Movie Review: The Hobbit – The Desolation Of Smaug

the-hobbit-the-desolation-of-smaug-poster

Can it really have been a year since I reviewed An Unexpected Journey? Apparently, yes. Wow.

Moving on, here’s an official plot summary from Warner Brothers:

The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug continues the adventure of the title character Bilbo Baggins as he journeys with the Wizard Gandalf and thirteen  Dwarves, led by Thorin Oakenshield, on an epic quest to reclaim the Lonely  Mountain and the lost Dwarf Kingdom of Erebor.

Having survived the beginning of their unexpected journey, the  Company continues East, encountering along the way the skin-changer Beorn and a swarm of giant Spiders in the treacherous forest of Mirkwood. After escaping capture by the dangerous Wood-elves, the Dwarves journey to Lake-town, and finally to the Lonely Mountain itself, where they must face the greatest danger of all – a creature more terrifying than any other; one which will test not only the depth of their courage but the limits of their friendship and the wisdom of the journey itself – the Dragon Smaug.

This movie was… interesting, to say the least. From the moment An Unexpected Journey ended, I was excited for its sequel (and made plans to see it with a friend, which didn’t fall through – this explains why I often prefer characters to people). I appreciated the nearly three hours of immersion in Middle-earth but ultimately, The Desolation of Smaug is my least favorite of Peter Jackson’s entire Tolkien franchise.

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Let’s start with Tauriel. She’s an elf, Captain of the Woodland Guard in Mirkwood, and basically the only important female character in the entire trilogy. (I have nothing against Galadriel, but she had a pretty small role in An Unexpected Journey and it doesn’t seem like we’re going to see much more of her.) Because the original novel does not feature any women, Peter Jackson added one. This upset many fans because they thought he was changing too much.

I, however, disagree. Yes, I want films to be as close to the original stories as possible – but only within reason. I’ve heard/read too many complaints of, “It’s not Tolkien’s fault! He was writing in the 1930s, it was a different time!”

Indeed. And this movie was made in the 2010s. What’s your point? That was then, this is now. We can do better than the original! We can avoid writing off half the population. And honestly, they’re doing the absolute minimum. Add up the main and supporting characters (dwarves, elves, Orcs, wizards, men, a Necromancer, one hobbit, and Smaug) to make twenty-nine. Divide three – I’m counting Bard’s daughters too – by twenty-nine and you get ten percent. Men are still overwhelmingly the majority, and we don’t even know the names of two-thirds of the girls. At least I didn’t catch them.

So the inclusion of women was nice, but I’m not happy about Tauriel’s romantic subplot. (No, no, hear me out. I’m not just being bitter. To the contrary, I quite enjoy adorable love stories but not many are good. More on that in a bit.) Tauriel and Kili fall in love. Unfortunately, Kili happens to be a dwarf and their races do not get along with one another. What do I think is OK? Where did Jackson go wrong?

Romantic subplot? Check. They can be really cute.

Romantic subplot that wasn’t in the book? Sure, as long as they don’t take too much time away from the original story – and I didn’t feel like Kili and Tauriel’s did.

Romantic subplot between an elf and a dwarf? Partial check. I wouldn’t mind, except I feel like this takes away some of the impact of the friendship between Legolas and Gimli. (Or maybe they were totally in love – have you read the Appendices? Oh man, there’s an entire section about Legolas sailing away with Gimli so they’d be together forever in paradise.) When they become friends in Lord of the Rings it is a BIG DEAL because Gimli is the son of one of the dwarves in the Company and Legolas’ dad was the Elvenking who held those dwarves hostage. The two put aside their differences and it’s really quite sweet. It’s not such a big deal if it’s been done before.

Romantic subplot that comes out of nowhere? No check at all! I HATE LOVE STORIES LIKE THIS AND UNFORTUNATELY MOST OF THEM ARE LIKE THIS. Tauriel/Kili makes no sense. Evidently it doesn’t matter that one’s the captive and the other the captor as long as they find each other hot. They’re immediately drawn to one another and later Tauriel saves Kili’s life several times, even though she barely knows him – they’ve talked for five minutes about, of all things, stones and starlight. What kind of relationship is that?

It’s very unrealistic and totally not my type. I hate Insta-Romance. I want tension, the will-they-won’t-they, and slowly building chemistry. Don’t give me this nonsense where characters pledge their undying love two pages (or two minutes of screentime) after meeting one another. People can be attracted to others quickly, but love takes a while.

LakeTown

Enough of Tauriel. My other big issue with The Desolation of Smaug is the action. There was too much of it! The film already suffered from the same problems The Two Towers had – it’s the middle of a story and definitely feels like it, with an abrupt beginning and no real conclusion – but the action only made it worse. There was lots of fire, explosions, and running around for no real reason. The Desolation of Smaug certainly hurtled towards a point, but no one got the point. And we won’t until next December, when There And Back Again comes out.

My brother didn’t think the CGI was very good. Maybe he’s right, but I didn’t notice that. I just noticed how much there was, and I didn’t like that. Lord of the Rings had CGI – Gollum is a great example, you’d never guess he wasn’t real – but it didn’t feel as obvious. Here, it seemed like everything was filmed in front of a green screen. Mirkwood, Dol Guldur, Orcs, Smaug’s lair. It seemed too slick, too whiz-bang-look-at-what-we-can-do-with-computers!

