The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug

8 Overall Score
Characters: 9/10
Plot: 7/10
Appeal: 9/10

Smaug is a cinematic accomplishment | Moves at an incredible rate, leaving no room for boredom (unlike it's predecessor)

Shoed-in love triangle | Wish we could see more of Gandalf in Dol Guldur

This year, when the holiday seasons began, many people were thinking about gift lists, holiday plans and who knows what else. But myself, and every true Tolkien fan that walks this earth were all wondering the same thing this year: will the sequel to the admittedly disappointing The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey be any better than its predecessor? The answer is…mostly. While The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug has its share of problems, it fixes most of what was wrong with An Unexpected Journey, and sports the greatest dragon seen in cinema yet.

We all know what was wrong with the first Hobbit movie, the main problems being 1) that it took way too long to leave the Shire and that 2) it was lengthy without a whole lot of inspiring action taking place. This is where The Desolation of Smaug differs. The action is frequent and exciting, and I never felt like it dragged at all. In fact, the three hours it takes to finish the movie seemed to fly by, and I certainly wasn’t ready to leave the amazing world of Middle Earth. Director Peter Jackson, as always crafts the world perfectly, and seeing parts of the world that we didn’t get to see in the original Lord of the Rings trilogy is intriguing as ever.

We also get to see some new faces, and let me tell you that a lot of the supporting cast do a great job in their roles, no matter how small. Standing out are Lee Pace as the icy elvenking Thranduil, Luke Evan’s as Bard the Bowman and Mikel Persbrant in a brief turn as the skin changer Beorn. Evangeline Lily’s Tauriel has had a lot of pressure, since she isn’t an original Tolkien character, but Tauriel fits in well with the rest of the cast, especially the returning Orlando Bloom as Legolas. Unfortunately, Tauriel is also part of an annoying sub-plot of a love-triangle between herself, Legolas and dwarf Kili (Aidan Turner) that serves only to give the trio more to do other than kill Orcs.

Speaking of killing Orcs, there certainly isn’t a lack of it in the sequel, with some of the best kills seen yet thanks to Legolas and Tauriel and an extravagant action set-piece that has all of the main party in wine barrels flowing down a river with both elves and Orcs on their tail. It’s sections like this that stand out the most in the movie, and one has to think that An Unexpected Journey could have used a few more of the brilliant set-pieces put to use here.


Of the main cast, everyone maintains the great performances seen in the first movie. Martin Freeman is awesome as ever with Bilbo, giving a dramatic and quirky performance as the brave little hobbit. Ian McKellan is wise as ever as wizard Gandalf, but his sub-plot to Dol Guldur doesn’t get enough screen-time or as much thought put into it as the journey of Bilbo and the dwarves. Thorin Oakshield (Richard Armitage) is more interesting and less one-note this time around, his ambition and greed showing more than ever.

But this movie, in the end, is Benedict Cumberbatch’s show. He plays both the necromance in Dol Guldur and the titular dragon Smaug, and is great in both roles. The necromancer doesn’t get much time on screen, but Smaug is hands-down one of the most impressive things I’ve seen in a movie since Peter Jackson’s version of King Kong. He almost makes Andy Serkis’ incredible Gollum seem amateurish by comparison. Cumberbatch is perfect, and Smaug isn’t only intimidating, he is cunning and interesting, and the scene between himself and Bilbo is the best one in the entire movie. The climax at the end is great and I won’t spoil anything for those who have yet to see the film, but the movie ends exactly when you don’t want it to. But in a good way.

Overall, The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug is a superior to its predecessor in nearly every right. It moves at a break-neck pace without sacrificing vital character development, has one of the best (and largest) supporting casts of the year, and has one hell of a finale due to the scene-stealing Smaug. But, more importantly, it has paved the way for what could be an incredible end to a rocky journey, but for that verdict, we will have to wait until next winter.


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Author: Justin Peterson View all posts by

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