‘The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug’ Movie Review – Righting the Wrongs
Scale, setting, and just plain fantasy badassery is what ultimately set The Lord of the Rings apart from any other franchise. There, quite frankly, isn’t a franchise that had a vision and an execution on the same level as Peter Jackson’s Middle Earth-centered fantasy trilogy. When film adaptations of J.R.R. Tolkien’s prequel ‘The Hobbit’ was announced after the success of the previous three films, it was automatically assumed they’d mirror the greatness and uniqueness of The Lord of the Rings. Unfortunately, last year’s The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey was essentially a three-hour exposition-fest, leading to an uncharacteristically “bad” (in parentheses on purpose) film.
However, today we can rejoice (at the least in a minor manner) because the latest film, titled The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug, doesn’t need that exposition and is filled with the grandiose scale and spectacle that the great novel really deserves.
Don’t get me wrong, there is plenty of set-up still somehow going on in The Desolation of Smaug – including a flashback to start the movie – but it all feels a little more worth it this time. Part of me feels bad even complaining at all about too much Middle-Earth, but the other part of me realizes everyone has an attention span. After the little bit of set-up we do get, the movie barrels forward (pun intended) towards Lonely Mountain.
There are a few plots converging, too, that all were set in place in last year’s film and continued at the front half of this year’s. Obviously, we have all the stuff with Bilbo (Martin Freeman) and his mysterious ring (which comes a lot more to the forefront in this movie). We also have Thorin Oakenshield’s (Richard Armitage) motivations for recapturing the mountain and defeating the gigantic dragon that inhabits it.
So yeah, there’s a huge dragon named Smaug (voiced by Benedict Cumberbatch).
Rather than continuing to explain the plot and conflict, I’ll move on. Just like in An Unexpected Journey, Jackson gives us a mix of the classic tale (from the beloved novel) and some new hitches. Having read the book almost a year ago, I can’t give the most accurate estimate of what is put in and what is left out. To me, though, the book comparisons never really matter that much.
If you do care about faithful adaptations, the biggest thing that should calm reader’s minds is the depiction of the great beast Smaug. I talked about scale earlier, and Smaug is the greatest evidence that Jackson has a firm grasp on the universe he’s created. Not only does he look absolutely fantastic (and terrifying), but he fits into the universe perfectly.
For ‘Hobbit’ readers, this should be enough.
Still, if you’re looking for more reassurance, I can wholeheartedly endorse the pace in The Desolation of Smaug. This partially has to do with the fact that it doesn’t need all that, for the lack of a better term, boring set-up. This also reinforces my belief about good sequels and how they have more freedom. However, there’s still more to compliment because I think Jackson honed in a little bit more on the important stuff. It felt like the “fluff” was put into An Unexpected Journey to warrant a three-part franchise.
I’m still a little peeved the franchise was broken into three parts (it still feels like a cash-grab), but it’s obvious The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug is a much stronger fantasy adaptation than the first. It’s still eons away from the epicness of The Lord of the Rings movies, but that comparison is admittedly unfair. Peter Jackson, if nothing else, reminded us why he’s a great fantasy storyteller with great camerawork and awesome visuals (including the hotly-anticipated appearance of Smaug). At most, The Desolation of Smaug strengthens the franchise and sets us up for a fantastic finale in one year.
The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug flew into theaters last Friday and is now available in wide release.
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