The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug (2013)

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If I wasn’t already in the minority thinking that Peter Jackson was right to turn J. R. R Tolkien’s beloved, timeless classic “The Hobbit” into three films. I definitely asserted myself as an outcast raving over how formidable Jackson’s first outing “The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey” was and how it placed the forthcoming flicks on impeccable footing. Now, we’re a year down the road, and I feel no different about it. It’s been a year between chapters, that’s a long wait, especially for an enthusiast such as myself, but the second chapter of this soon-to-be epic trilogy is finally upon us and I’ve stayed true to my fanboy title. Rushing, nervously and excitedly to my nearest theatre late Thursday night to behold the first showing of Jackson’s next masterpiece, “The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug” in IMAX 3D, and not just for Christopher Nolan’s “Interstellar” teaser either…that’s just a bonus. How’d I feel about the film, you ask…let’s just say, I wasn’t disappointed…

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Now, I know what you’re all thinking, “this guy is supremely biased” and you’re not wrong in concluding that. You may choose to skip my review for a more neutral, honest take and I won’t hold any blame against you. But before you do, consider this. The hard truth of it is, if you can’t enjoy this, you’re probably not a fan of Jackson’s LOTR universe to being with and shouldn’t be judging it in the first place…and I never cheat my readers out of the truth and honesty. If the “The Desolation of Smaug” had flopped, believe me, I’d be the first to let you know. Thankfully however, this isn’t the case. It’s a definite improvement in nearly every aspect while also capitalizing on the errors of its predecessor, not that there were many to begin with. And despite having similar themes, Jackson is able to make the content seem fairly new and exciting. He captures a lot of the magic that made his LOTR trilogy so superlative and successful, which is, quite frankly, the most reassuring aspect for the upcoming finale and is all any good-hearted fan could ask for.

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There’s a lot here that is reminiscent of the LOTR trilogy, but it’ll never be the LOTR, so let’s just get that comparison out of you head right now! If there’s one thing holding back “The Hobbit” trilogy, it’s no fault of its creators, rather, the viewers simply expecting LOTR all over again. That’ll never happen! Honestly, I consider the LOTR trilogy to be cinema’s greatest achievement. I know a lot of you will fight me on that, but that’s just how I feel. Nothing will ever live up to that comparison, so stop holding this series against it. The source material for both series differ greatly, I can’t stress that enough. If you’ve read the series, you’ll know exactly what I’m referring to. “The Hobbit” is directed to younger readers, it’s more cliched, nostalgic, simple. I wouldn’t go as far as to recommend completely cleansing your thoughts of any relation to the LOTR, simply because you’d miss out on a few awesome easter eggs and shout-outs to the original trilogy. That being said, the less you stack up Jackson’s two trilogies, the greater your experience will be.

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It may end on a bit of a cliff-hanger, which hampers most middle films, but if anything, it only really sets its hooks in deeper. A nagging, stinging, aching anticipation for next year’s finale that is proves useless to try and shake. Nonetheless, let’s stick to what’s available to us now. There’s a lot of new faces presented in this sequel, but of course there’s only one newcomer on everybody’s mind. There’s no question that the highlight of “The Desolation of Smaug” is of course, Smaug himself. It’s all any die-hard Tolkien fanatic has been waiting for since the series was first announced. You’ll be waiting till roughly the last forty minutes of the film’s nearly three hour runtime for Smaug to finally appear, but when he does, you’ll find yourself watching one of the greatest cinematic achievements of 2013.

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Apart from this greedy fire-breather, Orlando Bloom’s Legolas draws a substantial amount of excitement. Jumping weightless amongst the striking scenery of Middle Earth (provided by the always breathtaking New Zealand which Jackson once again utilizes to full effect) and dismissing countless foes. He might be a little more edgy than you remember, but a thrill to watch nonetheless. Luke Evans’ Bard really was a pleasant surprise. Gritty, emotional, and whole-heartedly invested, Evans truly added another complex, impressive layer to this fantastical spectacle. The final addition, Evangeline Lilly’s Tauriel still reigned supreme, for me at least. Rarely have I ever become smitten with someone so striking who could also beat me to a bloody pulp at the drop of a hat. A quick shout-out to the cast of dwarves who’ve finally been allowed to expand their emotional range. The serious tone really allows them to show off their depth instead of trotting around uttering witty, cliched catchphrases.

