The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug

Film, Drama
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The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug

By now, after the enormous success of ‘The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey’, many viewers will know where they stand in relation to Peter Jackson’s epic new trilogy of films – this reviewer, for one, is a fan of almost every big, bloated, bombastic moment. So if you weren’t taken by the first instalment of this series adapted from JRR Tolkien’s slim children’s novel along with several of his ‘Lord of the Rings’ appendices, it’s unlikely you’ll suddenly warm to the second. But compared to the first film, the pace has picked up considerably.

There’s a brief flashback to the initial meeting of the grey wizard Gandalf (Ian McKellen) and the exiled dwarf king Thorin Oakenshield (Richard Armitage). Mostly, though, the movie sticks to the company of Thorin, his fellow dwarves and the resourceful hobbit Bilbo Baggins (Martin Freeman) – still carrying the invisibility-cloaking Ring of Power in his pocket – as they continue on their quest to reclaim the kingdom of Erebor from the vicious dragon Smaug (a motion-captured Benedict Cumberbatch).

‘The Desolation of Smaug’ shows Peter Jackson in an especially overabundant mood, orchestrating all manner of chaos like a master conductor unleashing his inner fanboy. There’s a shape-shifting bear, the massive spiders of Mirkwood and an army of orcs. Returning archer elf Legolas (Orlando Bloom) and his fellow warrior Tauriel (Evangeline Lilly, auto-tuned into ethereality) provide multiple, gory decapitations. There’s even an extended set-piece involving some barrels and a roaring river that’s so giddily, gloriously executed that you forget it could all just be an elaborate prototype for a yet-to-be-built theme-park-ride.

Exhaustion starts to set in by the time Bilbo and his friends encounter Smaug around the two-hour mark, so it’s a good thing that’s also the point at which Jackson goes full bore with the adrenalising, digitally-augmented braggadocio. In short, you want a fire-breathing dragon, you get a fire-breathing dragon. Rising from beneath an ocean of coins like a scaly mutant version of Scrooge McDuck, Smaug taunts and stalks his terrified prey around the cavernous ruins of Erebor in the film’s lengthiest, most purely pleasurable action sequence.

By the time the beast finally spreads his wings to full span, soaring skyward toward a moon vaguely reminiscent of the one in ‘E.T.’, you’re left in the kind of breathless awe that so few current cinematic superproductions are able to offer.

By: Keith Uhlich


Release details

Rated: 12A
Release date: Friday December 13 2013
Duration: 161 mins

Cast and crew

Director: Peter Jackson
Screenwriter: Fran Walsh, Philippa Boyens
Cast: Martin Freeman
Ian McKellen
Richard Armitage

Average User Rating

2.8 / 5

Rating Breakdown

  • 5 star:0
  • 4 star:1
  • 3 star:4
  • 2 star:0
  • 1 star:0
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The Hobbit has lost the human warmth of Lord of the Rings. There's plenty of action and adventure, but I just didn't care any more. Over long and over indulgent.

Firstly I would like to say it is visually amazing. It could have been shortened slightly but other wise it great. I went to see this film in IMAX 3D and it blew me away like the first hobbit did. It had a weak but not terrible story but kept me thoroughly entertained. I would recommend you see the unexpected journey first and this second. They could have done the hobbit in one film though. Can't wait for the 3 rd one. I am rating this 4 1/2 stars

Technically wonderful but, as many have remarked, over-stretched fantasy adventure.

It looks great as a film but as a story it is pretty awful. It takes 2 1/2 hours to tell 110 pages from the book. I just felt like I had been mugged. It's like going to a posh restaurant and having had a nice nouvelle cuisine meal but the service was so poor and slow that by the time I had finished it I needed another meal. I may well watch the third film but like many other people I would have preferred to see 2 really good 2 hour films rather than 3 2 1/2 hour average films. An average 3 star film (just).

... as a Kiwi I kind of feel obligated to like any Jackson film purely out of national pride etc etc, and while generally this isn't a big ask, The Hobbit films are a bloated over-exposition of what could have been a wonderfully-imagined, one movie masterpiece. For younger viewers, less familiar with Jackson's LoTR there is a lot going for the AUJ/TDoS, but for me (apart from simply being overlong) the elements of 'continuity' - themes, music, characters and settings - just make it seem too samey.

Can't wait to go back and re-watch the nine films that made up the three books of LOTR! Oh, hang on...

i dont need to see this film to know its one star , the last one was, the lord of the rings films were all 2 stars. i just dont know how he has been allowed to ruin great books like this. poor jrr tolkien must be turning in his grave. how can a short book be turned into 3 films except for money. endless just in time my life is saved scenes soon become boring . i dont know what has happened to american action movies but its not good.