Reviews: The Hobbit The Desolation Of Smaug

  • Gaon
  • 17th Jan 15
  • 0

In time, all foul things come forth.

At the risk of sounding cringeworthy, I'll say a more apt title for this movie would be "The Desolation of Smaug's lack of screentime".

I like "A Unexpected Journey" a lot. Found it a nice ride, full of awe and amusing elements that got the spirit of the book right.

But Desolation didn't do so well in my books. The first movie's greatest strenght (in my opinion) is the focus on the Dwarves and their culture, which appealed to me as a fan of Dwarves, but this one just sidesteps all of that by having the most egregious case of Spotlight-Stealing Squad of recent memory.

Matter of fact, what do the dwarves do in this movie? Spiders of Mirkwood? Killed by the Elves. Escape from prison? Bilbo does that. Fight their way out? Legolas helps them with that. Find their way into Laketown? Bard. Find their way into the mountain? Bilbo. Retrieve the Arkenstone? Bilbo.

And accordingly, their screentime and lore is reduced to nothing. Now it all returns to be about-sigh- Fuckin Elves again. Thranduil's self-righteous bullshit, Tauriel being entirely unnecessary (though I don't think she was as bad as most people thought), Legolas being annoyingly Spotlight-Stealing Squad.

"In time, all foul things come forth" says Thranduil, and this is true: This is the movie where foul things come forth to this trilogy. Spotlight-Stealing Squad from the elves, lack of focus on the dwarves, stretching the story to nothing (seriously, this movie has no plot whatsoever until they reach Erebor), and a excessively dark tone that spoils the fun mood the first movie had.

Now there are good things. Every single second of screentime Smaug has is utterly magnificent and a sight to behold, truly a grandiose being wonderfully acted. And speaking of grand beings, there's Sauron's Nightmare Fuel arrival that is by far the most memorable scene of the movie (and perhaps of the trilogy). These two, Smaug and Sauron, save the film.

But other than that, no. This is a weak, weak movie to me.


The Desolation of Smaug

Oh, this movie was awesome. I just rewatched it. Really good. At first, when I saw it(Christmas Eve 2013 in Santa Cruz), I thought it was just awesome, but now I found a movie that was awesome, funny, heartwarming, tearjerking, AND a bit scary! Bottom line, go see this movie somehow. It's great.

Okay, Look


I see both sides of the argument. People call it too long, too unlike like the book (constituting mostly to the inclusion of the Love Triangle), and too disorganized. On the other hand, people also call it an improvement over the last film, including more action, new characters, and outstanding special effects. Obviously I'm not going to get to touch on everything about this film due to my limited word count, but I'm keeping in mind how controversial these films are in the eyes of the public.

Let's cut to the part that everyone knows. Smaug: Big Bad, Ensemble Darkhorse, Visual Effects of Awesome, Benedict freaking Cumberbatch! I can imagine that a lot of people went to see the movie just to see him, and let me tell you, he was no disappointment. Upon his reveal, everything about him just screamed "worth the wait!". Unfortunately, and I really really really, did not want to admit this, he was on screen way too long. His Badass Boast as featured in the book was really stretching his screen time, and as I've heard it said before, he became more of an effect than a character rather quickly.

But this brings me to a point that I'd like to touch on: the differences between the book and the movie. Book snobs who exist just to point fingers at what the films did wrong should note that I believe the parts in both The Hobbit films that have been accused of biding their time are actually the ones that stay truest to the book. The part where the dwarves run into the mountain to fight Smaug I found to be more interesting than Bilbo just talking to him before he heads off to Laketown, and I also found it more realistic that they would actually try to put up a fight against him rather than let Bilbo face him alone after getting caught for burglary.

The other thing people hate about this film is, of course, the Love Triangle, but I'm not going to touch on that much because I actually liked it and have little information to back me up on my opinion. Overall, the film was better than the first, and had scenes like the spiders and the barrels that were visually stunning and worthy of acclaim. I also enjoyed Gandalf's subplot which connects the story to Lord of the Rings, because it feels like the world actually has consistency unlike most other fictional settings.

