Film Review – The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug

Thorin Oakenshield (Richard Armitage) and his band of merry dwarves, along with Hobbit Bilbo Baggins (Martin Freeman) and wizard Gandalf (Sir Ian McKellen) continue their quest to reclaim the dwarf homeland of Erebor from the clutches of the mighty dragon Smaug.

Stepping back into Middle Earth in The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey was like meeting an old friend after several years. However, just like bumping into an old chum, things often are never the same and you long for how they used to be. An Unexpected Journey was good but it definitely wasn’t to the standards we remembered from The Lord of the Rings trilogy.

The good news is The Desolation of Smaug is a definite improvement over the first chapter, although there are still a few issues here and there.

One criticism of An Unexpected Journey was that it was too slow and plodding, particularly at the start. Well The Desolation of Smaug  has no such problem and jumps straight into the action, which is what you’d expect from the second part of a trilogy. This films also ramps up the threat level, which is another needed improvement over the first film. Here our heroes actually feel in danger whether from pursuing orcs or that scaly British dragon.

In terms of performances, everything is pretty much as before. Martin Freeman is still perfect as Bilbo, whilst the rest of the cast also perform admirably. This time around we do get a few new faces (and a voice) in Evangeline Lilly’s Tauriel the elf, Luke Evans’ Bard and of course Smaug the dragon, voiced by Benedict Cumberbatch. Both Tauriel and Bard are interesting new additions and help to add depth to the overall story.

One issue that also cropped up in An Unexpected Journey is the use of CGI and how surprisingly poor it is. The Lord of the Rings trilogy tended to opt for more practical effects than CGI, but both Hobbit films thus far have significantly increased the amount of special effects and a lot of it looks rather cheap. Whether this is due to time or budget constraints is unclear, but the CGI often doesn’t blend well with its surroundings which does pull you out of the film. It should be noted, however, that Smaug himself, however, is superbly rendered and looks fantastic.

Is making The Hobbit into three films stretching the story too much? There is definitely an element of that, and certain sections of both films so far do feel overly long and drawn out. However, it’s still a pleasure to experience Middle Earth and if you’re a fan of the franchise then The Desolation of Smaug should keep you well entertained and eager for the final installment.

 Pros

  • Interesting new characters
  • Increased level of threat
  • Martin Freeman’s Bilbo
  • Smaug

Cons

  • Some dodgy CGI
  • Too drawn out at times

 

4 pigeons4/5 pigeons

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49 thoughts on “Film Review – The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug

  1. thomasjford says:

    I agree it is definitely better than the first Hobbit, but I would probably go 3 or 3.5 out of 5, as it is still no where near as good as LOTR. The dwarves just aren’t very interesting I don’t think.

    • Yeah that’s a fair point about the dwarves, they aren’t as interesting as probably they should be but that’s likely because there’s so many of them. In the book you have more time to develop them but you don’t really get that with film.

  2. Popcorn Nights says:

    Yup, pretty much in agreement with you here Chris. I enjoyed it (enjoyed the first one too) despite the faults that remain and I’m still impressed with the scale of these films.

  3. I liked The Desolation of Smaug a lot more than An Unexpected Journey, because it was interesting, loved new characters and crew, especially Evangeline and I was truly entertained. Almost as good as LOTR Two Towers.

  4. jjames36 says:

    Good review.

    I’m glad you found this one so much better than the first Hobbit flick. I think they’re pretty similar in arc and quality, but I understand I’m in the minority on that point. 🙂

  5. Mark Walker says:

    Fine write-up Chris. I’m hoping to catch this very soon. Is that “pros” and “cons” a new deal? I don’t remember seein that before. Nice touch! 🙂

    • Thanks Mark. Yeah it is new, think I’ve only done it on about 3 reviews so far. Just thought I’d add it and see what it was like, make it easy for those who want to skim read the review to see what’s good and bad about it.

  6. keith7198 says:

    Great take on it. I really liked this one more than expected. Heck, it made my Top 10. It really improved on the first film and I was completely involved from the start.

  7. theipc says:

    I know my wife wants to watch this but I don’t – I can’t sit still that long – especially if I’m not that interested…. good work!!

  8. V says:

    Hi Chris, really enjoyed this write up. Like the addition of the pros and cons too, succinct! I mostly agree with your review, it was fun, despite the problems.

