Movie Review – The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug

Long time, no see!

I’ve finally somewhat recovered from the midnight premiere of “The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug” and, let me tell you, I’ve been thinking about it a lot. I really just need to talk about this movie, so here we are. Warning, there will probably be some moderate spoilers below.

So, overall, how was it?

Great. Fantastic.

I knew a little more what to expect with this one, having seen “An Unexpected Journey.” The tone and style is fairly similar throughout this movie, which was still kind of jarring but a little less so this time around—like the last Hobbit movie, there’s quite a bit of humor and a general sense of childrens’ fantasy. This is not a bad thing, considering it is a children’s book, but the overload of CGI and fuzzy, colorful sets still throws me off when I’m so used to seeing the gritty, real Lord of the Rings. I know, I know. I can’t compare these movies to the Lord of the Rings. But it’s hard not to notice the difference.

In terms of the humor, though, things were much better handled in this film. There was less slapstick in this one, and less humor in general, and the bits of comedy they did put in were fantastic. Martin Freeman had me belly-laughing more than once, as did a ridiculous extended barrel gag with Bombur that probably shouldn’t be as funny as it was.

The big highlight of this film, though, was the drama. Things were definitely taken up a notch and the stakes were much higher—both in Bilbo’s thread and in Gandalf’s. I mean, how can the stakes not be high when you’re alternating between a fight with a dragon and a fight with the Necromancer (aka Sauron)? These moments of pure gravity were executed excellently, and there was a great sense of foreboding and foreshadowing with inner conflicts of Bilbo and Thorin.

The main qualm I have with the film at this point, the point that drove me insane while watching it, is the sub-plot with Kili and Tauriel. It was one of my main hesitations going into this film; I was skeptical of Tauriel in the first place, and I wasn’t sure of the extent of the supposed romance that would be added into the film. In my opinion, it didn’t work. It felt like a re-hash of Aragorn/Arwen that was so poorly executed I was raising my eyebrows the whole time. I like Tauriel well enough—although I’m still super wary of her “replacing” Eowyn—but I was having a hard time reconciling her “captain of the guard” tough character with an immediate attraction to a prisoner dwarf. In the Lord of the Rings, Legolas and Gimli’s relationship is supposed to be revolutionary. The elves freaking hate the dwarves, and vice versa. No matter how open-minded Tauriel may be, I don’t believe she would be batting her eyes at a supposed criminal, especially a dwarf one.

(edit: I read a pretty convincing argument supporting the romance, where this reviewer claimed that both were young and impressionable and curious about the unknown. It makes sense, and I guess I’m slightly more okay with it, but I think it’s something that could have been left out)

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This is the only elf/dwarf romance we need, let’s be real.

That leads in to the whole extended sub-plot of Kili’s injury and the four dwarves staying behind in Laketown. This was where my frustration hit. Are the dwarves really going to leave behind four of their company on this epic quest? Seriously? This bothered me a lot because this whole book and the whole Middle-Earth saga is about unity and sticking together. To have four of the dwarves missing at Erebor was a huge oversight on Peter Jackson’s part, in my opinion. Are they just not going to be part of the treasure plot at all?

Other than that, though, I thoroughly enjoyed sitting back and taking in this movie. I was never bored, even when we hit points of less interest (the Laketown segments). The acting, as in the first film, was spot-on.

The best: My favorite part of this whole movie is, ironically, a part that I had to cover my eyes for. The spider scene was incredibly difficult to watch (I’m steadfast in my opinion that Shelob was the most terrifying part of the entire LotR trilogy) but seeing BAMF Bilbo was great. There’s a specific moment at the end of that scene where Bilbo nearly loses the Ring to a giant creepy bug (that I couldn’t watch) and we see the beginnings of his corruption. That moment, right there, was my favorite moment of the entire movie. I get chills thinking about it. Martin Freeman’s acting is so nuanced that you can see every emotion—fear, shame, horror—cross his face, and it is absolutely chilling.

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You’d be horrified too if you knew you were going to end up like this.

The worst: As I said, leaving the dwarves behind is not ideal. A point that also made me uncomfortable was the level of violence in this film. There are at least four decapitations that happen, and although it didn’t bother me too much because there wasn’t any blood, it still made me go, “Really?” You may be asking, “But what about the dozens of heads that were flung over the walls of Minas Tirith in Return of the King?” To that, I say, the violence in the LotR is less stylized, and everything is done deliberately to make the point of showing the horrors of war. In this movie, a lot of the visible violent moments seemed played off for amusement, and it felt cheap and fakey, like a gimmick.

The dragon: If you, like me, were worried that Smaug was revealed too much in trailers (and painted airplanes}, don’t worry. Smaug’s reveal was literally the most exciting thing I’ve seen in cinemas in a long time. I cannot say enough about how amazing this dragon is, and how awe-inspiring the scale of him is. So epic. And Benedict Cumberbatch’s voice resonated in my soul. The famous Bilbo-Smaug scene is certainly tied with the Bilbo-losing-his-ring scene as my favorite moment of the movie.

So, yeah. Go see this movie. Just let yourself be immersed, and don’t try to compare it to the book—it’s not the same, but it’s still a fine piece of entertainment. You get to see Gandalf in an epic wizard battle. And you get to see Legolas get the crap beaten out of him. It’s wonderful.

Enjoy this last movie of happiness and adventure. The third movie is going to destroy us all.

The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug: 8/10 stars

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