Bilbo to the Rescue in The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug (Movie Review)

THe HobbitHere we are once again.  It’s the same place we were last year.  It’s the cold month of December so it must be coincidentally time for the newest entry in The Lord of the Rings (LOTR) saga…err I mean The Hobbit saga.  And low and behold…IT IS!  Whether it’s a bad omen or not, the second picture in the epic fantasy series, The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug, is opening on none other than on Black Friday.  No, I don’t mean that Black Friday where all the ridiculous sales happen (although this year I think Thanksgiving Day sales were much more generous), but that special day when our favorite serial killer Jason Voorhees looms, Friday the 13th!  And I’ll make this promise to you.  My review below will not be as long as every LOTR infused butt numbing experience you ever had.  No sir!  Or no ma’am!  I promise to keep my babbling to a minimum, but just in case let’s get a move on it.  We have lots to discuss here.  We have a dragon to slay, elves, dwarves and orcs to feud with and possibly even a certain hobbit to toast.  Ladies and gentlemen…this is second installment in the three-part film series set to conclude with There and Back Again next summer…may I introduce The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug

So what you get this second time out, in my opinion, is more of the same I guess.  Like in the LOTR trilogy, the second picture amps the action and minimizes all the slow character developments of the first feature.  The same could be said of this one, more or less.  The action sequences were sweetened.  The threat levels and stakes were elevated.  And of course, you have a fire breathing dragon.  Did I mention he talks?  Oh yeah!  This dragon speaks courtesy of Benedict Cumberbatch.  However, let’s back up just a bit and catch everyone up to speed with who’s all involved in this second outing and whatnot.  It’s time for some housekeeping!

Once again, Peter Jackson returns to the series, as will be the case with next year’s film too, as co-writer, producer and most importantly, director.  This is obviously a direct sequel too (just in case a few were wondering) that continues the storyline in An Unexpected Journey where hobbit Bilbo Baggins (Martin Freeman) travels with our favorite wizard Gandalf the Grey (Ian McKellen) and “the company” of dwarves led by Thorin Oakenhield (Richard Armitage) to reclaim their former home, the Kingdom of Erebor, from the dragon I mentioned above, Smaug. The film also stars Evangeline Lilly and Orlando Bloom (I was very excited to see these two in action), Lee Pace, Luke Evans, Ken Stott and James Nesbitt.  Last but not least, the familiar, thrilling and heart-warming score of the six-picture saga is brilliantly on display once again for all to enjoy and soothingly take in courtesy of Howard Shore.  And if you know anything about these films, you know how much extra his incredible score adds to the events that unfold onscreen.

The word desolation means emptiness or destruction.  I guess both are accurate when speaking in regards to what Smaug did to not only the dwarves’ former home, but also to the nearby lake town that was devastated during the attack so long ago.  We obviously learn all this and more throughout this film’s runtime of approximately 161 minutes.  The movie also manages to take us back to a familiar bar setting not seen since the first film of the original trilogy.  I have to admit.  It felt really good to be home.  This scene I am referring to kind of gives us a little backstory on how Thorin and Gandalf first met up and decided to man up and heroically attempt this deemed impossible quest to take back Erebor from Smaug.  Although it was a little disjointed from the fairly straight linear narrative of the films, it was a scene I welcomed with much appreciation and in the end it kind of serves nicely to hopefully answer all your burning questions as to where do they come from, where do they go…no, not Cotton-Eye Joe.

So after the quick intro flashback, we are thrusted back into the heat of the chase where our merry gang of travelers just nearly escaped the clutches of that white orc I hate so much, Azog (Manu Bennett), in the first film.  They are being tracked and fleeing for their lives.  After taking a much needed quick break, it’s not long before they venture into Mirkwood forest where we see our posse attacked by spiders and eventually captured by elves.  I would like to stop here for a moment.  I don’t know if it’s just me or not, but what a feeling of nostalgia it was to see the elves, notably Bloom and Lilly’s characters, engaged wildly within the tight action sequences.  While it was like watching a CG Spider-Man bounce all around, the elves brisk and erratic moves certainly upped the ante and brought back the warm, crazy memories of all the fast-paced battles I loved in the original trilogy.  In other words, with the additions of the elves, the pace of the story picked up too.  And when you’re talking LOTR, that’s always a good thing!

