The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug Review


The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug - Review

How good is this film?! Once you're completely over the fact that these three Hobbit movies serve as 70% The Hobbit novel adaptation and 30% prequels to Lord of the Rings you are onto a winner. Because that is exactly how best to enjoy them.

Oh no! It's a middle movie, so how to begin the thing? Well Peter Jackson gives us a very clever pre-credits sequence featuring additional set up for exactly why Thorin is undertaking this journey, that's how. We're not re-treading old ground here. This scene with Gandalf and Thorin provides additional information on just how the Dwarves quest - if successful - will affect all of Middle Earth. It's really good to see The Prancing Pony again (as well as Jackson reprising a cameo role) before the movie then settles for a fairly slow paced 20 minutes. Thankfully things really begin kicking off with the Mirkwood and Barrel sequences in quick succession, and the film rarely lets up once we get going.

Evangeline Lilly's Tauriel is a fantastic addition to the story and the Tolkien universe, feeling completely natural and a worthy aspect of the narrative. It's also good to see that Bloom's appearance as Legolas is as far from a shoehorned cameo as you can imagine (as Saruman felt in the first movie). This Legolas drives many of the action scenes and features very heavily throughout the entire movie, not at all feeling as though he really shouldn't be there. I'm a massive fan of the original book - it's one of my all time favourites - and not once was I thinking "what the hell are Tauriel and Legolas doing? Why do I care?". It is a massively brave move by the creators and writing team, and it really pays off.

Martin Freeman again is excellent as Bilbo (look for the scene where he says just a single word, "mine" with such conviction and menace before fading back to the Bilbo we know. Amazing stuff.) We also get more characterisation for some of the dwarves. Whilst Bofur (Nesbitt) hardly gets a line, he has a few decent moments this time and Stephen Hunter's Bombur also doesn't say a lot but has some memorable moments (especially in the barrel sequence). But it's really Fili, Balin and Thorin that stand out the most in this film, and its good to see that after nearly 6 hours, these 13 dwarves are finally beginning to stand apart!

Gandalf's story engages too. Cleverly using the periods of the Hobbit book where he's absent, combined with the appendices from the LOTR trilogy - we get a number of exciting sequences and decent narrative development in the run up to the beginning of The Lord of the Rings.

As for the other characters? Well Evans is OK as Bard but needs further development in the final movie, Fry is quite fun as the sleazy master of Laketown, Beorn is slightly rushed but at least we don't get animals serving them dinner as we did in the book, but it's Cumberbatch's Smaug who should be the highlight of the film. And thankfully, they got him right. He's an absolute joy. The CGI on the dragon is amazing and the visuals in the final 30 minutes of this movie are spectacular. We get elements of the Moria sequence from LOTR: Fellowship mixed with Temple of Doom to provide a frantic and thoroughly exciting finale, just don't mention the baiting cliff-hanger...

Recommended?: The CGI, the story, the action, the spectacle and the adventure. It's all here in abundance. This is Peter Jackson hitting his stride after the un-steady exposition of the first movie has been completed. A fun filled movie which feels equal to the original trilogy and a massively enjoyable middle movie. Now let's see what happens after the cliff-hanger, bring on next Christmas!

Also worth noting: There is not a single musical number in this movie. Not one. 10 guesses what'll be in the extended edition of this movie then...

This review originally appeared on Letterboxd.com

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