Review: The Hobbit: The Desolation Of Smaug


Last year, Peter Jackson returned to Middle-Earth with The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey and some were disappointed by the lack of movement and story pacing. I enjoyed it thoroughly as you can tell if you clink the link to my review above. After watching the movie last year I began to wonder how they would break up Tolkien’s 300 page novel into a trilogy of three hour films. Upon finishing The Desolation of Smaug it is clear that Jackson has added enough elements to make three films a necessity. Even more so than An Unexpected Journey, liberal changes from the book are here and I am sure that it will upset Tolkien purists, and to them I say: have some fun once in a while.

Desolation of Smaug opens up with a look at Thorin Oakenshield as he enters The Prancing Pony in the town of Bree. He is joined by Gandalf who begins to hatch his plan for the dwarves to take back their home of Erebor from the dragon Smaug. It is a good way to get audiences acclimated with the story of The Hobbit again before jumping back into the adventure.

From then on anyone worried about the slow pacing of the first movie are in for a surprise as we meet Bilbo, Thorin and the company of dwarves still on the run from Azog the Defiler. Desolation does not slow down for the next 2 hours and 40 minutes.

The company makes their way to refuge with Beorn, the skinchanger whose hatred for dwarves is only exceeded by his hatred of orcs and he gives them supplies for their journey ahead which includes the haunted forest of Mirkwood where Bilbo and the dwarves begin to hallucinate and lose their way before they are attacked by giant spiders which will be a good reminder of Shelob for Lord of the Rings fans. Here we see our first glimpses of the ring asserting its power over Bilbo making him more aggressive when a spider comes between him and the shiny, gold piece of evil.


Suddenly, like a rhinestone cowboy, the elves are there to save the day including the new character Tauriel (Evangeline Lilly) that many are up in arms about. She wasn’t in the book! Blah, blah, blah. I understand where fans are coming from but I also understand Peter Jackson and Philippa Boyens wanting to bring a strong female character into the story (of which there are none in the book). Guess what? It works. I, a fan of the book, am completely fine with Tauriel. In fact, she is one of the best things about the movie. Her scenes with Legolas are some great Elven banter and not once did I scoff at the screen because she was not in the original story.

Yep, that right. Legolas is in The Hobbit as well now. No, he was not in the book but he is the son of Thranduil (Lee Pace), king of Woodland Realm, so he has been added in as a bit of fan service to Lord of the Rings movie fans by making the connection that, even though he was not mentioned in The Hobbit, he may have been involved being the son of an Elven king who was. As with Tauriel, he does add to the movie and even though some may wonder why he is there, it is fun to see him make quips as he dispatches orcs as only he can.

After a thrilling escape from Mirkwood in barrels down a rapid river we meet Bard (Luke Evans) who smuggles the party into Laketown. They are soon discovered and Thorin uses his lineage to convince the Master of Laketown (Stephen Fry) to give him a boat to make their way to the Lonely Mountain. Here is where the party is split up with Fili, Oin and Bofur staying behind to tend to a wounded Kili. The rest of the dwarves and Bilbo make their way to the Lonely Mountain where they find the secret door into their lost home.

Where is Gandalf during all of this fun? Well he is off to Dol Goldur to investigate the mystery of the Necromancer. He discovers that the Nazgul have been released from their prison and an orc army led by Azog has been gathering at the long-dead castle. He is confronted by the Necromancer, who reveals his true self and imprisons Gandalf as the orcs make their march toward the Lonely Mountain.


Easily the best part of the film comes when Bilbo is sent into the heart of the mountain to find the Arkenstone in the ocean of dwarven treasure and awakens Smaug. This leads to a wonderful back and forth between Martin Freeman and Benedict Cumberbatch which, for this Sherlock fan, was so much of a good thing. Cumberbatch proves he owns anything he is in with his portrayal of Smuag which is way more than a voice over. He was motion captured for facial features and is a wonder to behold. How amazing Andy Serkis was as Gollum in The Lord of the Rings trilogy ten years ago, it is the same here with Cumberbatch.

We are left with a cliffhanger ending that had audible gasps in the theater I was in. That is how quickly Deolation of Smaug went. No one wanted it to end even after almost three hours. We still have so much more to cover with Bard’s confrontation with Smaug and the Battle of Five Armies. Where I was once worried about The Hobbit being stretched into three movies, I am now glad it has been. Peter Jackson has made a lot of changes and adjustments including bringing in new characters and adding from the appendices of The Lord of the Rings but it all adds up to a win here. I completely understand if some can not get past the altercations (of which there were many in The Lord of the Rings as well, let’s not forget). I can and actually welcome some of them with open arms and am more than ready to go There and Back Again next year.





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