Review: The Hobbit - The Desolation of Smaug

A movie review article by: Jeffrey Roth

The Rundown: A not-so-accurate adaptation of JRR Tolkien's classic novel, these films take a book that could have easily been told in one, maybe two, movies and stretch it into three. This movie makes that fact apparent, as there is a lot of padding that is all too obvious. Add that to the change in tone, and as an adaptation it's only marginally interesting; however some classic scenes from the book survive this retelling and capture a glimmer of the original.

The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug picks up where the first movie left off. Thorin Oakenshield's band of Dwarves are being pursued by the Pale Orc, Azog the Defiler, on their way to the Lonely Mountain. They must arrive at the mountain by the last day of Autumn so that they can find a secret door that will let them enter unseen by its current resident, the dragon Smaug. All this is to obtain the Arkenstone with the help of their resident burglar, the timid hobbit named Bilbo Baggins.

For those familiar with the books, this movie only somewhat resembles the lighthearted and somewhat silly tale you might remember. While the first movie stayed fairly true to the book, with a little padding here and there with the inclusion of the Necromancer subplot, the second movie doesn't seem to have enough story to spread across its three hour length. This results in overly long action scenes, added merely to extend the time. I never thought watching orcs getting their heads cut off could be boring, but Desolation of Smaug manages to make that happen.

My biggest gripe about the first movie was that it turned The Hobbit from a light-hearted adventure tale into the dark brooding prequel to the Lord of the Rings movies. The Lord of the Rings lent itself to those big action sequences, with thousands of orcs against a ragtag bunch of men, dwarves, and elves, as the conflict of those movies and books extended across the entire world of Middle-Earth. Trying to smash that same epic scale onto a story that takes place more or less in a straight line from point A to point B seems a bit silly.

Despite trying to recapture the feeling of the Lord of the Rings movies and failing, Desolation of Smaug does some things very well. Lee Pace is very good as the King of Murkwood, bringing a bit of depth to the otherwise bland Elven king, and Benedict Cumberbatch's voice married to the amazing special effect that was Smaug himself was worth the price of admission alone. I'll just take a moment to say that the only time padding is really appropriate is when it involves seeing more of a six story tall dragon. The dragon sequences towards the end are the most enjoyable part of the movie, with pacing is closer to what I would expect from this kind of story.

Despite its flaws, The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug is not a boring three hours. It can be quite enjoyable at times, and just seeing Smaug brought to big, beautiful life filled me with nerd glee. He is flawlessly executed, and the most faithful part from the books. If you enjoyed the first film without reading the books, you'll enjoy this one, and for fans of the book, if you set your expectations low you won't be disappointed.

Jeffrey Roth is an award winning animator, all around badass, and is now writing for your amusement. When not wrestling with the mysteries of the universe, he is watching anything and everything and having opinions on it. ALL THE OPINIONS.

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