With all this talk of elves and quick action sequences I kind of lost track of where we were at in our tale.  Oh yeah!  So the dwarves continued their seem like forever march to reclaim there homeland in the mountains and we meet a few new friends along the way, or are they friends?  No worries.  I’m not going to drop any spoilers for all the peeps who go into this like me never having read the books.  Eventually we are going to get to this dragon, right?  Absolutely!

So here’s my conundrum.  I understand this is a fantasy movie.  Just about everything has a voice in these films.  Hell, even trees talk and walk.  But why oh why can I not accept the fact that Smaug the dragon talks?  I’m not sure.  It just kind of ruins it for me.  Rather than him be this menacing dragon everyone should fear, I just don’t feel that way once he opens his big mouth.  It takes the threat of destruction out of him for me.  Of course, that’s not to say he wasn’t beautifully rendered and all.  He was.  It’s just me having a hard time coming to terms with a talking dragon and trying to take the heightened sense of danger seriously.  Hopefully that will fade once I watch it on Blu-ray or something, but until that day comes I’m hung up here.

My second beef with the film is it’s predictability.  I understand the reason for foreshadowing in a screenplay and what not, but if you watch this film and can’t tell me how things will resolve in the final film of the trilogy, then you’re an idiot.  They basically spelled it out for you.  Do you need me to hold your hand?  Also, this one kind of has a Matrix Reloaded kind of cut to it where just as you get into the heart of the action/battle its lights out.  See you later people.  Pay some more money and come back for more.  It’s LOTR!  What’s another two hours on top of this one, eh?

Now let’s talk about what I liked.  Besides the zany action sequences with the much missed elves there are three things I really like about this film that I feel are done extremely well.  First, although he’s not prevalent like in the first film I really enjoy Bilbo’s character arc.  He’s come along way from the first movie and it shows in all the heroic acts he performs.  It’s almost as if Gandalf is right about him.  He has changed.  Thorin who?!  Second, I love the B-story involving Gandalf who kind of goes out and does his own thing and in the linear process of the plot lines it sets up very nicely the events that unfold immediately in the first LOTR film.  And last but not least, I love the fact that the stupid white orc, Azog, has very much diminished screen time.  I mean he’s hardly in it.  Hip, hip hooray!  I hated the rubbery CG way he looked in the first Hobbit film and he’s no better here.  I know we’ll see a lot more of him in the third entry, but for now I’m just ecstatic not having to deal with him here in this one.

And thankfully, whether you like it or not, I happier than hell that my press screening was not of the 48fps high frame rate.  It was in 3D, which quite frankly I do without, but more importantly it was in 24fps and I couldn’t be happier about the fact.  Anyone paying extra for the higher frame rate deserves what they get…ultimately a headache.  With LOTR you are guaranteed attention to detail in every frame so why would you want to make the scenery look fake?  However, I will say this.  This is one very dark film and adorning 3D glasses doesn’t help the cause either.

The main difference between this film and the last are gone are the songs and silly behaviors of the dwarves.  This one has a much serious tone, if you can imagine that, and um…it has a talking dragon!  Yes, more than half of the movie is filled with chase sequence after chase sequence until they finally meet the dragon, but rest assured…it does happen.  I could tell a lot of people in attendance really liked this one.  Who knows, maybe I’m the only one adverse to talking dragons.  Whatever the case, if you’re a fan of the first film, then you owe it to yourself to check this one out theatrically.  I think whatever your feelings about LOTR or The Hobbit are, these films deserve and scream to be seen for the first time on the big screen, and opinions formulated thereafter.  I look forward to taking this journey again on Blu-ray next year.  So with that being said enjoy your fantastical time on Middle-earth once again.  This time it will feel much brisker…and that’s a good thing!

The Hobbit Smaug


Owner/Writer/Reviewer/Editor, Dreamer, Producer, Agent of Love, Film Lover, Writer of Screenplays and a Devoted Apostle to all things Ford Mustangs (the real ones with V8's!). Some of my favorite films include FIGHT CLUB, MOULIN ROUGE, THE DARK KNIGHT, STAR WARS alongside television shows such as SEINFELD, 24, SANFORD & SON and even the often loathed in the geek community BIG BANG THEORY. Outside of my three lives I live I also enjoy spending time with my girlfriend and our three girls (of the furry kind).

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