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Smaug is played by the incomparable Benedict Cumberbatch, who, aside from giving voice to this monstrous dragon, also provides the facial expressions and movements, much like that of Andy Serkis’s Gollum. Emerging from a baffling pile of riches, it’s the dark, malicious, egotistical voice that first strikes fear into your gut as Smaug himself dances amongst the shadows. Then, when the big reveal hits, you’ll find yourself struggling to pick your jaw off the sticky cinema floor. Agile, gargantuan, and devilishly clever, Cumberbatch’s Smaug is, without question, the biggest “wow” moment of the year. As for Martin Freeman, he’s still the only young Bilbo for me. His reluctant courage and comical movements are inspiring and hilarious. You’d be hard pressed to find someone who could successfully deliver just one of those facets. Sadly, Gandalf takes a bit of a back seat on this one, but it’s Ian McKellan, it’s the role he was born to play. So those brief moments he’s present are just as rewarding and nostalgic.

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“The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug” is another magnificent entry into Peter Jackson’s Middle Earth. The visuals are as superlative as ever. Whether it’s Smaug, the bewildering, gloomy Mirkwood and Laketown, or panoramic shots of Middle Earth, Jackson never seems to lose his form. The progression of the story isn’t a strain to endure and keeps the viewer glued with heart-racing action and genuine emotion. The dialogue doesn’t feel so contrived and each character is given more than enough importance to thrive. It still doesn’t rank with the best the LOTR trilogy has to offer, but it isn’t a steep decline either. “The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug” will undoubtedly stand the test of time and is a terrific set-up for next year’s big finale.

The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug: 9 out of 10.

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About Joseph@thecinemamonster

Aspiring writer who absolutely adores film and television. thecinemamonster.com

Posted on December 17, 2013, in Fantasy and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 55 Comments.

  1. Outstanding review sir! I was doubtful about the it being a trilogy but I did enjoy the first one very much and can’t wait to see this. It’s sounding more and more like your judgement was correct and a trilogy was a good idea. Let’s face it, can you ever really get enough of middle earth when Jackson is at the helm?

  2. Excellent review, I’m excited to see this movie.

  3. And yet another very positive review. As I’ve said before . . . I hope I enjoy this as much as most of the rest of you have been. I remain skeptical, but we’ll see . . .

  4. Good stuff!!!

    I just started the new We Are What We Are : )

  5. Whoa now. Whoa.. .WHOA.. a 9/10? Ouch balls, my friend. Ouch balls. You sound so optimistic about it… I just.. meh lol

  6. Great review, I had a brilliant time watching this film 😀

    Its still a bit too long but if I had to stay in any imaginary world middle earth isn’t too bad ;D

    Smaug stole the show and I am glad he did, great visuals and just an all over better film than the first hobbit, hope the trend continues into part 3 😀

    • Thanks Tim!

      I also thought it was brilliant, actually read your review yesterday I believe :).

      I didn’t find its length to be a probably as much as most, but I fully understand the issue.

      I have a feeling that number three will be LOTR good…hopefully anyway ;). Smaug is a stunner, I can’t wait to watch this flick again. Thanks again Tim!

  7. I’m glad to see that someone else feels that The Hobbit deserves to be 3 parts, and although I may not fully agree with your views on Smaug, I do agree with the overall tone of your piece. Great work!

    • Thanks for reading! I’m glad that someone finally agrees with my perspective lol. Did you not like Smaug?

      • I loved Benedict Cumberbatch’s performance, and I feel he really captured the character. Plus, the CGI was much better than I had anticipated. It’s just… I’m not sure, but that last sequence in Erebor seemed to really undermine him, and I didn’t care too much for it… Haha, but an overall great film!

