Posted December 12, 2013 by editor in Film Reviews

The Hobbit: The Desolation Of Smaug Review


The middle film of the Hobbit series is here and after a rather lengthy, and very slowly paced first film The Desolation of Smaug picks up the pace dramatically after a quick flashback to Gandalf’s first meeting with head Dwarf, Thorin.

Immediately our Hobbit, Wizard and merry band of Dwarves are into a cursed forest where they meet the kin of Shelob. Yes giant spiders ahoy! And thanks to the power of the one ring we get to hear what they are saying to each other as they get ready to make a meal out of our group of heroes. Also thanks to the power of the one ring we get one of Martin Freeman’s strongest moments in the series so far as we see the effect the ring can have in him.

Beyond that we see the return to our screens of Legolas (Orlando Bloom) as well as the introduction of a new female elven warrior Tauriel (Evangeline Lilly). But the Elves are not quite the happy heroes we know them to be thanks to a lot of bad blood between the Dwarf kingdom and their own.

The plot thickens when the group finally reach Lake Town at the base of the Lonely Mountain where Bilbo is finally set to work finding what they came for, and trying to avoid the dragon within.

In fact TDOS seems to follow one narrative path in each area of middle earth the gang go to.  They go there, get caught, escape and do battle. Be it Spiders, Elves, Lake Townsmen, Dragons or Orcs. Someone is always getting discovered, caught and end up having to do battle. This may not leave much time for character development – but at least the baker’s dozen here finally get to get up to some action.  We still may not know them all apart – but slowly some of the faces, accents and even temperaments are slowly starting to come to the fore.

But like in the previous instalment they are all overshadowed by others.  Here the newcomers steal a wealth of the attention from the aforementioned elves to the Lake Townsmen played by the likes of Stephen Fry and hero on the horizon Luke Evans. But the Dragon himself is a real treat when we finally get there. Benedict Cumberbatch does sterling vocal work, rasping out each word with menacing glee.

There is a ton of action beats along the way that keep the film skipping along at a god pace, there is also a lot left in the air come the close of the film – but this is the middle part of a trilogy so we didn’t expect much in the way of closure.

The look of the film is next to greatness. There are perhaps a few issues worth raising in the CGI work, but it is largely an impressive spectacle.  Peter Jackson and crew also get to toy around with some new locations and sets which add to the wonder of Middle Earth and help expand the experience of returning there.

Despite the films being very long there is perhaps little excuse as to why it is that we haven’t been given better scenes with the dwarves. Other films with large casts have managed the job in less than a third of the running time of both films so far, so why is it that we still find many of them so two dimensional (The wise one has a long white beard, the bald one with the big weapon is angry a lot, the Irish one is an unreliable drunk) and others not registering at all.

There is also a lot of sign posting along the way as well. It seems we are forever being introduced to villains who seem destined to have some kind of epic showdown in the finale of the series. The worst of which is that of the Dragon’s eventual defeater. Never has it been so rammed into your brain just how and by whom it will happen.

But to be fair the Hobbit films are also a bit lighter in their touch that the Lord of The Rings series. Proof of which lies in the many action beats where we are commonly treated to OTT facial expressions from the dwarves reacting to the peril they are in. This is often a step away from Looney Tunes cartoons. The upside then is that when true horror or danger comes to the screen it hits with much more of a thud. And that is never more present that in the screen glory that is Smaug.

TDOS is a fine second film of the series and is likely to warm up those who felt a little bit twitchy and bored by the first instalment.

4 Stars




Steven Hurst