The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug


Last night I went to see the second part of Peter Jackson’s The Hobbit trilogy and, as our recurring readers likely know, I am an obsessive fanatic of the director’s work adapting Middle Earth for screen. Frankly, I don’t think there is anyone that could have done more justice to Tolkien’s epic fantasy series, The Lord of the Rings. There are those who would disagree with me, who find the changes he made to the narrative offensive, and to them I say that they were necessary amendments that made the story more accessible to a wider audience. Tolkien has a very distinct writing style, and some elements were not transferrable to moving image; more often than not, I feel that this can be attributed to a necessity to save time, and so it’s fully reasonable.

For the most part, I feel the first part of The Hobbit trilogy follows a similar path to its predecessors; there are tweaks to the original story that make for a more inclusive viewing experience; notably, the group’s encounter with Tom, Bert and William is somewhat more theatrical in the movie adaptation but, in my opinion, this works out for the better. Although following my first viewing I felt a bit shafted, after a few more times I definitely began to consider myself a fan of the trilogy; the aerobatic action sequences became an element I actually grew quite fond of. Ultimately, it was never going to be the same experience as The Lord of the Rings, but The Hobbit is a different tone altogether: it’s a child friendly story, and the film follows in suit.

So when I sat down for part two, I was quite excited about what I was about to see. Let me just say, if you’re a fan of the lore, you should go and watch it, but The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug is one of the most bizarrely paced movies I have ever seen. Now, I hate spoilers so I’ll refrain from being too specific about what I have to say, but the first 20-30 minutes fly by at g-force levels, and left me feeling somewhat disorientated. Honestly, I was perplexed by the candid briefness of some of my most favourite memories from the book. Nevertheless, the subsequent hour and a half lived up to my expectations. Nay, they surpassed them, and I thoroughly enjoyed myself! For the most part, this is a better film than An Unexpected Journey, but then we meet Smaug, and I don’t quite get Jackson’s adaptation of the character… Don’t get me wrong; Benedict Cumberbatch delivers powerful vocals as the fire-breathing terror, but in the last 30 minutes of the film he is made out to be less Smaug the Tyrannical, more Smaug the Easily Humiliated. We are presented with a roller coaster like experience, clearly designed for some last minute 3D thrills (something the rest of the film didn’t pander to, much to my satisfaction), and this fiery force of destruction is mercilessly belittled in order to achieve this. As the film ends, Smaug delivers some foreboding lines about his greatness and the coming storm, but I felt that he had no place to say them after what just happened… It was upsetting, to say the least.


Perhaps I’m being too harsh; it is based on a book aimed at a younger audience, and the film does well to acknowledge this. Plus, the side journey we’re intermittently taken on with Gandalf explores some of the best Middle Earth lore, and I can assure you that the end result will be nothing short of epic. In fact, the end of The Desolation of Smaug has set the final part up very well indeed. I dare say if it were even half of what it could be, I would rather wet myself in public than miss a second of the action, just because my bladder can’t handle the three-hour experience. So, in that respect, it’s a very good film because it made me want more, and that’s usually a sign to me that I enjoyed myself.


So, although this film is by no means on equal footing with the previous trilogy (at least, not in my opinion), that doesn’t bother me. At the end of the day, I hold The Lord of the Rings in such high regard that nothing has ever matched it so, if you’re in the same mind set as I am, you should go and watch this film. You will not regret it. Or you might. But hell, Tolkien created the single greatest universe in fiction, so there’s a lot to take from the background and references alone. It may be long, and you may not understand why it is at first, but watch it and you’ll find that most of it is justified. Most of it is, anyway…

– Joe Aldous

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14 thoughts

  1. Good review Joe. May be a bit better than the first, but there’s still plenty room for improvement to be had here. Something tells me Jackson will act upon it too, but you just never know with him.

    • Thank you! I absolutely agree, but I do feel that this newest part is a step forward. I’m certainly excited for part three, which is not how I felt after watching Unexpected Journey.

  2. Excellent point about Smaug! I loved him when he first appeared and had that kick ass conversation with Bilbo … but then, you’re right, he kind of gets pwned by the dwarves repeatedly, doesn’t he? I think I would have preferred if he just kind of had his conversation with Bilbo and then … I don’t know, left. Because honestly, he can’t manage to catch and eat at least ONE dwarf throughout that entire sequence? Sheesh.

  3. I was a passionate fan of what were then known as ‘all’ of Tolkien’s books back in the early ’70s. I even had two cats called Frodo and Bilbo! I knew ‘The Hobbit’ and ‘The Lord of the Rings’ inside out. And so there was no way I’d ever go to see the movies: the very thought of the necessary screenwriting changes made me shudder. But I’m like that with all the books I really love: Peter Temple’s Jack Irish books (the best, cleverest, wittiest, funniest crime writing in the world) have been made into TV series; and I won’t watch them, either. It’s all about the images one has long formed in one’s head …

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