacing issues that bugged me a bit early on, but neither I nor my wife felt the near-three-hour run time and that is a feat.

8/10 ... on the same level as Two Towers, but that is just my opinion.
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1:24PM on 12/15/2013
6/10 is more how I feel. Hoping it's a 7/10 after my next viewing but this was a mess. Worst of the 5 films.

I think the other 9/10 review raised my expectations too high. This film missed more than it hit, but when it hit, it was awesome. And even though I think it's the worst, it's still pretty damn amazing.

1. Fellowship of the Ring 10/10
2. Return of the King 9/10
3. Two Towers 8/10
4. Unexpected Journey 8/10
5. Desolation of Smaug 6/10

I don't understand how people could
6/10 is more how I feel. Hoping it's a 7/10 after my next viewing but this was a mess. Worst of the 5 films.

I think the other 9/10 review raised my expectations too high. This film missed more than it hit, but when it hit, it was awesome. And even though I think it's the worst, it's still pretty damn amazing.

1. Fellowship of the Ring 10/10
2. Return of the King 9/10
3. Two Towers 8/10
4. Unexpected Journey 8/10
5. Desolation of Smaug 6/10

I don't understand how people could think the first Hobbit was bad. Besides Goblin Town it was much better than this.

Smaug was amazing but that doesn't make up for the dwarves playing MacGyver on him with the gold statue
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4:19PM on 12/13/2013
What is it with people wanting fast movies these days? The best way to do a movie in my opinion is stretching it out not shrinking it. Its like going on a theme park ride. Do you want a ride that lasts 30 seconds with one drop after waiting a hour to get in or do you want a ride that is worth the wait and is extended out so you get to enjoy the full experience and not just 30 second ride? In my opinion there are a lot of good movies that could have been better if they actually had more running
What is it with people wanting fast movies these days? The best way to do a movie in my opinion is stretching it out not shrinking it. Its like going on a theme park ride. Do you want a ride that lasts 30 seconds with one drop after waiting a hour to get in or do you want a ride that is worth the wait and is extended out so you get to enjoy the full experience and not just 30 second ride? In my opinion there are a lot of good movies that could have been better if they actually had more running time but sadly because they were so rushed it feels like a lot is missing. That is one of the biggest problems with movie making these days. Too many people are pushing for short movies that give you a brief ride but then it ends just as quickly as it started.
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4:31PM on 12/13/2013
A longer movie is OK if it doesn't FEEL long and keeps viewers' attention/interest. I think that's what he was saying in the review.
A longer movie is OK if it doesn't FEEL long and keeps viewers' attention/interest. I think that's what he was saying in the review.
8:55PM on 12/13/2013
No he actually complains twice about the length of the movie. While he does reference the pace as not being fast enough, the length is the real meat of his complaint. Its that fact which I debate on since longer length in my opinion is actually a strength instead of a weakness. Take for example a movie like Ben Hur. If Ben Hur was done in 2 hours it would cut an enormous amount of material from the movie. A longer length allows for a greater story no matter if the pace is slow or long in some
No he actually complains twice about the length of the movie. While he does reference the pace as not being fast enough, the length is the real meat of his complaint. Its that fact which I debate on since longer length in my opinion is actually a strength instead of a weakness. Take for example a movie like Ben Hur. If Ben Hur was done in 2 hours it would cut an enormous amount of material from the movie. A longer length allows for a greater story no matter if the pace is slow or long in some points. The main point Im making is that movies should not be like 1 minute coasters. There is a lot less to enjoy in a 1 minute ride compared to a 10 minute ride which even in the last minutes still provides you more entertainment than that single 1 minute of entertainment. That is why length in movies should be encouraged not discouraged.
4:42PM on 12/15/2013
He said that the first trilogy earned its running time but that this one didn't. It's clearly a question of how it feels.
He said that the first trilogy earned its running time but that this one didn't. It's clearly a question of how it feels.
2:06PM on 12/13/2013

The Hobbit is about the Hobbit?.....It sure doesn't seem like it anymore.