Additionally, some of the stunts were ridiculous. Yes, I get that elves are super duper athletic beings of glitter and awesomeness. But what was with Legolas jumping from dwarf to dwarf when they were in the barrels? And Bombur’s spinning sword attack? (I have to admit, that was neat in terms of character development – they made him more than just The Fat One. But it was overkill in a movie already stuffed with flips and turns and throwing knives.) It seemed like all the scenes I wanted to last longer (Thranduil in Mirkwood) were cut short and everything I didn’t care for (Gandalf and Radagast in Dol Guldur) was extended.

The Desolation of Smaug is not without merits. I enjoyed the scenes with Beorn (although I wish there were more), thought Bard was cast well, was impressed with Smaug’s menace and majesty, and LOVED the appearance of Lake-town. Overall, though, it’s rather tedious. I usually sit enthralled and completely content while watching Lord of the Rings, but I fidgeted all throughout The Desolation of Smaug. And that wasn’t from all the sugary, fruity candy I consumed during the first fifteen minutes.

Rating: 2.5/5

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About nevillegirl

Elizabeth. University of Iowa class of 2019. Triple majoring in English & Creative Writing, Journalism, and Gender, Women's, & Sexuality Studies. Twenty-one-year-old daydreamer, introvert, voracious reader, aspiring writer, and lesbian. Passionate about feminism, mental health, comic books, and cats.
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14 Responses to Movie Review: The Hobbit – The Desolation Of Smaug

  1. CMrok93 says:

    Nice review. While it suffers from some pacing issues, this sequel is a fun and entertaining ride, while still pretty damn long.

    • nevillegirl says:

      Thank you!
      I’m hoping those pacing problems won’t be quite as apparent once all the movies are out and they can be watched one after the other in a continuous story. But we’ll jut have to see.

  2. Erin says:

    I’m actually going to go see the movie again tonight – I already saw it at a midnight employee showing but I was super tired and don’t really remember half of it, which is why I’m seeing it again. I liked it, but didn’t think it was anything outstanding. I have similar thoughts of Tauriel. The romance…Eek. It was almost cringe-worthy. I hope they don’t address it again in the next movie (especially since Kili dies and their romance wouldn’t work out anyway).

    That said, I seem to have enjoyed it more than you did, but maybe that was because I didn’t mind the action scenes.

    Oh, and Smaug’s voice was just gorgeous.

    • nevillegirl says:

      *nodnod* I hope he dies. If Jackson decides to keep him alive (which doesn’t seem likely but hey, he’s changed weird things before) I will be very disappointed.

      Eeeep, yes! “Step into the light.” That was fantastic. His appearance was OK, but the voice was perfect for a dragon.
      (I am disappointed, though, that all the gold fell off him! In the book when he flew around, didn’t pieces of treasure fall off? That would have been very pretty to see.)

      • Erin says:

        Kili needs to die. I will cry my heart out but he needs to die.

        I honestly don’t remember what happened in the book…It’s been such a long time since I read it. I thought it was pretty when all the gold fell off him…It looked like golden snow (I’m a dork).

    • nevillegirl says:

      I hope he dies because I WANT to cry my heart out. *enjoys sad stories*

  3. Aw man, I had my doubts about this movie (and the decision to stretch the book out into three films to begin with) and they’ve pretty much been confirmed. Which gives me a strong case of the sads because The Hobbit was one of my favourite books as a kid and in making it into a big showy movie bonanza they’ve kind of stepped away from everything that I liked about it.

    Good review, but dang. I’m disappointed.

    • nevillegirl says:

      The Hobbit is so different from LotR, I guess. LotR can easily be made into a series of epic movies. But I don’t think that’s what The Hobbit is about. It’s smaller and drawing it out into this huge thing doesn’t feel right.
      I’d rather see one loooong movie than have it split up into three. One three/four-hour movie? AW YEAH. Not this nine-hour thing.

      • Yeah, The Hobbit was a much smaller, bouncier almost fairy tale or folklore-ish adventure story with riddles and songs and a general aura of not taking itself too seriously. Which is what made it such a good bedtime story for me when I was a kid, which is also possibly why I hold a little bit of bias and want it to keep as close to the original as possible 😛 Still, I think it’s a given that the essence of the book just doesn’t quite fit what the movies are doing and things are getting pretty convoluted and dried out. I’m disappointed :C

  4. Pingback: Quarterly Rewind, Fall 2013 – Music, Maggie Stiefvater, And More | Musings From Neville's Navel

  5. Leinad says:

    Nice review. I didn’t think about the impact of the Kili / Tauriel relationship on the Gimli / Legolas relationship when I watched the film, but you’re completely right. And like you said in your comment to Afictionado, one 3-4 hour film would do The Hobbit perfectly — with a nine hours of film, they’re just trying to beat the Lord of the Rings at its own game of being the biggest, most epic, high fantasy film series on the block, when they should be focussed on humour, character development etc.

    • nevillegirl says:

      Thank you!

      Yeah… it does seem a bit money-grubbing, doesn’t it? I /do/ understand making a very long film, but there’s no real reason for /three/.

      • Leinad says:

        Yes, it’s way too much for a 300 page novel, even if it is a very densely plotted novel. For some reason the other day I was seized with a random desire to write a screenplay for my own Hobbit film ( even though I’ve never written a screenplay before) but I better leave it for when I have a bit more time, by which point I’ll probably have another project I want to do instead…

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