The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug
Runtime: 161 min
Rated: PG-13
Released: 13 Dec 2013
Director: Peter Jackson
Writer: Fran Walsh (screenplay), Philippa Boyens (screenpl
Actors: Ian McKellen, Martin Freeman, Richard Armitage, Ken Stott
DVD release: 08 Apr 2014
Box Office: $257.4M
Company: Warner Bros.
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Tomato user meter: 85%
Tomato consensus: While still slightly hamstrung by "middle chapter" narrative problems and its formidable length, The Desolation of Smaug represents a more confident, exciting second chapter for the Hobbit series.

The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug

Adventure, Fantasy
The dwarves, along with Bilbo Baggins and Gandalf the Grey, continue their quest to reclaim Erebor, their homeland, from Smaug. Bilbo Baggins is in possession of a mysterious and magical ring.
75%Rotten Tomatoes
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    • The word you're looking for is "reimagining"I won't "review" the content of the movie in any detail, but provide some thoughts about how this film should be approached. I consider myself a Tolkienist (in fact I saw this movie on opening night because I secured a promotion deal with the local cinema: I spent four hours until midnight writing people's names in Elvish writing!) It is to be expected that many fans of of the original book will perceive this movie as a bloated, garbled monster version of the written story they loved. It is important to realize, before going in, that this is not simply "the movie of the book". This is Jackson's The Hobbit, not Tolkien's, and they are best appreciated as independent works. They represent different media, come from different centuries, and have partly different target audiences. The children's book was written before Tolkien had any idea of the grand trilogy to follow; Jackson had already produced his Lord of the Rings trilogy and somewhat understandably tries to make the prequels resemble it, in tone and scope.

      One could argue that Jackson's Hobbit trilogy, when complete, will set up the LotR film trilogy far better than Tolkien's simple children's book sets up the literary LotR. (The change in tone from children's book to grand epic is VERY pronounced, even grating for those who try to read The Hobbit after finishing LotR.) Incidentally, Jackson's prequel trilogy apparently will not spoil the LotR trilogy the way the Star Wars prequels give away important plot points of the original movies. When finished, Jackson's six Middle-earth movies can be profitably watched in sequence of internal chronology.

      To be sure, Jackson's Hobbit trilogy is "based on" the 1930s children's book in the sense that the characters have the same names and visit much the same places in somewhat the same order (though new characters and places are also added). Their basic motivations are also the same. But beyond that, one should not expect much "fidelity". There is hardly anything that isn't greatly embellished and vastly elaborated, mostly so as to allow for a FAR darker tone and MUCH more fantasy action (i.e., fights). The spiders of Mirkwood here approach actual horror, as compared to their rather more children-friendly literary counterparts (where we have Bilbo insulting them with silly "Attercop" rhymes).

      The wizards' conflict with the Necromancer of Dol Guldur, which in the book happens entirely "offscreen" and is just briefly alluded to when Gandalf has returned near the end, is here actually shown. This is understandable; Gandalf would otherwise be completely absent for much of this movie. Also, Jackson's audience will already know that this is the start of the war with Sauron, and the all-important Dark Lord could not well be ignored. Tolkien in his letters noted how Sauron casts just "a fleeting shadow" over the pages of The Hobbit; in Jackson's movie the shadow is darker and deeper.

      Entire new subplots are freely created and added to the story. The Elf Tauriel and her unlikely infatuation with one of the Dwarfs is clearly meant to add a love story where the book has none, and have at least ONE strong female character (no concern of Tolkien's when he wrote a story for children in the 1930s).

      The continued survival of ALL the protagonists despite their endless brushes with death doesn't just strain credibility -- it utterly and completely banishes and eliminates credibility. We are left with FANTASY action in the truest sense, to be enjoyed for choreography, not plausibility. If cats have nine lives, a Jacksonian Dwarf clearly enjoys a three-digit number of lives.

