Movie Review: The Hobbit Desolation of Smaug (Small Spoilers!)

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The latest film in the Hobbit trilogy has been praised by many as a vast improvement over the original which was faulted for its poor CGI, use of 48 FPS and serious pacing problems. I myself thoroughly enjoyed it and the additions to the many story-lines which filled in the gaps of the book. “Desolation of Smaug” can indeed be classified as a superior sequel for the first two acts because the CGI is better, the new frame rate technology is vastly improved and the film moves along at a brisk pace. But remember, this only lasts for the first two acts.

“Desolation” begins a few days after the events of “Journey” and wastes no time in continuing the story of the 13 Dwarves, the wizard Gandalf and the reluctant hero Bilbo Baggins as they continue on their quest for the Lonely Mountain. Once a proud and prosperous land now a shadow of its former self thanks to the dragon Smaug who has claimed Erebor and its vast treasure troves as his own, it is now up to this unlikely company of heroes to slay the dragon and reclaim the capital of the Dwarven people.

One of the faults of the original film many people had was the pacing which is thankfully remedied here (until the third act). “Journey” had to spend much of its time setting up the plot, the various characters and side plots. “Desolation” doesn’t need to do any of that and instead it builds upon everything setup before and progresses it forward. Most of the story-lines get the proper amount of screen time and each one of them feels important to the overall plot. They also give us non-book reading people glimpses into the greater culture of the Dwarves and Elves, two species who remained largely a mystery in the original “Rings” trilogy.

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Sadly one of the side stories feels completely superfluous and a waste of what could have been a great character.  Tauriel did not exist in the original Tolkien story, but her addition was quite welcome as she was no helpless damsel in distress but an ass-kicking warrior who could give even the best of them a good fight. She’s also quite likeable and the actress portraying her does a great job with what she’s given, but sadly she’s put into a painfully forced love story which does fuck all to advance the main plot. It’s really a shame a bad-ass female character can’t just be a bad-ass but HAS to be made into a guys girlfriend just for the sake of a romance.

Thankfully the other story-lines are handled properly and each one of them is filled with holy shit moments, great action and fantastic world building. Gandalf continues his investigation into the mysterious Necromancer and this leads him to the tombs of the Ring Wraiths and into the fortress of Dol Guldur itself where he learns the true identity of the Necromancer. Fans of the “Rings” trilogy will enjoy these parts the most and while I did as well its Legolas who steals the show here.

His larger role within the story is another addition not present in the original book. While I cant say how important he is to the overall story just yet besides just kicking some major ass in one amazing fight scene after another; I’m willing to let this one slide because he is so fun to watch and he partakes in some of the best fight scenes I’ve seen all year. It’s just a shame most of the blood seems to have been cut out of these fights for no reason what so ever.

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Another problem which gets solved this time around is the main party. Many, including myself, didn’t particularly care for this new group of adventurers because “Journey” never really gave us a reason to care about anyone save for Bilbo, Thorin, Balin and Gandalf. Here we get a greater sense of camaraderie between these people and many of them get their time to shine which makes us care about them more. Bilbo in particular gets many opportunities to show off how this adventure has changed him and he’s gone from reluctant hero to full on bad-ass this time around.

You must be thinking this film is a home run from start to finish after reading all these (mostly) positive things I’ve had to say right? Well you’d be dead fucking wrong because the last act is so painfully drawn out; it completely kills the pacing of the entire film. In two hours Peter Jackson is able to do so much its insane and I cannot believe the same guy was responsible for the last act here. It is blatantly obvious this was supposed to be the last film in the duo-logy but since its supposed to be a trilogy they had to find a way to stretch it out more and it kills the whole film.

Don’t get me wrong. Benedict Cumberbatch did a fantastic job as Smaug and he delivers one of the best mo-cap performances I’ve seen since Andy Circus did Gollum. But even his captivating on screen presence and amazing voice work can only keep you engaged for so long until you realize the movie stopped dead 20 minutes ago and the only plot you care about at the moment is Gandalf at Dol Guldur and we barely get to see that after a certain scene! The other story going on at that moment is the previously mentioned forced romance. which just made me roll my eyes in the sheer pointlessness of it.

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Its a damn shame the third act is so overly drawn out and boring because the rest of the film is genuinely a great time with fantastic performances, character development, action set pieces and world building; some of which are done better than the original “Rings” trilogy. The final act however is such a mind numbing train wreck it will leave a terrible taste in your mouth which could make you (wrongfully) hate the rest of the film. If all of those scenes were necessary I would maybe give it a pass because nothing could be cut out, but at least 20 minutes of the Smaug stuff could be cut out and replaced with the real climax of the story. It also tries to be “Empire Strikes Back” with its ending but the lead up to this cliffhanger is so painfully boring as fuck to watch you’re thankful it’s FINALLY over.

“Desolation of Smaug” is a film which will live or die based on its sequel. If “There and Back Again” is able to give us a conclusion to all of these story-lines and deliver the good stuff, then “Desolation” won’t be remembered as such a disappointment. But “TABA” isn’t out yet and I cannot in good conscience let this film walk away with such a terrible third act just because it might get better later on. I would say die hard fans of the books and movies are going to love every second of this because I myself am I fan and even I was hard pressed to get through that final act, I can only imagine how the regular people will react to it.

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+ Larger focus on the core group

+ Some of the best fight scenes in any film this year

+ Vastly improved visual effects and CGI

+ Benedict Cumberbatch is amazing as Smaug


– Tauriel is wasted on a painful to watch romance

– The film literally stops dead 2 hours in

– Third act is mind numbingly drawn out and boring as fuck to watch.


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