Victory of the Cumber-Dragon! The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug Review
(May be slight spoilers)
I didn’t want to open my second review in the same fashion as my first but it has to be said again: The Desolation of Smaug had a lot to live up to. The Hobbit was one of the first full novels I ever read and still love to this day. The Lords of the Rings films are amongst my favourite of all time and the first Hobbit gave me very high hopes for what to expect in this sequel. However I have had a natural worry ever since the movies were first split into 3. After all, the Hobbit as a book wasn’t even half as thick as a single LotR book. How was Peter Jackson going to extend the movies? How far into the book would this second film go and leave for the third? How much would be added to extend the story and would it work? With all these questions (and a single question of what to have for dinner) weighing on my mind, I entered the cinema on Boxing Day night with excitement and concern.
And my final thoughts? Great but unfortunately not mind blowing.
Straight off the bat Peter Jackson has done an amazing job adapting the book into a movie. Scenes from the book are crafted for the film in perfect clarity, and I can honestly say many of the scenes played out almost exactly how I had imagined them when I would read the book. The Hobbit allowed me to once again set foot into the amazing world of Middle Earth and immerse myself into its culture and I loved every minute. This second film didn’t suffer from the slow start of the first as being in the middle, it contained much of the meat of the story and was at a constantly fast pace with only a few slow moments in between.
Martin Freeman once again outdid himself as Bilbo and I particularly loved how they portrayed the One Ring already starting to affect his mind, with mostly subtle but sometimes quite shocking actions, which hint at the corrupting influences of the Ring that we know so well from LotR. Gandalf was in fine a form as any and despite going on his own adventure for a large portion of the film, continued to entertain and show why he is still one of my favourite characters from Middle Earth.
My first complaint unfortunately has to come with the Dwarves and it’s a complaint that unfortunately even I admit may not have a solution. The issue is as I felt in the first film a lot of the Dwarves are not really expanded upon in the film. Thorin, Kili and Balin were the Dwarves that got the most screen time (I will delve into Kili’s story in more detail soon) while all others, while certainly getting special moments, seem to just fade into the background. I understand why. It’s hard to give all the Dwarves life when there are 13 to deal with, and indeed in the book not all got the spotlight. But it would have been nice if more of the Dwarves got some extra screen time and special moments. We can only hope we may see more of these in the third film.
I suppose with that I should delve into the biggest issue I have, which is the extra scenes added in to extend the movie. Not all aspects are bad, indeed some are actually canon such as Gandalf’s quest to Dol Guldur, but simply weren’t fleshed out in the original Novel. However certain other additions never happened, such as Legolas being in the story or the new female Elf, Tauriel who is a creation purely for the film.
Tauriel herself brings me back to Kili the Dwarf, as a love story has been created between the two. There isn’t anything huge that happens but their relationship does have progression and will no doubt be expanded further in the third film. Not all of these additions are bad and I certainly found myself enjoying the play between Kili and Tauriel, but these additions just add to my biggest complaint: The Hobbit felt too long. That seems like something stupid to say when it comes to an epic like the Hobbit but I cannot deny that by the 2 hour mark in the film, I was just waiting for it to end and everything after it (despite the majesty and enjoyment that was Smaug) just felt like it took much too long.
I should take this moment to state that Smaug, voiced by the amazing Benedict Cumberbatch, was the definite highlight of the film and was better than I could have ever imagined. He was just as deadly and as cunning as I could ever hope and his scenes made watching the film till then absolutely worthwhile. I also will give a small but just as loving mention to Bard who was portrayed in amazing fashion. It’s so sad then to say that the final sequence with Smaug after the conversation with Bilbo, while certainly exciting in its own right, felt tacked on and for me dragged the movie out. It really soured the final moments and while I can understand it was put in to create an exciting and fast-paced final sequence I felt the movie would have been better without it.
Simply put The Hobbit is in no way a bad film. I was transported back to Middle Earth in fine form and overall I loved the journey and to finally see this childhood favourite of mine on the big screen. However, in trying to extend the story and make it into 3 films, Peter Jackson does what seems to be impossible and make it seem too long. Simply by knowing the story you watch these extra scenes and characters and find yourself wishing they could end and get to the parts you know and love from the book. For those who have not read the book this will not be a problem at all, but I couldn’t help but feel the film would be better without them.
My big concern of course is the third film. Knowing what is left in the book I can honestly say there is enough to fill it, but again I feel there will be so much added that it will suffer from the same issues. However, at the same time as we head towards the end of the book without extra scenes, the third film may be too short, so the question comes as do we want a shorter film but shows everything in the book? Or would it be better to keep everything from the book and continue to add and extend thus reaching a long 2+ hour film again? The third film is already done so time will tell, but I think it’s safe to say we know which way it will fall.
So after this how does the film stand? Is it still something special or has it been soured by its additions and attempts to prolong the story? Well in the end I gave the film a score of…
7 OUT OF 10
Simply put The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug is still a fantastic film and whether you have read the book or not, it will take you on a fantastic journey from start to finish. If you have read the book, you may find it a little long while you wait for the scenes you know to come between the extras, and while this can take away from the experience I don’t think it ruins the movie completely. I know I will watch this movie many times more to come and it has certainly left me eager and waiting for the third and final Hobbit, There and Back Again.
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