THE HOBBIT: THE DESOLATION OF SMAUG
**** (out of 5)
December 13, 2013
Ian McKellen as GANDALF
Martin Freeman as BILBO
Richard Armitage as THORIN
Benedict Cumberbatch as SMAUG
Orlando Bloom as LEGOLAS
Evangeline Lilly as TAURIEL
Luke Evans as BARD THE BOWMAN
Lee Pace as THRANDUIL
Studio: Warner Bros.
Directed by: Peter Jackson
BY KEVIN CARR
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In many ways, “The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug” is a wholly incomplete film. This is nothing new when it comes to Peter Jackson’s adaptations of J.R.R. Tolkien’s books. The previous “Hobbit” movie was just a beginning. The first two “Lord of the Rings” films were somewhat unfinished in terms of story as well (“The Fellowship of the Ring,” in particular, which just stopped moving seemingly in the middle of the story). In fact, the only movie that actually ended was “The Return of the King,” and that bastard ended enough times for six movies.
In essence, “The Desolation of Smaug” is nothing more than connective tissue – a bridge between “An Unexpected Journey” and “There and Back Again,” due out next Christmas. There’s no traditional story to this film, even less than “An Unexpected Journey” (which served as a means for Bilbo Baggins to strap on a pair and emerge an unlikely hero from his safe little Shire).
But I’m okay with that. I knew this going into the movie. After all, Tolkien’s relatively short book “The Hobbit” was broken into three parts just to serve the financial coffers of Warner Bros., but Peter Jackson makes it one hell of a fun ride along the way.
In “The Desolation of Smaug,” we see Bilbo (Martin Freeman) and the dwarfs continue with Gandalf (Ian McKellen) on a quest to take back Erebor. In order to do so, they need to reach the city and break into its walls, allowing Bilbo to sneak past a fire-breathing dragon to bring back the Arkenstone. Along the way, we meet some elves (including Orlando Bloom’s return as Legolas) and a human bowman named Bard (Luke Evans).
The story is a bit disjointed because it’s trying to squeeze plot out of ancillary materials that Tolkien had written rather than telling a direct arc from the novel itself. Still, not having read any of Tolkien’s books, I’m not bothered by that. “The Desolation of Smaug” served its intended purpose for me: It entertained.
Like the other Middle Earth movies, “The Desolation of Smaug” is a gorgeous movie. The New Zealand scenery is breathtaking. The special effects are brilliant and often eye popping. While not served in the books, as I understand, there are also some fantastic action sequences that make this thoroughly expected journey an enjoyable one.
Of course, it all culminates with plenty of dragon action at the end, with Benedict Cumberbatch providing the voice of Smaug the dragon in a pretty hefty climax that only teases what will happen in the next film. Sure, there’s enough monologing by Smaug to make Syndrome blush, but again I’m okay with that. If you’re going to have a villain doling out speeches near the end of a film, it’s a good option to have that villain be a fire-breathing dragon.
“The Desolation of Smaug” is a darker and grittier film than the first “Hobbit” movie, but that’s par for the course on any film in the middle of a trilogy. In the end, I was entertained by this movie, and I enjoyed returning to Middle Earth to get to know the dwarfs a little bit better.
If you like these movies, you’ll enjoy this one. If you’re someone who complained about your ass hurting while watching any of Jackson’s adaptations, you might want to skip it.