Review – The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug

A week ago I was able to catch the latest installment of Peter Jackson’s telling of The Hobbit. I’ve had my doubts about the stretching of The Hobbit into three movies. Given that this particular work is around 350 pages and each of the Lord of the Rings books is one to two hundred more… Well since Jackson did one movie for each book of the trilogy, I just don’t get it.

Now with The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey, I was pleasantly surprised at how good a job he did with the added material pulled in from side references and other works of Tolkien. I did have my issues with the movie, the stone giants and part of the escape from goblin town come to mind, but on the whole I thought it was well done. I had high hopes that the second movie would do a similar job with respect to the source and just enhancing the story with the new material.

Unfortunately this was not the case.

I must give warning, from here on I slide into spoiler territory a bit. However since I am reviewing a movie based off a classic work, I think I should be ok. You have been warned.

The movie is full of storyline divergence and tangents that change the tone of the greater story arc.In Desolation we see Gandalf depart the party to investigate signs that the enemy is stirring. While this is true to the novel and I expected there to be some of his travels shown (despite nothing directly told by Tolkien of this time) I was very disappointed in just how far the movie took it.

First is the clear telling that the Ring Wraith’s had escaped their prison. Second, the amount of confrontation between Gandalf and “The Necromancer”, who is fairly obviously revealed to be Sauron.

While the sequences were well done, they fly in the face of the established story in Lord of the Rings. And I’m not just meaning the novels but also Jackson’s movie adaptations. By the end of Desolation, we have a Gandalf with much more certain knowledge than he indicates having at any point in Lord of the Rings.

As I mentioned before, one of my biggest issues with The Unexpected Journey was the dwarves’ escape from goblin town. In Desolation my problem was the barrel escape fight, which while a cool and somewhat reasonable idea in the context of the movie, had a number of points where the action crossed that boundary into the ridiculous.

I also had issues with parts of the battle with Smaug, which aside from having NO basis in the source also had its moments of just plain absurdity.

Finally, Bilbo’s interactions with the dragon. This was one of the parts of the book that I was most looking forward to, and for the most part I think it went well… While they did expand upon the source and have more chatter I think it did a good job of showing Smaug as more than just a monster, but also as an intelligent and manipulative being.

However, if you are going to use somewhat iconic dialog from a beloved work; why in the world would you cut the end off the speech? It just doesn’t make sense, except to do so might not have allowed for the later interactions with the dwarves.

Anyway, overall I guess it wasn’t a bad movie, just not a great one.

I leave you with Smaug’s monologue as it should have been.

and how it has been done previously.


6 thoughts on “Review – The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug”

  1. I must confess:

    I read The Hobbit, The Lord of the Rings, and the Silmarillion all before the eighth grade, and I am certain now that I remember almost none of what I read.

    I think I therefore enjoyed the LOTR movies on their own merits, and really wasn’t able to say the tired old “the book was better” line that people tend to say about movies. But I heard such troubling things about the first Hobbit movie, that I just… well, I can’t seem to be interested, and what you have to say about the second seems to continue to lessen that interest.

    1. I can certainly understand that, I often will make a point of not reading a book prior to seeing the movie adaptation (assuming I haven’t already read it)

      With the LOTR movies I had re-read the stories not long before they started coming out. Even so I felt that they did a really good job with the material, sure things got cut for time but they didn’t really make huge changes aside from that.

      Not the case with The Hobbit.

      1. Yeah, I think you made that fairly clear– which is part of my hesitation to see it. There were rumors that Viggo Mortensen would return as Strider/Aragorn, which is clearly not canon. I don’t think they did that, did they? Then I had heard that Orlando Bloom was returning as Legolas– which is also not canon. (I can remember that much.)

        While I know filmmakers want to attract a broader audience, the one thing I’ve learned from comic book movies is that it’s VERY unwise to upset the fans in doing so.

        1. No Aragon yet. Legolas at least worked since he is the son of the kingnof mirkwood. So while not named to what I recall his presence isn’t unprecedented.

  2. I have the complete “The Lord of the Rings” in one comprehensive volume, but have never gotten to it! It’s a massive book. I’m almost embarrassed to say I’ve never read any of it, yet your haiku series has reinvigorated my desires to make that effort. From what I can tell, it seems LOTR would probably be better as a TV series; its complexity and multitude of characters can’t be told even in a 2-hour film.

    1. TV mini-series maybe, it isn’t long enough to really make into a full season.

      It is worth the read and is actually more like 6 books (even broken out that way), so you can just tackle it from that angle.

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