Reviews

The Hobbit: The Desolation Of Smaug

4

That difficult second film...

It’s a generally accepted rule that stories require a beginning, a middle and an end (even if Jean-Luc Godard felt that they didn’t necessarily have to be in that order). But do those rules apply if you’re stretching a single story over three epic films?
 
The Two Towers (the middle child of the Lord Of The Rings trilogy) avoided that second-film pitfall: it kept the overarching journey chugging forward, but had its own self-contained story with a worthy climax. The biggest flaw in The Desolation Of Smaug, one that sees it fall short of its epic forebears, is that it feels very much like a middle.
 
While it’s packed with incident, TDOS lacks its own satisfying narrative arc. Picking up immediately where An Unexpected Journey left off, we join Bilbo (Martin Freeman) as he continues his quest with the company of Dwarves to help them reclaim their homeland, Erebor, which is currently being inhabited by fearsome dragon Smaug, who’s using their Scrooge McDuck-esque treasure piles as a nap room.
 
This entry’s inherent middle-ness is most harshly felt in the lack of character development. The Dwarves fall victim to their numerousness again, with the majority of the 13 falling by the wayside, and even Bilbo and Thorin lack arcs.

Freeman does at least deliver the goods in some challenging early scenes that see Bilbo in thrall to the lure of the all-important One Ring, with a standout moment plumbing depths of moral murkiness rarely addressed in family entertainment.
 
If the tension and sense of epic questing is never as acute as it was in TLOTR, there is at least plenty to enjoy. Held up against the series’ high standards, it’s not without issues, but it remains a cut above standard blockbuster fare.

And frankly, there’s little excuse needed for the chance to return to Peter Jackson’s still magically realised Middle-earth, the unrivalled environments – from cobweb- draped woods to the sprawling palatial branches of the Elves kingdom – retaining the power to elicit gasps.
 
While there’s a shortage of forward propulsion, Jackson does add to the breadth of the world, not least with the proper reintroduction of the Elves.

Orlando Bloom returns as fan-favourite Legolas. a young prince whose youthful impetuousness will be smoothed out before TLOTR, and Evangeline Lilly is a wonderful addition as lower-ranking Elf Tauriel, who catches Legolas’ eye (much to the chagrin of his imperious father, Lee Pace’s Thranduil).

She nails the graceful poise and totally convinces as an Orc-slaying ass-kicker. Her romance subplot doesn’t hit the mark as squarely as her arrows, but it’s a smart judgement call for Jackson to once again redress the strong female character quotient lacking in Tolkien’s text.
 
Fans of the book will be awaiting several key episodes that serve as highlights: a brief stop-off for breakfast with skin-changing bear-man Beorn, a run-in with the spiders of Mirkwood, the rollercoaster barrel escape (which was originally intended to close the first act). Jackson’s eye for inventive action is undiminished, and when he gets a set-piece in full flow, there are few who can match him for breathless originality.
 
And while spiders, bear-men and Elves are all well and good, the key reason to shell out for a ticket has always been Smaug, and after a film and a half of build-up, he’s certainly worth the wait.

A gloriously vast creation, with red-tinged scales, bat-like wings and an elongated jaw set in a permanently sly grin, he’s easily the year’s most magnificent beast. He has a way with a fearsome one-liner too, and Benedict Cumberbatch hisses out his words with cold-blooded vitriol.
 
Whether or not you’re familiar with the book, the cliffhanger nature of the ending is likely to vex, and those who complained about a slender tome being spread across three lengthy films are going to glean plenty of fresh ammo from this installment.

Gandalf’s investigative subplot introduces us to the shadowy presence and disembodied voice of the Necromancer (more impressively ominous voicework from Cumberbatch) and continues bridging The Hobbit/TLOTR gap, but offers no answers or substantial dramatic meat.
 
But committed fans know what they’re letting themselves in for, and much of the joy of a Middle-earth movie comes from surrendering yourself to three Christmases worth of storytelling. Viewed as part of a bigger whole, there’s a lot to admire in TDOS. Though There And Back Again is now going to have to provide a super-sized pay-off…

Verdict:

Despite suffering from middle-act wobbles, The Desolation Of Smaug nevertheless delivers rousing action, incredible visuals and one stupendous dragon.

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Film Details

User Reviews

    • Mattsimus

      Dec 7th 2013, 11:37

      5

      Well apart from the fellowship I think this is the lowest rating they have given a middle earth movie and im aware that 4 stars is awesome in comparison with other franchises, but the middle earth stuff has always had high standards, that being said the fellowship was actually my fave so........ i think this will be head and shoulders above the first hobbit and I really enjoyed the first one, so who knows! Cant wait for next friday....... XMX

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    • Ali1748

      Dec 7th 2013, 14:47

      Empire gave it 5 stars.

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    • Mattsimus

      Dec 7th 2013, 15:31

      Yeah I know, which I was happy with and surprised for once TF didn't follow suite, but then again Empire gave Superman Returns 5 stars too!........ Don't wanna mention Revenge of the fallen getting 4 stars from TF either.....Ooops lol either way im looking forward to this.

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    • Jareth64

      Dec 7th 2013, 15:49

      The Daily Telegraph gave it 2/5. I'll be going to see it, though. Seems like a 3.5/5 type of film.

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    • Mattsimus

      Dec 7th 2013, 16:43

      I saw that too, I think this will be great but I also read a review that gave it two stars but he slated the first hobbit, LOTR and peter jackson in general regarding his take on the tolkein Material etc so.......... he was kinda bias, but im seeing this even if it got 1 star....... i get the feeling most ppl are just p****d that its being expanded over 3 movies, then again the first hobbit still took over a billion dollars! Most reviews have been very good but the others are just plain haters.