      So, viewed as an independent work, is this a good movie? Technically it is nothing short of brilliant, full of detail that can only be appreciated on the big screen. Smaug is, hands down, the best-designed movie dragon the world has yet seen. If I were a teenager instead of a ripe old 42, this wealth of fantasy action would probably have exited me no end. It is nice to see Legolas again, even if he is not in the book. I liked the sequences with the amorphous Sauron. Poor Evangeline Lily would however look better without those silly ears, which are simply too big and look just as fake as they are. Also, I'm not sure the hinted-at Elf-Dwarf romance adds much to the story. All things considered, I'll award Jackson's re-imagined "The Hobbit" seven stars.

      There were also seven stars in Durin's crown, for those of you who can understand the literary allusion ...
      show full movie reviewsource7/10
    • The Hobbit: The Desolation of Literature and Film-MakingThe Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug is more of a bad Steven Seagal clone than an adaptation of well-read literature. The first film in the new trilogy, An Unexpected Journey, was very good, with one problem I'll mention later. If the worst decision Director Peter Jackson made was to include Orlando Bloom and Evangeline Lilly, which seems to be the case for the professional praise-givers, this film would be fantastic. However, it just so happens that there's this little thing Jackson and his fellow writers forgot to do: make sure the movie resembles the book.

      I'm sure most people who saw the first movie remember the leading villain Azog. Well, in case you haven't read the book, page 251 of my 1997 Houghton Mifflin copy states "Bolg of the North is coming, O Dain! whose father you slew in Moria." In the section on Durin's Folk in Appendix A of the Lord of the Rings, it is stated that Dain Ironfoot, who is supposed to appear in the next film, slew Azog in the big Dwarf vs. Goblin battle we see as a flashback in film one. This means that the entire Azog subplot is just one big fan-fiction. It is one thing to include the son of the Elven-King (Legolas) even though he is not mentioned in the book, after all, is it so inconceivable that Legolas would be near his father? It is an entirely different matter when a character is included even though he has been dead for over 100 years!

      Continuing with our game of "What is timeline consistency?", we come across Gandalf. Gandalf ends movie 2 in a cage at Dol Guldur. Beyond the fact that there is no rationale for such a decision, we know from Appendix B that Gandalf reports the existence of Sauron to the White Council and then takes part in the attack on Dol Guldur. After that battle, he proceeds to save Bilbo's life right before the Battle of Five Armies. Based on this film's timeline and what part of the original timeline still remains, Gandalf has but a handful of days to accomplish all that I have listed.

      My copy of The Hobbit is 271 pages long. The US edition of Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone is 310 pages. Why in the name of Eru do you need three movies for this story? I understand and would have gladly stood behind two films, therefore allowing for extended action sequences and a limited reduction in content. Three films should be more than enough to cover the entire book but apparently not for Peter Jackson.

      Beorn is trimmed down to the importance of Celeborn, then we watch a ridiculously long giant spider sequence, then the dwarfs are captured for maybe three hours Middle-Earth time, then we watch an overly long fan-fiction chapter about Azog's friends being killed by our two elf heroes. Note that Bolg is able to attack the dwarfs because Jackson changed the escape from Mirkwood scene in order to allow for more combat.

      After our craziest bloodbath yet, we have an overly long scene introducing another Jackson creation: Bard, the Barge-Sailer who apparently got mixed up with Bard, the Captain of the Guard. You see, the former makes a whole bunch of claims that are actually true about the latter. Why do we need to mess up the Lake-Town sequence? If you guessed "To set up another impossible bloodbath", give yourself a vacation to a combat zone. This round of combat is only after we leave four dwarfs behind because one of them got the Witch-King's knife disease that Frodo got in Fellowship but this time it came from an arrow fired by Bolg who has absolutely nothing better to do since Azog took all his screen time. Of course, Kili is saved by Tauriel, Captain of the Guard of the Woodland Realm who somehow has the same healing capability as Lord Elrond Half-Elven, wielder of one of the three Elven Rings of Power and a direct descendant of the Kings of the Noldor. It is rather fortunate Tauriel is there, because otherwise, Kili would have to wait for the next movie to have his deathbed dialogue, provided Jackson even sends Fili and Kili to Erebor where they're supposed to be. I'm all for the suspension of disbelief, but this doesn't even make sense in the fantasy universe.

