Our Middle-Earth friends, Bilbo, Gandolf, Thorin and the rest of the Dwarfs continue their journey to Erebor and the great dragon, Smaug. Now, I’ll start right out of the gate by saying you absolutely must see The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey before seeing The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug and before reading this article. There will be spoilers here, so keep that in mind. Additionally, this article is being written by someone who has read and loved the book. Still interested? Let’s get started then, shall we?
This second Hobbit film is definitely well put together from a special effect point of view. The animation of various creatures, physical acts and especially Smaug, are truly incredible. In fact, Smaug is remarkable. I’ve seen a little of the behind the scenes for what went into creating this ferocious creature and Benedict Cumberbatch does a fantastic job all the way around. Unfortunately we don’t get to see as much of him as I would have liked but I’ll get to that shortly. One odd discrepancy that seems to be bothering people is the color of Legolas’ eyes. You see, for The Hobbit, they’ve given him very intense blue eye contacts. He did not wear these during the original Lord of the Rings trilogy, so this has some people up in arms. Personally, it doesn’t bother me. That is one detail that is very minor, but to each his/her own.
The score is quite amazing, as well. In fact, I’ll probably be buying it shortly as I did with the first film’s soundtrack. It’s powerful, light, energetic and emotional throughout the film. The combination of a strong score and precise special effects really make for a fun and exciting movie going experience all the way around.
Now, let’s get into the film itself, the characters, the plot, etc. I might be in the minority here but I think I prefer The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey. While it had more background, I feel like the story was paced better, it was more accurate when compared to the book and it was just a more interesting tale. Additionally, I like the singing in the first film and the second one is void of it completely. Let’s be fair though. My primary problems with The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug have to do with changes from the book but these changes affect the pace of the film and the very nature of some of the events. If you don’t want spoilers, I’d stop reading now.
There are two major plot points I want to go over that were changes from the book. First, Legolas, Tauriel and the Dwarf love triangle. Those who have read the book might be asking, who is Tauriel? Well, she doesn’t exist in the book… at all. That’s right, she is a brand new character created just for the film and she is put front and center for the majority of the plot. Tauriel is a captain in the Elvin guard of Mirkwood. She has a close relationship with the King’s son, Legolas. Legolas is also in the movie. Again, a character that doesn’t show up in The Hobbit book at all but at least he shows up in the Lord of the Rings trilogy later. So, we have two characters in a movie based on a book they were not in, awesome. Legolas apparently has deep feelings with Tauriel but being a simple soldier, Legolas’ father, Thranduil, the King, will not allow them to be together. Either way, Legolas follows her around like a lost puppy. Meanwhile, when our Dwarf friends get captured by the Mirkwood Elves, she takes a liking to Kili which is kind of awkward and makes Legolas jealous. Now we have a love triangle between two Elf characters who shouldn’t be in the film and one Dwarf. This leads the film into spending a great deal of time with the Mirkwood elves and the Orcs that were chasing the Dwarfs from the first film, which were already played up bigger than they were in the book. Finally, we have several little battles that take place in Laketown with the Orcs, Tauriel and Legolas while Kili is nearly dying and most of the Dwarfs have already headed up the mountain. My problem with all of this is not that it’s offensive to the book since it didn’t exist but it’s a matter of pace. You see, I was already anxious about turning The Hobbit into three films. The Lord of the Rings books were much longer and they each only got one film while The Hobbit is not only short but written for a younger audience. Clearly, they needed to fill some screen time to stretch this thing and creating characters certainly can do the trick. It’s frustrating because rather than make two solid films, we get three drawn out, weaker movies. This leads into my second major plot point issue.
What happened to Bilbo’s riddles to Smaug? One of my favorite aspects of the book was Bilbo and his riddles. We got to see his riddles for Gollum in the first film and I loved that scene! This time around, when Bilbo faces the incredible dragon, Smaug we get nothing! Why? What was wrong with the riddles? Did we spend too much time with Tauriel and Legolas? You see, Bilbo is a hero not because of his strength or even his courage. No. He is a hero because of his cunning and his mental fortitude. While being hunted by an incredibly powerful, angry dragon, he finds ways to stay alive a little while longer by getting Smaug to answer riddles just like he did with Gollum. It’s a theme that is part of the Bilbo character and something that I, personally, truly enjoyed from the book. Instead, we got a lot of Bilbo hiding by using the One Ring or running as Smaug fools around with his life. I kept waiting for it to happen but the riddles never appeared. Instead, we get a very long winded journey with the Dwarfs as they attempt to outwit Smaug and escape the mountain and/or kill the dragon. In the end, all of that is for not because Smaug escapes the mountain and the film ends as he prepares to destroy Laketown.
I know many people are bothered by how much they’ve added on the side of the Necromancer and making him into Sauron. I personally don’t have too many issues with this because it helps tie this story into the Lord of the Rings and since it’s being made after the fact, we have the luxury of making them blend a little better. Yes, that conflicts with my purist ranks above but it lends some additional credence the dark evils we learn about in The Fellowship of the Ring while helping explain who the Necromancer is. It can be confusing since that character is (or becomes depending on your definition) Sauron.
In summary, I loved the score. I loved the special effects, especially the spiders, and Smaug. I loved most of the characters, particularly Bilbo, Gandolf and Smaug. I’m even happy that this film does a better job of distinguishing the Dwarfs from one another, though it’s never easy. I appreciate the overall story but have issues with the pace. Too many things were drawn out or added while others were glossed over or completely left out. In all honesty, this trilogy would have made two fantastic films but what is left for the third? The battle with Smaug and the journey home. I am concerned it will feel very anticlimactic. Either way, I’m glad I saw the movie and I will certainly see it again prior to the third being released. But, I think I’m going to read The Hobbit again just to clean my palate so to speak.