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    • Ali1748

      Dec 7th 2013, 17:52

      I don't get the hate for the 1st part, I adored An Unexpected Journey. Perhaps it was the whole 40fps fiasco that put reviewers off. And the 3 movies doesn't bother me cause after There And Back Again Sir Peter Jackson will be finished with Middle Earth :-(

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    • Hadouken76

      Dec 8th 2013, 1:05

      Just goes to show star ratings don't mean sh.t, because everyone has a different opinion. Just see it and make up your own mind.

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    • Mattsimus

      Dec 8th 2013, 20:57

      I never base an opinion of a movie following a review, I have however been curious regarding the opinions of those that have literally slated these last two hobbit films and compared to LOTR or not I think they are all going to be stunning, but for a fan like myself three movies just seems like a massive treat, thrown back into the world of middle earth, as since the rings trilogy finished I really have noticed a massive void in the sheer quality and grandeur of films that have come since, I personally think nothing has really compared, apart from the whole Marvel thing that has been building on something massive since 2008..... ill personally probably miss middle earth again after "There and back again" closes.

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    • kittybinks

      Dec 9th 2013, 8:10

      A review is in the eye of the beholder. 5 stars Empire, 4 stars Total Film. I personally don't pay much heed to the reviews posted, rather get a flavour what the film is about. Avoiding spoilers like the plague. After all you only get the true impact of a movie the first time you watch it. Roll on Friday!

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    • derekburgess

      Dec 13th 2013, 18:21

      5

      Not long got back from my local Cineworld IMAX. All I can say is WOW. GO & SEE THIS MOVIE AT THE CINEMA, IMAX if possible. I can see what they mean about the way it carries straight on from the last & the ending!!! It is like one huge film cut into 3, where as each LOTR seemed more like their own contained films across a large canvas. But I LOVED this film. I did think a couple of the special effects looked a bit fake & CGI (all I will say is the rivers of gold). Came out of the cinema thinking WOW, but how can they end it like that...I have to wait another year!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! So glad I have seen this film. I can not praise this movie enough. Looking forward to watching all 3 back to back in November 2015 when the final extended cut comes to Blu-Ray

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    • Chufferstud

      Dec 15th 2013, 10:43

      5

      After the snoozefest that was An Unexpected Journey, I went into this with some concerns, but I was blown away. It has wall-to-wall action, vile scary spiders and Smaug looks stunning, if Cumberbatch mocapped that performance he deserves an Oscar nod! As @derekburgess has said, there are a couple of dodgy CGI bits, but only a couple. Freeman is also great and shows how good an actor he is as the rings starts to take a grip on him. Also have to mention Lee Pace and Stephen Fry who have limited screen time but leave an impact. I wish it was next year so I can see what happens after the brilliant cliffhanger...

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    • Ali1748

      Dec 15th 2013, 12:13

      5

      I really didn't anticipate that cliff hanger, and now I need to wait till Dec 17th next year to see the conclusion, you're torturing me Peter!

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    • ERDutra

      Dec 16th 2013, 18:08

      2

      well, I just wanted to say that Peter Jackson lost it. it stretched the story so far that the main story is pointless, the characters seems to be playing a spanish soap opera and the dragon/hobbit scene was depressing... and I don't know... after watching that movie I decided not to bother watching the last one in the movies.

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    • FBKTudor

      Dec 18th 2013, 16:02

      5

      I really enjoyed this. Most of the criticisms seem to be concerned with not staying true to the source text, introducing new characters, and stretching out a 300 page book into a 9-hour epic film trilogy. However, these aren't the first films to do this, nor will they be the last. For example, Mary Shelley wrote a relatively short story about the modern Prometheus and his monstrous creation. This generated several films that had very little bearing on that original novel. The same can be said of Dracula. The story has strecthed into several Hammer films as well as a TV series. Surely a film should be based on its own merits on how it works, not how it relates to a prescious source text. How many Trekkers were slated as trivial geeks, worried about the sacriledge that was the recent Into Darkness, and how Khan was re-imagined, how people can teleport between planets (making starships redundant, the look of the Klingons, and Khan's magical healing blood). The Trekkers were crucified for such petit minded complaints by the same media-types that are now doing the same for Middle Earth films. This film is fantastic. IT moves at such a pace that it never feels dull. Lee Pace is very creepy as Elven King. The dragon is superb. The barrel riding scene is great fun. These films are still great achievements. This is not a repeat of the Star Wars Prequels in the case of diminishing quality.

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    • FBKTudor

      Dec 18th 2013, 16:25

      5

      Film 2013 didn't like it. They criticised a prequel film trilogy for not being true to the book, despite it being a prequel film trilogy and merely based upon the book. There are a lot of hugely acclaimed films which have been based loosely on books as the source material that bare little resemblence to the book. Film 2013 has gone down recently anyway. when Barry Norman had it, it was a good series. These days it's a chaotic live broadcast at 11pm on a weeknight. Even the BBC schedulers have lost faith in the show. I wonder how long it'll be before it's gone altogether. For the Autumn film season, which saw big releases on a weekly basis, film 2013 had a mere 7 episode run. Titles like Captain Phillips, Thor 2 and Rush were out of luck for any mainstream BBC1 coverage.

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    • matthewbrady

      Dec 26th 2013, 20:43

      5

      This movie is a outstanding improvement from the first one, the make-up is even more better and the charactors are good this time, the things that I did not like is that the movie does slow down at parts and the CGI at parts look a bit cartoonist.

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    • mileytaylor85

      Dec 27th 2013, 20:24

      my best friend's half-sister got paid $13253 a week ago. she is making money on the computer and moved in a $315200 house. All she did was get blessed and apply the information explained on this web page>>> >>>> JUMP26.COM

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