Movie Review: The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug

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When we left our Dwarvish company last movie, they had just escaped a near death battle with the Orc of Azog. Next of their quest, they have to go through the dark and sick trail of kirkwood forest. A journey most dangerous filled with Spiders, wood elves, and the orcs from which they are always fleeing. Incredibly they make it through together but not without injury. They keep on though, thanks to the handy work of their burglar Bilbo Baggins.

They continue past Laketown, and finally arrive at the secret door- revealed only on Durin’s Day. Bilbo again, finds the way in, and is sent to fetch the Arkenstone from the lair of the dragon. He is given one warning- Do not wake it, for if you do, desolation shall come upon us all.

Things I Liked

One of my favorite parts in the film, was actually an addition from the original story. Gandalf goes to the ruins where the evil has been spawning. As a wizard, his task given by the highest good being, Eru, is to stop this evil. As he goes into the ruins, he instantly sees a spell of illusion has been cast. And instantly removes the evil, by commanding it to. To see such a clear message of how supernatural good has complete power over the evil was a great thing to behold. Gandalf also had to choose his duty over going with his dwarfish friends. We saw him torn, but ultimately choose to do what he was sent to do.

We see many people in the movie act in commendable ways. Beorn, the skinshifter, doesn’t like dwarves- but doesn’t like Orcs more. Because of this, his displays generosity and provides the dwarves food and transportation to aid them in their quest. Bard also, takes the dwarves in and protects them from the lake town laws. He then cares for one which is injured.

Bilbo’s courage is astounding to see, and we see him change from a sniveling pitiful person, to one no longer afraid to look evil in the face and try to conquer it. He submits to Thorin’s authority, but saves the skin of the dwarves several times. He is also battling with the evil of the ring he found in the tunnels. Giving into it, but then afterwards, realizing the power that it has.

Dwarves don’t have many strong suits, but they do have two commendable ones: Loyalty and Honor.  We see the dwarves work together in ways of battle, transportation, and love for each other. They would never betray one another, even though they scuffle and bicker quite often. When one dwarf has to be left behind on account of an injury, the pain felt in leaving the group is evident in ways more than just not going on an adventure.

The Arkenstone has been said to poison the mind with greed and lust for more. We see Thorin begin to give into this, and this greed is warned against by past example, and how it affects your interaction with others. Nothing good comes from love of jewels and treasure, that much is clear.

I’m sure we all had a picture of Smaug in our mind as kids. A terrible beast who’s size was not to be matched. Well, take comfort in the fact that Smaug is shown everything you dreamed him to be and more. A terrible beast cunning, ruthless, and beautiful. The voice, movements, and actions are incredibly close to perfect. Perhaps the best things of the movie artist wise, is the creation of Smaug.

Things I Didn’t Like

I didn’t like it in the book, and I didn’t like it here. The Spider scene creeps me out, I’m not going to lie. Giant arachnids pounce on and hang all the dwarves up for snacks. Bilbo manages to get free, and some Spider vs. Dwarf mayhem ensues. The scene is no so much terrible in terms of the death of the spiders, but rather how frightening the spiders are. There are some well placed “Gotcha” moments, which will make you jump quite a bit.

While the Dwarvish death toll is nonexistent, we see hundreds of orcs dispatched by the elves and orcs. Orcs have no souls, no goodness, no chance at redemption- so their deaths did not bother me- as one may argue they are not even “alive” at all. Rather, they are robotic monsters created by the darkness to do one thing- kill. What did bother me, again, was the gruesomeness of the creatures and dwelling upon gory butcherings. It was hyped to a level which felt sensationalized and irrational. Unlike in the original LOTR where the focus was not on the battles, but rather, how people behaved in them. This movie seems to focus on “How many ways can we kill an Orc?”. It was unnecessary to the extreme they made it in my opinion.

Thorin curses at the elf and tells him he can go <insert dwarvish word> himself. We also hear him murmur a curse at the sight of burned and mummified dwarves.

Perhaps my biggest gripe about the changes done in The Hobbit, is bringing Legolas into the film, and introducing a love interest- Tauriel, Legolas, and Kili love triangle. What is implied is hard to figure out exactly. What I do know, is this is pure hollywood “love” addition, with a bit of fan-girl Legolas addition to grab some more viewers. They don’t even add to the plot in any way. They just kill orcs mainly. Tauriel does save the life of a dwarf the same way Frodo was saved from a morgul blade. Other than that… not much.

