Martin Freeman as Bilbo Baggins
Ian McKellen as Gandalf the Gray
Richard Armitage as Thorin Oakenshield
Benedict Cumberbatch as Smaug
Ken Stott as Balin
Aiden Turner as Kili
Dean O’Gorman as Fili
James Nesbit as Bofur
Graham McTavish as Dwalin
Jed Brophy as Nori
Adam Brown as Ori
John Callen as Gloin
Stephen Hunter as Bombur
Peter Hambleton as Gloin
Mark Hadlow as Dori
William Kircher as Bifur
Evangeline Lilly as Tauriel
Orlando Bloom as Legolas
Lee Pace as Thranduil
Luke Evans as Bard
Stephen Fry as The Master of Lake-Town
Ryan Gage as Alfrid
John Bell as Bain
Manu Bennett as Azog the Defiler
Sylvester McCoy as Radagast the Brown
Mikael Persbrandt as Beorn
In a word, ugh! That’s how I felt leaving the midnight showing of The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug in 2013, and that’s still how I feel today. In fact, I went to the midnight showing of the first two Hobbit movies, but I didn’t feel like going that far for the third, and the subject of this review is the reason.
Why don’t I like this movie? Well, we’ll start with the plot. After the eagles save the adventurers in Unexpected Journey, They are hiding away from the orcs who are hunting them. Their travels eventually lead them to enter a large forest. Gandalf has to leave at this point. The new threat that was referenced in Unexpected Journey requires his attention so the others must make do without him. The dwarves are captured by the elves of Mirkwood but Bilbo, using the magic ring (which, yes, is the One Ring, even though no one knows it yet), manages to free them. Thorin secures passage through Lake-Town in return for promises that play an important part in the last movie and then comes the hardest part: slaying a dragon.
That actually sounds cool, but let me explain. Desolation of Smaug proves to be the most unfaithful movie in this series because of all the new stuff Peter Jackson decided to add. I can see some arguing that I liked Unexpected Journey, which made some additions itself, but they really didn’t get any worse than Radagast the Brown making an appearance and the discussion on the new enemy with cameos (the latter of which made a lot of sense to include). They weren’t too bad. This movie? A new member of the main cast appears in Tauriel, a female elven soldier who falls hard for Kili. When Bilbo and the dwarves escape, Tauriel follows to help. Saying that this relationship advances too fast, in light of racial enmity between elves and dwarves, would be like saying that walking along the Great Wall of China would take time. It’s just not believable.
Another serious problem with this movie is that the Mirkwood and Lake-Town portions drag on way too long. These are very simple portions of the movie that still have to take up a lot of time. I know people who found this movie to be boring and can I see why! This is why all the extra stuff is there. Even with it, Desolation of Smaug still stalls and stalls. Blame the suits who wanted us to buy our tickets three times.
Watching the meeting and battle with Smaug, I didn’t think this movie could let me down any more, and surprisingly enough, it didn’t. In fact, it rather redeemed itself here. Smaug is an extremely well-done monster. Voiced by Benedict Cumberbatch, he emerges as the clever but terrifying beast I’d always envisioned. The battle in which clever traps are used that actually enable our heroes to hold their own, as much as it deviates from the book, added a lot of suspense.
That is until the movie ended with Smaug about to attack Lake-Town. I remember an “Aw!” washing over the theater. It’s really a sad thing, given how popular these movies are, that the filmmakers still felt a need to include a cliffhanger this shameless.
But despite everything I’ve mentioned, The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug is sitting pretty on an IMDB rating of 8.0. Very impressive seeing that The Godfather is at 9.2. I suspect that most of those people are probably those who never read the book but did see Desolation of Smaug because of commercials in crime dramas or sports games. I’m not judging. This movie should work as well as simply a film as it does as an adaptation of the book. In fact, I can’t judge because I reviewed The Hunger Games without first reading its book.
But from where I’m sitting, this isn’t a good movie. It’s not horrible, but from what I’ve come to expect from this series, I’m quite disappointed.
Overall: 4 out of 10