      • That’s a terrific summarization of Cumberbatch’s performance and the dragon’s appearance. Thanks for contributing that comment! While I don’t agree with the undermining of his importance, I definitely see where your argument is coming from :).

      • Well you’ve written a great article, so it was my pleasure to comment!

  8. Glad to see you enjoyed this one so much! I had my issues with it, but…meh. You read about those. Lol. Nice review! 🙂

    • Thanks for reading :). Did you not like this one at all, as well? I know quite a few who disliked it, but a lot more that loved it!

      • I liked it, just didn’t love it. I gave it a B+. Basically, I think stretching a 300-page book into three films is a little obnoxious. There’s just so much that added stuff that seems unnecessary to me–stuff that takes away from the core character of the book: Bilbo. In his effort to create the next big fantasy trilogy, I feel like Jackson forgets his films are called “The Hobbit.”

        …But hey, I’m just a book nerd. Lol.

      • I’m also a book nerd :). I know what you mean, this film did seem to take away from Bilbo. I think Jackson is trying to create a multi-faceted story much like the LOTR is. Lots of characters with lots of stuff going on. I guess I just don’t mind the expansion as much as some. Maybe three films is pushing it, but there’s no way doubt that one flick would have been ridiculous, in order to cover all the content.

      • I would’ve been okay with two films, but three is just…too much. I still enjoy them, but the fact that they’re feeling more like “pre-LOTR” and less like “The Hobbit” makes me a little sad. :/

  9. Definitely go along with all that brother. Excellent stuff; really well laid out review. Roll on Hobbit 3!

  10. Good review Joseph. While it is a bit better than the first, there’s still plenty here that needs to be worked on and improved on in order for the final installment to really hit us hard. Don’t know if it’s going to happen, but I hope it does because when Peter Jackson is on his A-game, there’s nobody better than him.

    • Thanks Dan!

      Definitely better than its predecessor. I think that if the third continues to progress and improve, as well as expand, these first two will seem all the more respected. Completely agree, Jackson is tops when he’s focused…

  11. I agree with this review completely. Glad to see I’m not the only one totally drawn in by this trilogy. And of course I agree completely that the last 40 minutes of the film are quite delightful.

    Part of why I’m glad he stretched this out into three films and beefed it up as he did is that the actual story of The Hobbit is a bit light compared to the Lord of the Rings trilogy after it. So since we didn’t see The Hobbit made first, going back to something like that just wouldn’t feel right.

    • Thank you for reading and agreeing lol. Your last point is extremely valid and true. It’s a little light when compared, which is what I tried to allude to. It’s idiotic to compare the two trilogies…

      • Well what I was trying to say is we needed this darker version that Peter Jackson is giving us in The Hobbit trilogy because a simple adaptation of the book would be much more light-hearted than this trilogy

  12. Great review and I’m glad to read it. I’ve read a few negatives which had me a little concerned. Glad to hear this really worked for you. I promised my son I would take him for my first viewing so I still haven’t seen it yet. But hopefully this weekend.

  13. Amazing review. I’m eagerly anticipating this, I’m glad that the characters are given more time to develop. I especially cannot wait to see Smaug.

  14. Excellent review- I disagree with the end result, but I certainly appreciate your point of view.

  15. WOW! You REALLY liked this one! I will have to see when I will be seeing it. Now or waiting, but I am thinking of waiting. Great review!

  16. Oh man. I am soooo stoked for this entry. I have been in a Tolkien mood of late. I just picked up The Hobbit extended blu ray (for a re-watch before I go see DOS) and the animated LOTR and The Hobbit films as well.

    I can’t wait to see this movie. I may be like you a bit as far as being “supremely biased” but I don’t care. These movies rule and are so much fun.

    Great review! A very good read, Joseph. Thanks!

  17. I’m not reading this yet because… I’ve not even seen this yet. Horrible, I know. 😉 Good rating I see, though!

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