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THE HOBBIT: DESOLATION OF SMAUG Review – 20 Minutes of Fun “Condensed” Into 161 Minutes

Posted on December 13, 2013 at 1:58 pm by David "Snackbar" Edmundson

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The Hobbit: Desolation of Smaug is the second installment of director Peter Jackson’s Hobbit trilogy. It picks up after the events of the disappointing An Unexpected Journey, and predominately follows the same cast of dwarves, elves, and other fantastical races through J.R.R. Tolkien’s Middle Earth. Does it succeed where it’s predecessor failed? Sort of…

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Minor Spoilers Below

Bilbo Baggins (Martin Freeman) and Gandalf (Ian McKellen) continue on their quest to help the dwarf king Thorin Oakenshield (Richard Armitage) and his band of dwarves reclaim their home of Erebor, which has been taken over by the dragon Smaug (voiced by Benedict Cumberbatch). Almost instantly Gandalf receives a spooky omen and must leave the fellowship to investigate the threat of a mysterious Necromancer. In Gandalf’s absence, Bilbo and company must make their way through the dark forests of Mirkwood, through an Elvish fortress, and across the impoverished Lake-town. Along the way, they run into Legolas (Orlando Bloom), She-Elven warrior Tauriel (Evangeline Lilly), the cold Elvenking Thranduil (Lee Pace), and the semi-heroic Bard the Bowman (Luke Evans). All against the backdrop of the impending war machine gaining steam as the orcs, led by the Pale Orc Azog attempt to plunge Middle Earth into an age of darkness. Sounds pretty cool right?

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We’ll start with the positives. The Desolation of Smaug goes a long way in opening up Middle Earth in a way that An Unexpected Journey did not. While the first entry tried to stay grounded in Lord of the Rings locations, this film brings us a larger world, introducing a very different Mirkwood and the shanty filled Lake-town. Both locations felt real and were populated by very different natives. Legolas’ return, while an obvious ploy to link the trilogies, was a welcome addition. Three seconds into his return and he’s destroying orc hordes like the good old days. His elven partner in crime, Tauriel, also did a lot to help the film. She was probably the best thing about it, and it was nice to see her interplay with the dwarves, especially Kili. I foresee her being a very popular new addition, kind of a mix between Ripley and Katniss Everdeen.

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The titular dragon was a mixed bag. While visually stunning, he came across as boring and in a lot of ways dumb. Cumberbatch plays opposite Freeman in Sherlock, but the two felt like they had no chemistry at all as Smaug and Bilbo. The “battle of wits” is basically Smaug saying how incredible he is and how he can kill Bilbo whenever he wants. Classic monologuing; am I the only one who saw The Incredibles? The final 20 minutes feature a lot of dragon action, but you never really feel that anyone is in danger. That’s a huge problem when you take into account Smaug’s size and abilities, as well as factor in how tiny Hobbits and Dwarves are.

My chief complaint throughout the entire saga so far, is that it’s overly long for no reason. Well, no reason except for money. Each film will make a billion dollars world wide, so why stop at one billion when you can have three? I am not faulting the studio for wanting to make a buck, but if you’re going to stretch this series over the course of three movies, then please fill it with enjoyable content that moves the story along. I’m not exaggerating when I say this movie could have easily been condensed into a 45 minute second act of a single film. The additional scenes added to the source material are nothing special, and almost nothing happens in this movie until the end. Speaking of the end, you will be left shaking your head in disbelief when the credits roll without resolving ANYTHING.

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All in all The Desolation of Smaug is better than An Unexpected Journey, but still feels like a bloated film. The movie has no real ending—it would be like if The Empire Strikes Back ended as Luke landed on the platform in Cloud City. The lack of any real resolution and clear set-up for the final act is reminiscent of the second Pirates of the Caribbean film. I hope someone lets Peter Jackson know how much he has let his greed and desire for gold blind him to the wishes of the loyal fans that made the LOTR trilogy such a hit. In the end, he’s like Smaug—unable to see past the mountain of gold he has taken from others.

Snackbar’s Grade – C

Please let me know what you thought of The Hobbit: Desolation of Smaug in the comment section below.

Follow Snackbar on Twitter @snackie_cakes for all your Geek News

    • Rex

      This review encapsulates my thought exactly. There were two great action sequences masking the snore-fest that was the film.

    • Peter

      I think that David is being a little hard on the film, but I agree that the whole series is tainted by being three movies. I sadly agree that the Smaug/Bilbo scenes were extremely underwhelming, and found the “gold” effects terrible.

    • Rachel

      I think the reviewer is being generous saying there is 20 minutes of fun. Radagast is the Jar Jar Binks of Middle Earth.

    • Olivia

      Lets be fair… there were probably 25 minutes of good stuff. 🙂 I was extremely disappointed with the Gandalf side-quest.

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