      And don't forget the dragon. In Lake-Town, the viewer is reminded multiple times that Smaug can only be killed by a special ballista-bolt, strangely called an arrow, and only in one tiny spot on his stomach. In the mountain, Bilbo points it out again. But Peter Jackson apparently pays no heed to the script with his own name on it and gives the viewer a 30 minute "Let's Kill the Dragon Sequence". Take a guess who doesn't die in this sequence. If you said Smaug, the Fire- Breathing Dragon, you are more qualified to direct this movie than Peter Jackson.

      I loved the Rings film trilogy and, with the exception of Azog, the first Hobbit film. This film though, has almost no plot development, almost no consistency with the timeline given by Tolkien, almost no attention paid to its own script, and entirely too much combat. I remember Jackson being criticised for the warg battle in Towers but that did not require any plot change except for the location of the death of Hama (a very minor change) and the whole Aragorn-cliff- dream-thing which serves to heighten the tension before a battle that is done far better in the film. The warg battle helped to make a good fantasy film. This film seems like it is trying to see how many people can be killed before it gets an R rating from the MPAA. Deviations from the book are good if it enables better cinema but not when it allows for "Let's Kill Everything We See: The Movie".
      show full movie reviewsource2/10
    • The Desolation of CGI - the Hobbit trilogy continues to disappointI saw the movie in 2D because I hated the 3D HFR in the first Hobbit movie. I thought the HFR just made the movie sets look like sets instead of being part of the movie universe. I much preferred the 2D experience here and it was easier for me to try to immerse myself in the movie. Regrettably there were too many things that were wrong with the movie for me to achieve that.

      This movie had a budget of something like 200 million dollars, over double that of any of the individual movies of the original trilogy. Where did all that money go? To that mostly horrid CGI? There was just bloody too much of it like in the first movie. Everything looks so damn fake with the CGI slammed front and center with no artistic attempt to hide its shortcomings. For example, when Legolas starts chasing Bolg out of Laketown, even his horse is made with CGI. Why? Couldn't you afford to rent one horse? The orcs were mostly made with CGI and they weren't menacing in the slightest. The few scenes with actual actors with makeup playing the orcs were far superior. Erebor looked quite good in general with its mountains of coins and treasures but the melted gold looked unbelievably bad. Many of the actual sets in the movie were very well done and I'm really puzzled why they didn't use them more. The CGI in LOTR looked far more convincing and epic, the large establishing shots looked like grand paintings come alive. What happened here? I don't get it. It felt like I was watching a video game and I don't want to feel that way when I'm watching a movie. Granted, the original trilogy did have a bit of silly looking CGI here and there but at least it was constantly grounded by real sets.

      There was also some really weird editing here too. The movie is already way too long and they still include absolutely pointless scenes. For example, when Gandalf is climbing the stairs by the mountain and the ledge gives up, the movie suddenly cuts to a sweeping shot of the mountain side. Why not just stay with Gandalf, it would provide more intensity. There's many examples like this. In Mirkwood when Bilbo is snapping at the spider web they shouldn't zoom deep into the web with the camera. Stuff like this tells nothing and adds nothing to the film. This also takes time away from the character development. When one of the dwarfs oversleeps and misses the boat to Erebor, I couldn't even remember who he was and why I should care that he was stranded in Laketown. Also, the most puzzling and distracting choice in the movie was using that weird POV camera footage in the barrel scenes, it looked so utterly different that it took me out of the movie completely.

      The action could've been cut down significantly too. There was no real context or meaning for most of it anyway. Also, after Legolas has killed his umpteenth orc in yet another physics-breaking and miraculous way, you simply lose interest. He can apparently do anything. My feeling is that in the original trilogy the "laws of physics" so to say were merely bent somewhat, here they're completely shattered. All of this may sound nitpicky but I'm essentially doing this because the movie didn't get me emotionally invested in it in a positive way at all.

