The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug

The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug Review (2013)

Peter Jackson has done lost his damn mind.  I believe it happened during the making of King Kong.  Someone must have whispered in his ear:  “Hey Peter, go out of your way to take a classic and beloved tale and turn it in to the most lifeless spectacle you can imagine.”  And that’s what he’s done with The Hobbit:  The Desolation of Smaug, even to a greater extent than what he did with The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey.

Let’s keep things in perspective.  My opinion stems from the fact that I love the book.  I grew up with the book.  And I believe there’s a reason why the book is beloved by many, many millions of fans of all ages around the world.  Obviously everyone’s opinion on the movie is going to vary depending on the kind of personal stake it holds.  People who don’t know a lick about the charm and magic held within the pages of The Hobbit are likely to scoff at the critics.

But the charm and magic of Bilbo‘s adventure have been mostly stripped way, and flung to the wayside in favor of mindless and irrelevant action sequences, non-essential characters and situations, and special effects that are questionable given the year of production and the budget these movies had.

Bilbo in Mirkwood

But let’s start with the good . . . the movie isn’t devoid of some good moments.  Despite only a thin skeleton of Tolkien‘s work remaining, there are glints of wonder from the original tale.  The meeting of Beorn.  Bilbo climbing the tree in Mirkwood releasing him from the magical fog that clouded his mind, into the sunlight of hope.  Bilbo rescuing the dwarves from the spiders.  Bilbo rescuing the dwarves from Thranduil’s palace.  The first few minutes of banter between Bilbo and Smaug.  Smaug is excellently done, but once again . . . overdone.

Yet almost every one of these scenes was taken to an extreme.  The drawn out assault of the orcs on Beorn’s cabin (never happened).  The ridiculous barrel/elf/orc chase following Bilbo rescuing the dwarves from Thranduil’s palace.  And the overlong confrontation between Bilbo, the dwarves, and Smaug . . . an encounter that lasts a scant ten pages in the book and doesn’t involve the dwarves at all.  But Jackson manages to turn it into a near hour long spectacle of nonsensical action.  The Smaug sequence just felt like another Moria sequence from The Fellowship of the Ring movie . . . just a reason to have a chase through dark places.  Bilbo and the dwarves carry out an elaborate chase sequence to lure Smaug to the forges, so they can melt mega-tons of gold in what seem to be seconds so they could try to encase Smaug in it.  The entire sequence fails because it doesn’t work, nor does it have any impact on the story other than to create a need for a tedious, 3 hour movie.

Tauriel, unnecessary.  The Love interest between Kili (who looks more like a GQ model than a dwarf) and Tauriel, unnecessary and silly pandering to draw in a female demographic.  Legolas, unnecessary.  Legolas fighting with superpowers, mowing down scores of orcs without breaking a sweat, unnecessary.  Azog (who shouldn’t even be alive in this alternate Tolkien timeline) again chasing them across Eriador, unnecessary.  Radagast the Shit-haired, unnecessary.  Gandalf fighting Sauron, unnecessary.  All the shenanigans in Lake-town, unnecessary.  The “Battle of Lake-town,” unnecessary.  That reminds me.  When the orcs were in Lake-town (again, not in the book) where was everyone?  Where were all the guards that seem to be on every corner when the dwarves were trying to sneak in?  ALL the bloated, overwrought, lifeless, ridiculous action scenes, unnecessary.  And that ending.  Why?  To extend Smaug to the third movie giving Peter Jackson a reason to have another 60 minute sequence of the destruction of Lake-town.  Through the entirety of the two Hobbit movies, Peter Jackson (and his writers) are taking an alarming step towards turning Tolkien’s work into a shoddy piece of fan fiction.


The special effects are an exercise in inconsistency.  Some look quite good, while others look horrifically bad.  The entire barrel chase scene is just one bad effects shot after another.  Transitions between real actors and effects were sometimes jarring.  Any scene not involving real actors felt lifeless.  Gone are all the practical effects that breathed life and realism into The Lord of the Rings films.  All those armies of real orcs are gone, replaced by CGI with unnatural movement and feel.  Most of those physical sets are replaced by a small set of props wrapped by green screen lifelessness.  The Hobbit is supposed to be a charming and magical tale about a simple Hobbit thrust into a larger world to find his way, not a never ending sequence of rubbery CGI shots.

Peter Jackson and New Line Cinema have taken The Hobbit and shat on it for the sake of future profits, which is a complete travesty because they hit a home run with fans, critics, and the box office when they made The Lord of the Rings.  I have to wonder, what happened?  What caused them to take one of the most beloved books on the planet and utterly destroy it under the weight of over the top nonsense?  Clearly if they were to remake The Fellowship of the Ring today they would include Tom Bombadil and turn it in to a 60 minute action sequence of him battling Old Man Willow to the death, with orcs attacking from all sides, the eye of Sauron himself gazing through the canopy of the Old Forest, with made up characters showing up at the last moment to save the day with dramatic flare, arrows flying, and epic stares.  (sigh)

I guess I can’t blame them for wanting to make a buck.  They’re a business out to make a profit.  That doesn’t mean I have to accept or even like it or respect it one iota.

Bilbo, like New Line, rolling in the cash.

Bilbo ends The Unexpected Journey by saying  [lightbox full=”” title=””I do believe the worst is behind us.””]”I do believe the worst is behind us.”[/lightbox]  Cinematically speaking he couldn’t be more wrong!  He ends The Desolation of Smaug with a despairing “What have we done?”  I’m wondering the same!

The Hobbit:  The Desolation of Smaug is a tedious failure when compared to the purity of its source.  Peter Jackson has been infected with some incurable malady that needs exorcising.  I have little hope for the final installment of the “trilogy,” and I can only hope, once again, that some fan with brilliant video editing skills will get to work on these movies when they are all available on Bluray and give us what we all really want . . . The Hobbit.

Words © 2013-2021, Neal Ulen. All rights reserved.
Images/videos cited © to their respective owner(s).

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