Any doubt, that the sequel to An Unexpected Journey wouldn’t up the ante, and deliver a spectacular film worthy of The Hobbit becoming a three-part movie should be erased. The Desolation of Smaug rarely stumbles and gives fantastic moment, after fantastic moment, leading right up to and ending that is as awe-inspiring as it is terrifying.

Picking up right where we left off and not letting off the pedal until the end, The Desolation of Smaug starts as our crew go from the mountains of the goblins, to the woods of the elves, to the Lonely Mountain itself.

For those wondering, the movie does feature a bunch of scenes, and a small love story, that wasn’t in The Hobbit - proper. Some of the scenes were pulled from supplemental stories and materials made by J.R.R Tolkien, others were simply created by the screenwriters. However, if you never read the books, you wouldn’t have noticed, because everything felt right in place in the world of Middle-Earth. This movie helped expand upon the mythology of Middle-Earth by delivering on the moments many of us eagerly expected.

Bilbo in spider webs

Many comparisons will be made of The Desolation to Smaug to the second film in the LOTR series, The Two Towers. Escalation, oncoming war, split storylines, epic battles. Yet The Desolation of Smaug separates itself from its LOTR counterpart by remaining focused on its core characters, and only adding new ones when necessary.

The core group of Bilbo, Gandalf, Thorin, and his crew of Dwarves all shine in their own way through multiple scenes. Add to that new arrivals and characters in Bard the Bowman, the lovely elf Tauriel, and of course, the dragon himself: Smaug, and you get a movie brimming with great characters and character moments.

As it should be in many respects though, the movie is about Bilbo. Martin Freeman continues to show why Bilbo is different from Frodo and how Bilbo himself is growing as a character, for better and for worse. From striking down spiders, outwitting elves, showing courage where he had none before, and staring down the dragon, it’s easy to see how Bilbo has grown from An Unexpected Jouney. Yet we see the darkness that The Ring is casting on him, and Freeman’s beautiful acting shows that though Bilbo likes The Ring, he is afraid of it.

Moving on to the elves, a trinity of new and returning characters bring a nice balance to the dwarf heavy cast. Legolas returns in epic form as he showcases his skills and an edge that we didn’t see in LOTR. His father, the King of Mirkwood Thranduil, is also there showing the cunning of elves and their subtle anger. The real treat though is in Tauril, a character made for the movie, and played by Evangeline Lilly. She shows a softness and kindness that shows, for a lack of a better term, that the elves do have some humanity in them. This comes to light especially in a love story between her and Kili. It’s a little on-the-nose at times, but it’s actually rather sweet, and a wonderful addition to the film.

Let’s not forget about Gandalf, who plays a big part in not only the movie, but sets things up for the final film. He, and the returning Radhagast the Brown, seek out the enemy and find more than they bargained for. Many jokes have been made about Gandalf’s “true powers” and what he can do. Well let’s be clear, he is a powerful wizard, and he shows that here. You’re welcome.

One of the biggest scenes involves a barrel-rolling escape from the Mirkwood with both elves and orcs on the companies tail. The scene goes back and forth from multiple perspectives and yet seems to keep building momentum right up until the end. At the end of this fight you will believe that elves are epic, dwarves are creative, and that a dwarf named Bomfur can kick many orcs butt while standing inside a barrel.

Yet, all of this is folly, the moment the dwarves and Bilbo enter Erebor. For we meet Smaug, in all his glory, and he is terrifying. No amount of praise is worthy enough to celebrate how epic Smaug is, both in look, and in voice-acting. Peter Jackson and his crew nailed the look of Smaug, sticking to certain dragon stereotypes yet delivering their own flair. Then of course there’s Benedict Cumberbatch, who absolutely nails it as Smaug. This is not a dumb animal who just happened to take down dwarves and men alike for gold. This is a regal creature, who is as calculating, as he is curious. The first scene between Bilbo and Smaug was masterfully done, and the scenes thereafter show just how epic, and terrifyingly powerful, Smaug is.

On the topic of effects, The Desolation of Smaug does a good job in many areas. As stated above, Smaug is amazing, and his personal effects are well done. Other scenes, not so much. Many times it’s very obvious what is reality and what is CG.

The ending for The Desolation of Smaug may come as a surprise, but honestly it’s well placed, and sets up There and Back Again perfectly. Throughout the entire movie elements are played up that you know are coming in the next movie, it’s subtle and well done, and makes waiting a whole year for the final movie unbearable.

The Desolation of Smaug proudly destroys any unease the first film caused viewers. Dynamic acting, fast and furious fight scenes, and plenty of plot building, this movie soars both literally and figuratively.

The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug Review
"The Desolation of Smaug" brings the series back to where it belongs, in the realm of action and great storytelling that'll leave you wishing the next movie was coming out tomorrow.
Positives
  • Smaug!
  • Fantastic Cast Showing Off Fanstastic Characters
  • Many Memorable Scenes
Cons
  • Some Effects Could Have Been Better
  • Love Story Was Lovely...But Also Predictable
4.5Overall Score
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