“The Hobbit: Desolation of Smaug” is the second of three films in the “Lord of the Rings” prequel series. Once again starring Martin Freeman as the hobbit Bilbo and Ian McKellen as the wizard Gandalf, “Desolation” picks up right where the first Hobbit film left off, with Bilbo and Gandalf accompanying a group of dwarves on a quest to reclaim their homeland from the dragon Smaug. Peter Jackson directs.
The first Hobbit movie was fun but poorly executed. While it was nice to return to Middle Earth and see some favorite characters, the film was unnecessarily long and didn’t make a convincing argument as to why it even needed to be made, other than a cash grab for the studio (that the series is three movies long only confirms that). “Desolation” fixes some miscues that held the first movie back, but not without adding some new ones of its own.
One of the things that were improved upon was the CGI. In the first movie, one of the biggest non-pacing related problems was that many of the creatures were computer generated, instead of real people in costumes like in the original Lord of the Rings trilogy. This second film polishes the effects, and most of the time it is not obvious that you are watching CGI beings.
One of the film’s biggest strengths is the titular dragon, Smaug, voiced by Benedict Cumberbatch (who has had himself a great 2013). Smaug looks flawless in his design and Cumberbatch voices him with such a sinister tone that you feel the chills along with Bilbo when the two confront each other. There is also a fight sequence involving barrels and a river that was really entertaining and well shot.
The film is hindered by its length, which times in at two hours and forty one minutes. I have no problem with movies being long, as long as they warrant their running time. The first three Lord of the Rings movies could be five hours long for all I care and I would still watch them because their pacing is fluid and they don’t waste the viewer’s time with unneeded plot points.
With “Desolation”, not only are there numerous plot points that are not needed to advance the story, but a lot of them aren’t even in the book. J.R.R. Tolkien’s “Hobbit” book is 310 pages long, and is being broken down into three movies. Tolkien’s other three novels are 416, 531 and 624 pages long and each of those got their own individual film. I am still baffled why Jackson and the studio thought they needed to break The Hobbit into more than one film, nonetheless three, each two hours and forty minutes long (*cough* money).
I really believe if the decision had been made to create one three hour long film that it would be fantastic and a perfect prequel to the beloved Lord of the Rings trilogy. Instead we are given this, the second of three movies, and honestly when the credits began to roll, I was scratching my head and wondering why this second movie even existed.
There are so many parts of this movie that are not only not in Tolkien’s book, but from a movie narrative perspective just don’t make sense. From the unnecessary love triangle between two elves and a dwarf to scenes involving a wounded warrior, I just can’t find any justification behind Jackson’s decision to break this into a trilogy.
If you are a big fan of Lord of the Rings, then “Desolation of Smaug” is still an enjoyable movie, including a few fun cameos. But as a casual movie goer, I don’t know that I can recommend seeing it in theaters. The more I think about it, the more problems I find with it. It just doesn’t feel like a Lord of the Rings film, and I am justified in saying that because they make sure to remind you that the movie comes from “the director of the Lord of the Rings trilogy” in every single advertisement.
It’s a shame that Jackson sold out because while the Hobbit films may not smudge the original series like the Star Wars prequels did, they have not been nearly as good as we all may have hoped. Here’s hoping he has saved the best footage for the finale, because as it stands now, the Hobbit franchise looks like nothing more than a cash grab.
Critics Rating: 6/10