Movie Review: The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug

desolation of smaug
Rating: 4.5 Stars

MPAA Rating: Rated PG-13 for extended sequences of intense fantasy action violence, and frightening images

Cast: Martin Freeman, Sir Ian McKellan, Richard Armitage, Orlando Bloom, Evangeline Lilly, Benedict Cumberbatch, Lee Pace, Luke Evans, Stephen Fry

IMDB Synopsis: After successfully crossing over (and under) the Misty Mountains, Thorin and Company must seek aid from a powerful stranger before taking on the dangers of Mirkwood Forest–without their Wizard. If they reach the human settlement of Lake-town it will be time for the hobbit Bilbo Baggins to fulfill his contract with the dwarves. The party must complete the journey to Lonely Mountain and burglar Baggins must seek out the Secret Door that will give them access to the hoard of the dragon Smaug.

Trailer:

The Hobbit is probably my favorite book. I’ve read it more times than any other book, practically have certain passages memorized due to listening to the audiobook for ten years running, and I wrote my senior research paper in high school on it. So while I don’t know everything about it, it is near and dear to my heart.

I loved Desolation of Smaug. I thought it was an excellent movie, with extremely high production quality. The cast is incredible. The music is absolutely gorgeous. Howard Shore did a spectacular job creating the score for the film, just as beautiful as the ones that garnered him Oscars. The special effects are absolutely INSANE. The only drawback for me is that about 50% of the movie doesn’t actually happen in the book. Before everyone gets on their Tolkien high horse and educates me on the fact that a lot of the added material comes from Tolkien works such as The Silmarillion, I want to say that I think it was a very good decision on Peter Jackson’s part to add what he did (or the screenwriter’s part). I have a few reasons why I feel that way.

1. Because we are on the other side of the books being written, we already know the story illustrated in The Lord of the Rings. We know about Sauron and his rise to power, and we know all about the draw of the ring. In the book The Hobbit, Sauron is mentioned briefly (under the name The Necromancer) but Tolkien doesn’t dwell on it in the way the movie does. It makes perfect sense to add the back story into The Hobbit where Tolkien already technically had it, although you don’t see it much from reading it. The reader knows Gandalf is off doing something wildly important, but you don’t really know what that might be. The movie takes a stab at what Tolkien was insinuating, and whether it was correct or not, it makes for good addition. It makes sense to have the ring begin to affect Bilbo in The Hobbit. Tolkien said himself that originally the ring wasn’t supposed to be this dark talisman that can control people, but rather a helpful magical tool, similar to Susan’s horn in The Chronicles of Narnia.

2. The way the book is written, you feel tension when you are reading it, but it would most likely not be enough to keep viewers interested for a three hour movie. Adding the orcs chasing the company, and the heightened conflict with Thranduil and the people of Lake Town keeps the audience on the edge of their seat, pushing them towards Bilbo’s interaction with Smaug, which was much also much more dramatic and tense than in the book.

3. By splitting a single book into three movies, especially three movies lasting around three hours each (I’m assuming the third will rival the first two), it was more than likely that the screenwriters would have to embellish. There is a lot of conflict in the book on its own, of course, but as I said in number 2, the screenplay really beefs up the conflict and the tension, forcing the audience to remain engaged (or, adversely, to tune out the ceaseless tension).

4. The romance between Kili and Tauriel. Ok, this was SLIGHTLY weird, but seeing as I eat romance up, I enjoyed it, partly because Evangeline Lilly is gorgeous and Aiden Turner is incredibly attractive, and in today’s society, it’s rare that you’ll find a movie without romance in it. Plus, it added a lot to Legolas’ character and his disdain for dwarves in Fellowship of the Ring, and if you’re paying attention, there’s a fun little moment where we see a drawing of Gimli, and we know how that friendship ends up. And we all knew Legolas was the Prince of Mirkwood, ergo making him the son of Thranduil, and he’s like, 3,000 something years old, so it makes perfect sense for him to be in The Hobbit. I was thrilled to see another familiar face from the Trilogy, since they are my favorite movies.

Anyway, mini-explanation out of the way. I love everyone who was cast in this movie. Peter Jackson could not have done better than Martin Freeman as his lead, and Freeman pulls off Bilbo with extreme excellence and hilarity. He’s a very physical actor, giving Bilbo all sorts of nervous ticks that are so fun to watch. Sir Ian McKellan is of course sublime as Gandalf, and if they ever make a remake of Lord of the Rings (bad idea, but I’m sure it’ll happen eventually), I can guarantee you that no one will top his performance as the wise, clever old wizard. All the dwarves are so fun because they all look and sound drastically different. Lee Pace was sufficiently creepy and regal as Thranduil, and Stephen Fry was appropriately gross, slimy, and manipulative as the Master of Lake Town. I don’t remember him being so horrible in the book, but it’s Stephen Fry, and he’s awesome, so I’ll forgive it.

And oh yeah, Orlando Bloom gets to reprise his role that gained him so many fangirls 12 years ago (good grief, it was already twelve years ago??)

The conflict/tension never slows down in this movie. When we were in the last five minutes, I actually thought to myself “we have to have at least another hour”; that just goes to show how fast this 2 hour and 40 minute movie goes. I couldn’t believe it was already over; it was truly a whirlwind of beautiful cinematography, awesome fight scenes, and great special effects. 

No, I did not forget Benedict Cumberbatch, who gave an amazing performance as the voice actor for Smaug. His voice is suited perfectly for the part, even without the voice effects that were used. The special effects for the dragon were absolutely magnificent, and it was such fun watching the scene inside Erebor where Bilbo and Smaug converse. This was easily my favorite scene, similar to the Bilbo and Gollum scene in the first (although much more dramatic since Bilbo is now dialoguing with a dragon).

Oops, sorry, couldn’t help crossing the fandoms there.

Anyway, there is so much to love about this movie and this entire franchise, and I absolutely cannot wait until the third one comes out. I expect I’ll feel very much like I did when the final Harry Potter movie came out. Which was something like this:

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