It seems as though he's just a side character.
It seems as though he's just a side character.
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1:03PM on 12/13/2013
Thanks for the honest review, Chris! It seems others are proclaiming this movie to be 10 out of 10 stars, praising the action, action, and action. We realize there's more to movies than just that, right? I haven't seen it yet, but it's disappointing that a movie called "The HOBBIT" resorts to putting it's own main character on the sidelines for large expanses of the plot so it can focus entirely on other things. I loved the LotR trilogy but so far, this new one doesn't even feel like it takes
Thanks for the honest review, Chris! It seems others are proclaiming this movie to be 10 out of 10 stars, praising the action, action, and action. We realize there's more to movies than just that, right? I haven't seen it yet, but it's disappointing that a movie called "The HOBBIT" resorts to putting it's own main character on the sidelines for large expanses of the plot so it can focus entirely on other things. I loved the LotR trilogy but so far, this new one doesn't even feel like it takes place in the same Middle-earth! The laws of physics have been completely ignored to this point, so I'm not surprised that the characters can go on raging river action rides, Legolas can perform impossible, unnecessary stunts, and everyone seems invulnerable to everything. It all cheapens the supposed danger our heroes are in. Different movies for a different generation, I suppose, but still disappointing.
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1:46PM on 12/13/2013
Haven't seen The Hobbit yet. But I remember Legolas doing some pretty impossible stunts in the LOTR trilogy as well. i.e. sliding down the trunk of an elephant as it's about to fall over.
Haven't seen The Hobbit yet. But I remember Legolas doing some pretty impossible stunts in the LOTR trilogy as well. i.e. sliding down the trunk of an elephant as it's about to fall over.
2:03PM on 12/13/2013
You're 100% right, but it's nowhere near to the extent of what I hear he does in the Hobbit. I did absolutely hate seeing Legolas turned into this super-elf that can surf down stairs on a shield, perform arm-shattering stunts just to get on a horse, or single-handedly taking down an Oliphaunt and then sliding down it's trunk as it dies in the LotR movies. But at least that was immediately balanced with emotional, characterizing scenes of Pippin and Gandalf despairing and giving in to death, or
You're 100% right, but it's nowhere near to the extent of what I hear he does in the Hobbit. I did absolutely hate seeing Legolas turned into this super-elf that can surf down stairs on a shield, perform arm-shattering stunts just to get on a horse, or single-handedly taking down an Oliphaunt and then sliding down it's trunk as it dies in the LotR movies. But at least that was immediately balanced with emotional, characterizing scenes of Pippin and Gandalf despairing and giving in to death, or Theoden's tragic death. And Legolas even had his share of balancing scenes to humanize him and show other dimensions to his character. It was still ridiculous then, but those other things made it less cringe-worthy. From what I've read and heard about this movie, Legolas solely exists to take part in a time-wasting love triangle, perform "super-cool", physics-defying stunts, and to be fan-service and further connect this trilogy with the previous one, as if people would forget that they're related.
12:29PM on 12/13/2013

A very good review, Chris

It's obvious that you weren't a huge fan of this movie, but you still give the impression that a huge fan (like myself) would want to see this film. That's exactly what a good reviewer should do - well done.
It's obvious that you weren't a huge fan of this movie, but you still give the impression that a huge fan (like myself) would want to see this film. That's exactly what a good reviewer should do - well done.
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+4
12:20PM on 12/13/2013
Too slow? That's an interesting observation. I never thought the film was too slow, it just has far too many cutaways. The action with Bilbo and gang gets constantly interrupted, which was an issue for me. I really wish Jackson would have forgone all the forshadowing of the LotR, as it is completely unnecessary. I guess Smaug was also unimpressive, as you barely mention him. I found Smaug to be awesome. Everything about him was great and he is easily one of, if not THE, best dragons I have ever
Too slow? That's an interesting observation. I never thought the film was too slow, it just has far too many cutaways. The action with Bilbo and gang gets constantly interrupted, which was an issue for me. I really wish Jackson would have forgone all the forshadowing of the LotR, as it is completely unnecessary. I guess Smaug was also unimpressive, as you barely mention him. I found Smaug to be awesome. Everything about him was great and he is easily one of, if not THE, best dragons I have ever seen in a film. It only helps that Cumberbatch was voicing him, which made him that much better. I enjoyed this film a big significant more than the first. Easily an 8/10 for me, but I do agree that there is quite a bit more unnecessary bits here than there was in the LotR trilogy. These films could easily be cut down to 2 hours each.
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12:13PM on 12/13/2013
I haven't seen DoS yet but I actually liked The Hobbit better than any of the LotR movies.
I haven't seen DoS yet but I actually liked The Hobbit better than any of the LotR movies.
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11:41AM on 12/13/2013

Spoiled...

Peter Jackson hasn't been the same since the original trilogy and I can say the same for Bryan Singer since X2. They've been given too much free reign to overthink every movie and make completely unnecessary decisions (like using 48fps or breaking this up into 3 movies). Still, I enjoyed the first instalment of this enough and expect this to be at least as good.
Peter Jackson hasn't been the same since the original trilogy and I can say the same for Bryan Singer since X2. They've been given too much free reign to overthink every movie and make completely unnecessary decisions (like using 48fps or breaking this up into 3 movies). Still, I enjoyed the first instalment of this enough and expect this to be at least as good.
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7:57PM on 12/13/2013
Yeah, I'm sure it wasn't the studio's idea to make this into 3 movies so they can make 3X the money.
Yeah, I'm sure it wasn't the studio's idea to make this into 3 movies so they can make 3X the money.
11:13AM on 12/13/2013
This movie was amazing, why is the score so low? I'd give 'Desolation of Smaug' an 8 out of 10.
This movie was amazing, why is the score so low? I'd give 'Desolation of Smaug' an 8 out of 10.
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11:24AM on 12/13/2013
I think, and this is just a guess, I think it's because everyone has a different opinion about everything.
I think, and this is just a guess, I think it's because everyone has a different opinion about everything.
-11
10:58AM on 12/13/2013
I had no interest in seeing The Hobbit and have no interest in this one either. Once the third one is done, maybe somebody will take them and edit it down to one watchable 160 minute movie with all the filler removed.
I had no interest in seeing The Hobbit and have no interest in this one either. Once the third one is done, maybe somebody will take them and edit it down to one watchable 160 minute movie with all the filler removed.
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11:27AM on 12/13/2013
LOL are you kidding? PJ will throw everything in there and it will be well over 500 minutes of people wandering and walking every where.
LOL are you kidding? PJ will throw everything in there and it will be well over 500 minutes of people wandering and walking every where.
11:27AM on 12/13/2013
Please have that same person sit down and do the same with Pirates 2 & 3, and Matrix 2 & 3.
Please have that same person sit down and do the same with Pirates 2 & 3, and Matrix 2 & 3.