  9. Predictably, not as good as the LOTR trilogy, but this is still bloody phenomenal. Smaug is definitely the best part, but the film as a whole is incredible, can’t wait to see the finale! Awesome job, bud :).

  10. liamdoesfilm says:

    Good review exactly what I gave It 🙂 Smaug was great and so were the Dwarves with the humour they brought!

  11. Gene says:

    Good rating Chris, I’m with you on most of your points. I’m curious what parts you thought the CGI was a bit shoddy. I did notice a couple moments in the barrel escape scene that seemed to defy physics, but that was an incredible scene to pull off.

    • Thanks Gene. Yeah the barrel scene was one section where the CGI suffered at times, it just cheapened it slightly. However, the part that really bugged me was the liquid gold in Errebor, it just looked atrocious. Not sure if they actually could have made it any better but I didn’t think it looked good at all.

      • Gene says:

        Yeah, come to think of it I do remember when Smaug flew out of there toward Laketown and some of it was dripping off him. Looked kinda cheesy.

  12. chris2508 says:

    Great review here. I really enjoyed this film. Also I’m liking the pros and cons system, a good summarisation.

  13. Pretty much agree with your sterling review 100% there Chris!

  14. CMrok93 says:

    It may have been a tad shorter than the first Hobbit movie, it still didn’t feel like it. Instead, it just felt like there was more of a fun-approach to this one. But still long nonetheless. Good review.

  15. ruth says:

    I like what you said about meeting old chums as I feel the same way! Glad to hear that this one was enjoyable enough for you Chris. Seems like people who hated the first one didn’t care for the sequel either but I agree this one is much better in terms of pacing. I LOVE Bilbo and Thorin, even more than the first, and we’ve got the glorious Smaug which looks AND sound fantastic (thanks to Cumberbatch!)

    Can’t wait to see the third movie!

    • Yeah I definitely thought this was an improvement, pretty much all round to be honest, but like you say, it’s not going to win too many people over who didn’t like the first. I just love Martin Freeman as Bilbo, he’s perfect, and Smaug was everything I hoped he be. Good ol’ Benny! 🙂

  16. caragale says:

    Nice review, Chris! I have my issues with this film, but all in all it’s a pretty fun film. Glad you seem to have enjoyed it!

  17. Beer Movie says:

    Nice review sir. I thought this was a massive improvement over the first. Still probably not quite up to the standard of any of the LOTR films. But close .A hell of an adventure story and good to see Jackson got it right this time. Agree it is a little stretched. But this one felt maybe 15-20 mins or so too long whereas with the first they could have cut a good hour off that.

  18. Great review, I had a brilliant time watching this film 😀

    Its still a bit too long but if I had to stay in any imaginary world middle earth isn’t too bad ;D

    Smaug stole the show and I am glad he did, great visuals and just an all over better film than the first hobbit, hope the trend continues into part 3 😀

  19. sati says:

    I was so bored by this movie, this whole trilogy remains a gigantic cash grab for me. I agree Tauriel and Bard were interesting additions, especially that I still don’t care about the dwarves 🙂

    • There’s definitely something to the whole cash grab thing but I think only in the sense that it’s spread out to three films, although I’m kinda on board with that now. Not for everyone though, this trilogy has definitely divided people a lot more than LOTR.

  20. Nostra says:

    Finally saw it this past weekend an really enjoyed it. I was surprised when it ended because it did not feel like I had been watching for three hours. Did not notice the bad CGI myself. In what format did you watch it?

    • It definitely doesn’t feel as long as the first one but a couple of places felt drawn out, like some of the Laketown stuff. I watched it in 2D, and there were so me iffy CGI parts in the barrel scene and also that awful liquid gold in Errebor was just terrible.

  21. Jessica says:

    Another 4/5:er here, my review coming up in a couple of days. Like you I really really love Martin Freeman’s Bilbo and Smaug. The 3D still doesn’t do anything for me. I endured it jut in order to get to see it on a big screen. A big screen for this kind of movies means a lot.

  22. I loved that bit when Bilbo gets caught by Smaug and he just turns and sits down. A tiny little moment but I loved it. 3D does nothing for me either, I opted for the 2D version. Only Gravity has really worked in 3D for me to be honest.

  23. Monkeyboy says:

    Nice review. So it’s a definite improvement over the first one then? I think I fell asleep for a couple of hours during the bit where they were in Hobbiton, woke up, and the dwarves were still in Bilbo’s house, making sandwiches. 😦

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