The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug

The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug photo starrating-3stars.jpgThe ongoing story of one Bilbo Baggins continues its seemingly endless continuation toward completion. While An Unexpected Journey took forever to take root, The Desolation of Smaug gets to the heart of the matter a bit quicker. This interlude subverts the Bilbo character for an adventure centered around Thorin, the leader of the Dwarves, and his mission. A brief flashback reminds us why Thorin is on this expedition. In case you didn’t see Part 1 (and incidentally don’t bother watching this if you haven’t) he must locate the Arkenstone inside the Lonely Mountain which is guarded by a fierce dragon. We then jump right back into their quest.

The long chronicle feels stretched to the breaking point this time around despite the fact that it actually runs slightly shorter. The flick is superficially packed with more events, but that doesn’t mean it’s more engaging. In the novel, this is the part where Bilbo proves himself useful to Thorin, but the Hobbit is relegated to the background. There are examples where Bilbo increasingly relies on the ring, but the ramifications are not emphasized in the movie, like they were in the text. Thorin becomes the focus. The most affecting moments have nothing to do with Bilbo. Beautiful elf Tauriel is smitten with hunky dwarf Killi. Their romance forms a love triangle with jealous elf Legolas in the sidelines. The relationship comprises unexpectedly touching vignettes.  Ironically Legolas shouldn’t even be in The Hobbit. Peter Jackson is apparently more concerned with tying everything together with his earlier trilogy over making J. R. R. Tolkien’s The Hobbit. He’s fashioning a prequel to Lord of the Rings.

The Hobbit 2 is once again a spectacle. It has lots of captivating computer graphics. At one juncture Bilbo climbs to the top of some autumn hued trees and a kaleidoscope of blue butterflies is unleashed. Soon after the Dwarves lose their way in the forest and are caught by giant spiders. That’s kind of cool too. The action is lively with occasional but rare glimpses of humor. This is true in an amusing scene where the dwarves escape their elf captors in barrels. Initially the elves, led by Legolas and Tauriel, pursue them but then they’re all attacked by the Orcs. There’s a brisk battle involving arrows and some accidental barrel crushing that hilariously saves the day.

The Desolation of Smaug is more of the same. In that respect, it’s still a visual display that will charm an easy-going viewer who wants pretty stuff to look at. Several set pieces will delight the senses. Smaug the dragon is a feat of CGI that is a wonder to behold. But the interminable length of the first film is only magnified this time around. 2 hours and 40 minutes is devoted to rendering 6 chapters (7-12) of a children’s book. There’s lots of eye-popping events, but the story doesn‘t develop in any meaningful way. There’s a feeling of treading water with this entry. It’s not the set up and it’s not the end. A distinct feeling of disappointment sets in when the production stops abruptly with Bilbo lamenting “What have we done?” It implies everything we just sat through was merely exposition to the real deal coming out next year. If you count the first part, we’ve endured close to 6 hours of a saga that hasn’t even reached a climax. The short tale of The Hobbit has become bloated with filler. Now if we were talking about a mattress or a bra, then padding would be a selling point perhaps, but in a movie it leads to diminishing returns.

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24 Responses to “The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug”

  1. hahah that finishing line is perfect Mark. Hmm..you seem non-plussed with this film. I have foregone seeing any of these films because I refuse to play up to Jackson’s sense of self-indulgence. I like the guy alright, but these 3 hour films need to stop. lol

    • Peter Jackson is more concerned with fashioning a prequel to LOTR instead of creating The Hobbit. I endured the self-indulgence once but twice was just too much.

      • Well, there ya go. You’ve endured 6 more hours of him than I have. Logic follows that you are 6 times the reviewer I am! 🙂

        I’m guessing you have read all the books then.

  2. Awesome review, entertaining.

  3. I’m in the same boat as you.. just too much meh for too long of a time. It’s just… I don’t know. I still haven’t figured out how I think about it.. it simply.. exists. I don’t hate it and I don’t love it.

    • I agree with you. The Desolation of Smaug isn’t a horrid film, but it lacks the spirit of the source novel in director Peter Jackson’s attempt to emulate his earlier trilogy.

      As far as the movies are concerned: LOTR is to The Hobbit what the original Star Wars trilogy is to the prequels.

  4. So glad to find another fan of the book! I felt the same way. The film is fun enough, but there’s just so much unnecessary content. It really irks me…

  5. I’ve not read the books, but I’ve now contributed cash to all five of Jackson Middle Earth sagas.

    I wonder why the Orcs are even in the film. This time around, they were virtually, no actually, routed by Legolas and Tauriel. The dwarves suffered just a single leg wound, and of course they desperately needed some fresh clothes. But the orcs – a total waste as the bad guys.

    Also I believe Jackson or maybe it is Tolkien, is repeating himself – spiders again?
    Sauron again?
    An evil forest again?

    Last thought – with all those invented languages and strange names of places – how did they come up with Laketown.

    Wonderful review Mark.

    • Some of the film’s issues you mention are Peter Jackson’s attempts to expand on the source material. Sauron is not mentioned by name, although he is addressed as the Necromancer in passing.

      The real villain is Smaug but the Orcs do appear in the Hobbit.

      Your ‘Laketown’ remark is a funny observation.

  6. I went to this movie well aware of the three hours I was about to face. It really didn’t bother me. I actually liked it. I liked the amazing scenes, the comedy and the special effects. I had a good time. Wasn’t great, but I left the theater happy 4 stars

    • I saw this film today also and had not read the book and was entertained throughout. The times it was at a slower pace did not bother me. Although I did expect Bilbo to have some consequences to pay for relying on the Ring so often. Maybe saving that for the next one. I really enjoyed every word of your review Mark. It was very well written and a fun read.

    • I was probably naive thinking the 3 hours wouldn‘t stretch the book so thin, but I’m glad you enjoyed it.

  7. Good review Mark. It was just a bit better than the first, however, that’s not saying much and I still feel like there’s plenty of room for improvement.

  8. Nice review. My own is coming out tomorrow but I found it overly long. Then again, I’m one of the ten people who doesn’t like the Lord of the Rings trilogy.

  9. Completely agreed. The story isn’t nearly engaging enough to justify the film’s bloated run time.

    Even the action sequences, while certainly a marvel to look at, are overlong and become tedious at times.

    Very good review.

  10. Treading water is a terrific metaphor for how I feel about The Desolation of Smaug’s story. Although I really enjoy the first film, I The Desolation Smaug disappoints me. I haven’t read The Hobbit, but it’s clear that this movie is padding itself with all sorts of elements that aren’t supposed to be there. I don’t think Tauriel or her odd love triangle adds much to the tale. In fact I think she could be removed entirely with no real impact to this picture. Also, I don’t care for how Jackson is trying so hard to tie these films directly to his LotR trilogy, like Lucas did with his Star Wars prequels.

    There are some moments that showed promise like the barrel river escape. That part is a total blast, particularly when the orc’s head comes flying at you in 3D. I concur that Smaug himself is incredibly well-done, and I loved his meeting with Bilbo. The movie’s ending is a total letdown though. Hopefully the third one will be better.

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