Other Things To Be Aware Of

Be aware, this tale is not the tale which you and I read from Mr. J.R.R. Tolkien. It contains the same characters, but rarely follows the original story as to how exactly things happen. It would take an incredibly long amount of time to list them all, so I will focus on just a few. To be honest, I enjoyed the deviations. Why? Because while the journey changed, the personality of the characters were the same. The humble courage of Bilbo is not lost. The passion of Thorin is unchanged.

That being said, the continued development of the Orc Azog and the necromancer, the introduction and fleeing of the wood elves, the introduction to Beorn, the arriving at lake town, Ragadast and Gandalf’s fight against the evil,  and even the confrontation with the dragon are all changed from the original. I imagine this movie to be the Hobbit after Tolkien completed the Silmarillion. With explanations as to why and what many things are.

Closing Thoughts

Where does your journey end? You seek that which would bestow upon you the right to rule. A quest to reclaim a homeland, and slay a dragon!

The second of the Three part Hobbit Trilogy, Desolation of Smaug brings the likes of which we have never seen in the classic tale. This is not purist in any form of the book. So don’t go expecting as such. This story has been taken by Peter Jackson, and he put his touch on it. In every way imaginable.

Ultimately whether you agree or disagree with this, comes from how much of a purist you are and what kind of adaptations you enjoy. This one strays from the story, but the characters are the same in the book. We all know the book was better, but frankly folks, this isn’t the book. Oh sure, it has the same people acting according to their created personalities by Tolkien… But the story is so different it is like an alternate reality. I for one, enjoyed it.

Story changes aside, this movie captures everything Lord of The Rings has come to represent. The clash between good and evil is exposed. The good overcomes where it is given power, and we know what eventually happens to those evil beings. We find the dwarves growing in camaraderie, but also becoming susceptible to the greed of the mountain. We see them struggle against this, so that they may indeed defeat the Dragon below.

And then we have Bilbo. The hobbit who faces a legion of spiders, frees the hobbits from elvish prison, and speaks to the dragon face to face. He grows immensely into a person who is no longer afraid of evil.

And that’s what, ultimately, The Hobbit is about. A quest to destroy evil. While not yet completed, Dwarvish steps have been taken, with error and flaw just like the rest of us, to rid the world of that evil. So while the way they get to that end is in no way matching of the original book, the messages are the same, and expounded upon in a method which in some ways, is more potent than the original book can claim. The book is better, no doubt- but when is it isn’t? By expounding on the original masterpiece of Tolkien, Peter Jackson has created a masterpiece himself. A masterpiece full of what we expect, and a healthy serving of changed in the mix, without straying form the main course.

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3 thoughts on “Movie Review: The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug

  1. I have yet to see this instalment, though I will. But I do wonder about these movies, actually. I’m a huge Tolkien fan and the whole LOTR trilogy, etc, were all made in the city I ;live in – Wellington NZ. The Hobbit has been under wraps pretty much but LOTR was filmed publicly – the quarry they used for the Helms Deep/Minas Tirith set was really obvious, it was only 50 metres from a major road.. There’s no doubt about the benefits Jackson’s film-making have brought to the area – economically, in terms of employment so on. Can’t complain. But I also can’t help thinking that The Hobbit has been made into something it absolutely wasn’t. The original book was a kids’ story – specifically, the hero journey, in fact – and not too epic in the greater scheme of things. Jackson has turned it into an epic, and to me it’s an ill fit. We’ll see; I may revise that judgement after seeing the second movie.

    • Hey Matthew, thanks for your comment. I definitely agree with you thinking in that the Hobbit movie has been completely changed into something the book is not. In some ways, this is disappointing, and in others it is enjoyable to see Peter Jackson tell a story based off these characters.

      One thing I am noticing, you mentioned you were a Tolkien fan, is various references to the book “Silmarillion”. I know several people beginning to take a look at that book and the original hobbit because of these films, so while the movie isn’t cannon in any way shape or form. I like the fact it is so immersed in LOTR mythology that it is inspiring new readers to pick up Tolkien’s books. :)

      • The Silmarillion would work brilliantly as a series of epic movies! Though I believe Christopher Tolkien will not sell the film rights to it, which means we might have to wait until 2043 when the material goes out of copyright…

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