      The movie wasn't particularly funny either despite its lighthearted source material, I laughed much more heartily in many parts of the original trilogy. The Gimli joke was quite funny though. There was also absolutely no memorable music in this movie and none of it moved me like much of the music did in the original trilogy. I didn't get shivers at any point of the movie.

      It wasn't all bad or mediocre though. Smaug was magnificent and Benedict Cumberbatch did a great job voice acting the dragon, definitely something to witness in a theater. Smaug's discussions with Bilbo were also great. Gandalf's venture into Dol Guldur was also interesting though that is mainly because Ian McKellen is such a fine actor that he can catch your attention with ease. The cameos by Peter Jackson in the beginning eating the carrot and by Stephen Colbert as the Laketown spy were fun even though I think they might've been too distracting had I loved the movie. The pacing in the movie is a bit of a mixed bag. The first movie had bad pacing because it was overly long without anything really happening. Desolation of Smaug swings the pendulum to the other end with endless action sequences pasted after another. Sure it's more exciting to watch but it was dearly missing some slower sequences to digest everything.

      I'm a massive fan of the original trilogy but the first two Hobbit movies simply haven't captured the epicness and magic of those movies at all. And if the Hobbit wasn't intended to feel epic, then why make it into three movies? There's also something else I don't get. The original movie trilogy adaptation established what the LOTR universe looked and felt like. Is the Hobbit trilogy still supposed to happen in that same universe? I didn't ever feel like anyone was in any serious danger because they survive crazier and crazier encounters after the next and because of that there's no tension. This wasn't the case with the originals. Huge spiders were very dangerous in LOTR, here Bilbo is just killing them off left and right. I just wish they'd taken much more liberties with the material and really placed this story into the grittier universe that was established by the original trilogy. Or maybe they should've done something completely different instead of trying to imitate the originals and coming short of them. Anything but this.
      show full movie reviewsource4/10
    • If you are a fan of Tolkien you will be disappointedThis movie is so far from the story found in the book that Peter Jackson wouldn't have needed to get the rights from the Tolkien estate. I disagree with many of the naysayers who think this shouldn't have been turned into a three part series. There is plenty of story, action, and character development in the book to make three reasonable length films. The issue with how Jackson has handled this "adaptation" is that they have truncated most of the important elements to the original story simply so they could make up drawn out action scenes for the sake of action.

      The film immediately came off the rails in what should have been the queer lodgings chapter. I was fully expecting another fun scene like An Unexpected Party; where Gandalf lures Beorn into letting a company of Dwarfs stay in his house. What we get is a rushed scene where the entire company barrels their way into his barn-ish house fleeing from Beorn and locking him out of his own house. Then without explanation Beorn is fine with all the dwarfs piled in his house just because he hates orcs more then he hates dwarfs. This was one of my favorite scenes in the book and I was really disappointed with how awful it was done.

      Next we get to the edge of Mirkwood where Gandalf seems to suddenly discover he needs to go to the south. In the book you get the impression that Gandalf with his great foresight planned to leave the party at the edge of the forest long before they got there. With Gandalf gone the rest of the company immediately become a bunch of morons who simply get lost in stupidity. The entirety of Mirkwood takes them less than 15min to traverse which really kills the feeling that it's a great and massive forest. There was no black river, not once did Bilbo say attercot to taunt the spiders while luring them away from the dwarfs. The Elves come in to save the day killing the spiders and then take the company of dwarfs to their prison cells. No twinkling lanterns, no fires in little glades that go poof when Bilbo or a dwarf tries to approach.

      They are in and out of the Elvin prison in the blink of an eye with no sense of time that it took Bilbo to wander around learning his way around, scrounging for food and concocting his plan to escape. All of this was rushed through so we could have another action sequence of orcs chasing the party while elves chased them both but kinda helping the party of dwarfs. It makes no sense. Something that should have been done in a few cuts got extended to a 5min+ action sequence so they can show off their CGI.

