THE HOBBIT – THE DESOLATION OF SMAUG [Review]: Desolating Adaptations…

…one Dwarf at a time.

“All good stories deserve embellishment.”

I found that line from The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey running through my head as I watched The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug, Peter Jackson’s second installment in the trilogy of films that are somehow being conjured out of J.R.R. Tolkien’s revered children’s book, called simply The Hobbit. I’m very happy to say that Jackson’s particular brand of sorcery is working for me. It’s not just working; it’s kicking me right in the balls (In a good way, if I am being unclear).

I experienced the film in 3D, which was masterfully done. The 48 fps (which I initially considered heresy) barely made my eyes want to bleed at all this time around. The cinematography is nothing short of amazing, especially during the plethora of fast, action-packed, extremely mobile fight scenes expressed via several series of seamless tracking shots. One particular scene involving some barrels, a seemingly endless amount of enemies, and our hilariously hardcore dwarves speeding down a river earned a round of applause from the audience.

Jack Trippin’.

As is to be expected, Jackson took a great number of creative liberties with the story. Having 275-pages of children’s tale as material for 8-9 hours of gigantic blockbuster necessitates one changing, adding, and embellishing. Following the hints from The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey, we see a LOT more of ‘The Pale Orc’ and the Necromancer; two characters that are not of vital importance in The Hobbit. Many points and details are taken from “The Quests of Erebor,” one of Tolkien’s so-called “Unfinished Tales.”

Benedict Cumberbatch (“Sherlock”, Star Trek: Into Darkness) assumes the role of both The Necromancer of Dol Guldur and Smaug the Dragon. By the way? Smaug. Looks. Phenomenal. Sit through the credits and you can see just how intricate and extensive the CGI department is. Gandalf, still played by the fantastic Ian McKellen (X-Men) has a wizard/magic-missile battle with the Necromancer at one point that is nothing short of awe-inspiring. The Pale Orc, aka Azzog the Defiler (voiced by Manu Bennett) was an extremely unimportant character in the book (at least by comparison). In the film, however, he returns in all his CG terror as one of the main antagonists, still intent on collecting Thorin Oakenshield’s — played by Richard Armitage (Captain America) — pretty dwarven head.

“What? It IS pretty. For a dwarf head, I mean.”

While Elijah Wood does not make another cameo as Frodo, his character from the Lord of the Rings trilogy, we certainly receive generous portions of Orlando Bloom (Pirates of the Caribbean) as Legolas, and a nice little bit of Cate Blanchett (The Aviator) as Lady Galadriel, as well (these two characters are not a part of the book in the slightest, but draw great crowds). A unique elven character, Tauriel — played by Evangeline Lilly (“Lost”, The Hurt Locker) — is also integrated into the story, adding a totally badass female into the picture. She’s basically like Arwen, but a crazy acrobat fighter like Legolas. She’s like a chick Legolas (Trust me – it plays). And as it turns out, Legolas has the hots for her, but she has eyes for someone else… The introduction of a compelling love-interest helps round out the series nicely; one of the many examples of wise additions made by Peter Jackson.

Random thought on an addition that might be considered “unwise”: is anyone else pretty mad at the fact that the orcs and goblins have their own languages now?

“We ain’t had nothin’ but subtitles for three stinkin’ days!”

It can certainly be said that this film is much more “sexified” or “Hollywoodized” than the novel. In the novel, hobbits are described as rotund, and Bilbo himself is described as over 50. Martin Freeman (Hot Fuzz, Love Actually) as Bilbo certainly does not fit that bill. The film follows the novel to a certain extent, embellishing along the way. It’s relatively easy to tell that Smaug the Dragon will not be a hugely integral part of the third film. It appears as though it will be mainly focused on the Battle of Five Armies, as well as resolution with Gandalf’s fight against the Necromancer, and Thorin’s feud with The Pale Orc. Considering the title for the third film is The Hobbit: There and Back Again (set for release December 17, 2014), some sort of resolution is basically guaranteed.

I suppose “Desolating Adaptations” might seem like a bit of a bleak title, but believe me when I say that I highly recommend this film. Expert directing and cinematography are augmented spectacularly by a breathtaking score by Howard Shore. The ending is about as much of a cliffhanger as you can find in gigantic films like this, which is refreshing and infuriating at the same time; like putting pepper spray in your lemonade. When I walked out of The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey, I had a bitter taste in my mouth. Walking out of Desolation of Smaug tonight has simply left me hungry for more.

And I’m especially happy that there weren’t any fucking eagles.

4.5 (out of 5) Tolkien Bibles.








WB’s The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug in theaters tomorrow (or bravely tonight at midnight), December 13.

Andy Crete
Andy Crete is an independent filmmaker living in Hollywood currently focusing on screenwriting, directing, and editing. His production company 'Soggy Dog Productions' has been doing independent and student films since 2009, ranging from action/heist thrillers, to documentaries, to experimental films. Andy is a hardcore gamer and wrestling freak. Follow The Arch-Angel @AndyCrete or at www.andycrete.com

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