On Tauriel and Thranduil

While Unexpected Journey was no cinematic masterpiece, I found it entertaining and genuinely engaging. Desolation of Smaug, however, did not have the same energy, mainly due to being the middle film, unnecessary screentime slowing down the plot, and Smaug not actually being destroyed. Say it with me: COP-OUT.

One quip to get out of the way: Thranduil's characterization. Tolkein had him as a complex, nuanced character beloved by his people in a Both Sides Have a Point conflict with Thorin. Jackson has him as an outright greedy, "ill-tempered" snob. While Jackson's portrayal of Thranduil is not without decency, it viewed as though amplifying Thranduil's flaws while decreasing Thorin's, thus simplifying Thranduil to a villain to pander to the Lowest Common Denominator.

The main issue with this movie is Tauriel, solely included to give women representation in the films. Irresponsible, unprofessional, and completely unbelievable as the captain of the guard, her character was a huge disappointment. Jackson's fanfic-like execution of Tauriel gives reason to believe women would be better off remaining invisible in Middle-Earth if Tauriel was supposed to be the ideal female.

As the lone main female character of the films and not created by Tolkein, Tauriel will obviously be under much scrutiny by viewersand held to different standards than the male characters. The writers seemed to realize this, and tried to make her extremely talented in various fields as an example of Positive Discrimination; unfortunately, Tauriel instead just comes across as a generic female character whose bland personality was generated by a checklist of traits that allowed her to succeed at everything she tried. To be honest, I think would have been refreshing if Tauriel could exist as a female and be seen as just another warrior/ally by the male characters rather than an object of lust and conflict.

However, the true problem isn't so much with her depiction as much as the time alloted to her. Tauriel and her various overblown romances dominate the screen to the point that Bilbo feels Out of Focus in his own movie.

That's not to say there is nothing to like about this film; Luke Evans as Bard in particular gives a great performance. But the consistent shoehorning in of movie subplots at the expense of the actual books plots can be very irritating.

The Desolation Of Smaug review

Last time, I did a Bilbo, Azog, and Necromancer division. Even though Azog's role is reduced here, it falls under the grandfather clause,so Bilbo for stuff from the book, Azog for LOTR, added stuff, and Necromancer for Tolkiens notes stuff.

Bilbo: Mirkwood was very creepy and Mind Screwy, the parts where Bilbo falls under the Ring's influence are chilling to watch, and Bard the Bowman was great. Thorin in general was brilliant here. His slow corruption throughout the film is very well-done, and one of the best scenes is when he enters Erebor. As for Smaug, I've only really got two things to say that everyone hasn't said before. One, it was a great decision to make him able to smell the Ring, because after that Bilbo couldn't hide and any pretense of safety was gone. Two, I know a lot of people mention Benedict Cumberbatch when they talk about Smaug. For me, the voice alterations and CG covered him up and I didn't really see him in the role, which was great since the performance got through without distracting me. Thorin and Smaug in favor, 9/10

Azog:Has been demoted and is no longer chasing the dwarves. Instead, his son we barely know and don't care about is. Huh. Tauriel's the big new addition here, and the Love Triangle. Since it wasn't really the filmmaker's fault, and the Ship Tease between her and Legolas can be muted with a thick pair of Anti-Shipping Goggles, I'm going to ignore it. Aside from this, I like her and the romance between her and Kili. Sure, there's a bit of Strangled by the Red String, but a gender-flipped Rescue Romance is so rare and they do have genuine chemistry, so I'll let it fly. Hi Legolas. Bye Legolas. It's okay, I guess. 7/10

Necromancer:Nice to see Radagast again, and Sauron was terrifying as always. The Droste Image for Sauron, the battle on the bridge, and the set for the old castle were all excellent. Properly atmospheric and creepy, and while there's not much here and and of itself, it's a decent set-up for what is to come. 8/10

Final score is 8/10. Sure, the unnecessary Love Triangle was annoying and the ending dragged a lot (and least there were no fake-outs), but overall it's a good film. The story needs work, but the characters, their interactions, and the sets hold it up.