      I could go on, but I'll skip ahead to the last part that never happens in the book. The last 15 minutes of the film is a drawn out action sequence of the Dwarfs and Bilbo battling Smaug inside the Lonely Mountain. In the book the Dwarfs never engage Smaug at all. The long straight secret tunnel leading to the hidden door is not long or straight at all in the film. To top it all off, the ending was cut as Smaug is flying away toward Lake Town. There is no battle, no burning of the city, no Smaug getting shot in the breast by Bard and thus falling into the lake causing it to billow up in a cloud of steam.

      In summary this is not The Hobbit. It is some film that Peter Jackson made up as he went along with what (conservatively) is less than 40% parts of the books story. If you are a fan of Tolkien you will undoubtedly be let down by this excuse of a movie.

      show full movie reviewsource1/10
    • Decent fantasy-action slightly inspired by The HobbitMost reviews will tell you what's so great about this movie and why it's worth watching, but I figured you should hear the other side of the story.

      First of all a small note for Tolkien fans. If you thought An Unexpected Journey strayed a bit too far from the book: The Desolation of Smaug looks like the script writers didn't even know there was a book. The movie tries hard to change the story wherever it can, reducing fan-favorite chapters to 5 minute scenes and writing new content that feels out of place.

      But it's not only bad if you've read the book. I really wonder what the target audience is, because it feels like it's written for 15 year old boys. There are random action scenes every 10 minutes and 'funny' decapitations every 30. The worst thing here is that the action comes at the cost of character development. You have a band of 13 Dwarfs and a Hobbit, yet you rarely see them interact.

      Now I like Elves more than Dwarfs, so I didn't mind seeing so much of them in this movie. But having them show up in every place to save the day feels wrong. Perhaps Peter Jackson thought his cast of Dwarfs wasn't good enough to create an enjoyable movie? Gandalf's scenes in Dol Guldur were an interesting addition in concept, but they are just too slow. I feel his scenes mostly serve as an attempt to raise The Hobbit to The Lord of the Rings' level of epicness. And that just doesn't work.

      The story is full of illogicalities. How does entering the mountain to steal the Arkenstone to unite the Dwarfs to kill the Dragon to enter the mountain work exactly?? And remember that heartwarming last scene of An Unexpected Journey, where Thorin finally accepts Bilbo? Well, that's all gone again. Even though he keeps outsmarting all the Dwarfs, Bilbo is back to being an unappreciated 5th wheel of the party. And did the writers really think viewers would be so desperate for a love story that they'd enjoy an Elf and a Dwarf flirting it up? Their scenes feel forced and are painful to watch.

      Martin Freeman's acting is top notch again, but sadly he hardly gets any screen time. He only shines in his scene with Smaug. Now Smaug as a character is awesome, no complaints there. Yet most of his scenes are way too dragged out. There's a 20 minute scene with the Dwarfs running around thinking they can defeat him. Only at that point the movie already hinted at the only possible way of defeating him. Perhaps the worst aspect is that these scenes make Smaug look like an unintelligent creature. Dwarfs luring a Dragon around by going "Nana-nanana you can't catch me!" is not only silly and cliche, it's an insult to Smaug's character.

      Final complaint: the whole movie builds up to a scene.... that's apparently going to be the opening scene of movie 3. Nobody in the cinema was sure if the movie had ended, or there was just an awkwardly long pause when the screen went black.

      A movie like this you'll want to see, no matter how good or bad it is. You can't miss out on such a huge release, especially when it looks gorgeous in HFR 3D. But where I watched each Lord of the Rings movie 3 times in cinema, watching The Desolation of Smaug just once was enough for me.

      In the end, most problems of the movie seem to stem from the decision to turn the cute Hobbit tale into three epic movies that have to live up to the Lord of the Rings hype. It doesn't work.
      show full movie reviewsource6/10