The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug (2013) Poster

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The Desolation of Culture
Robert Dawson26 December 2013
Warning: Spoilers
I watched this film for entertainment. I had no expectations. I don't mind if a director deviates from their source material, provided that the film works. However, I felt, as I watched, as if someone was patting my back, and picking my pockets.

There are some beautiful scenes: butterflies flying from the treetops of Mirkwood, Smaug gradually revealing himself, etc. Nevertheless, the visual virtuosity is wasted, because the scenes have no emotional impact. The characters are undeveloped, and barely interact with each other. There is no tension, no texture, no warmth. The story feels as fake as the over-the-top special effects.

The screenplay is insultingly bad by any standard. If you consider that it was adapted from the masterpiece of a world-class philologist, it's a crime against culture.

If I had to summarize the film, I would call it a juvenile, tasteless, video game-like action sequence. Take the barrel riders scene. A dwarf rolls along the shore in a barrel, knocking orcs off the screen, exactly like in the Donkey Kong Country games. Meanwhile, Legolas and Tauriel, in god mode, with unlimited arrows, and a perfect aim, are slaughtering hundreds of orcs. I felt my brain cells dying as I watched.

In conclusion, I left the theatre feeling violated. The film, to an even greater extent than its predecessor, embraces three things I despise about Hollywood: catering to the lowest common denominator, showcasing special effects at the expense of storytelling, and blatantly treating filmmaking as a business rather than as high art.
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Truly Dreadful
Chris Chris12 May 2014
Warning: Spoilers
I am a big fan of LOTR and whilst I thought AUJ was poor, I was willing to let that one go as a blip. With that in mind I had high hopes for TDOS which appeared from the trailer to be darker and grittier that the first instalment.

Unfortunately, what was presented was an absolute shambles. The plot is truly terrible and a mere shadow of the original book; the HFR 3D serves to visualise most of the film as a cheap, made-for-TV soap opera; there is virtually no character development and the CGI fight scenes are so bad it's just laughable.

In AUJ I found HFR 3D passable. It didn't distract me too much and maybe even enhanced parts of the film. However, in this instalment it was awful. The very first scene is almost unwatchable it's so bad and this is a theme that continues throughout most of the film. The character closeups are like watching a badly made TV show with all the limitations of costume and make-up clearly visible and the large-scale CGI scenes are like watching a computer game intro sequence. It just does not work.

The plot is only loosely based on the book. The great character of Beorn is just glossed over and the gorgeous Murk Wood is presented as a mere triviality. I was looking forward to a sinister spider scene but all that we got was some Disney-style nonsense that was not in the least bit scary.

The entire thing is conducted as if a child has written it... "...and then the dwarfs go into beorn's house and then beorn tries to kill them and then he's not bothered and then he hates them and then he doesn't and then we're bored of beorn and then they go to murk wood and then gandalf goes to find the necromancer and we don't really know what that is or why but just cos and then there are spiders and then the dwarfs are stuck in the webs and then they're not stuck anymore and then they box the spiders and win and then some really really good looking elves come along and one of them is legolas and he's not really a wood elf but we'll just pretend he is cos he's really really good looking and the other elf girl who's really really good looking gets the hots for one of the dwarfs erm yeah erm hmm and that probably seems a bit weird so then the dwarf tells her a story about the moon and then and then..."

And now for the the fight scenes. Oh my god. Please just stop it. Please. If I see Legolas surfing around like some deranged beach bum with a bow and arrow one more time I think I'll throw up in the theatre. "Pathetic" doesn't even begin to describe the nonsense that is on display here.

And why, when PJ or GDT or whoever started saying "... and then the dwarfs bait Smaug into lighting the furnaces and then hundreds of tons of solid gold melts in a few seconds and then the gold is made into a giant gold dwarf and then the giant gold dwarf splurges all over Smaug and then that's pointless anyway cos Smaug just shakes it off and then Smaug doesn't want to kill the dwarfs anymore just cos and then Smaug just flies off instead..." did someone not just stand up and slap whoever it was very hard in the face and say: "No. In then name of Gondor, I will not let you defile the work of the great Tolkien such"?
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Decent fantasy-action slightly inspired by The Hobbit
tlotr_tloz12 December 2013
Warning: Spoilers
Most reviews will tell you what's so great about this movie and why it's worth watching, but I figured you should hear the other side of the story.

First of all a small note for Tolkien fans. If you thought An Unexpected Journey strayed a bit too far from the book: The Desolation of Smaug looks like the script writers didn't even know there was a book. The movie tries hard to change the story wherever it can, reducing fan-favorite chapters to 5 minute scenes and writing new content that feels out of place.

But it's not only bad if you've read the book. I really wonder what the target audience is, because it feels like it's written for 15 year old boys. There are random action scenes every 10 minutes and 'funny' decapitations every 30. The worst thing here is that the action comes at the cost of character development. You have a band of 13 Dwarfs and a Hobbit, yet you rarely see them interact.

Now I like Elves more than Dwarfs, so I didn't mind seeing so much of them in this movie. But having them show up in every place to save the day feels wrong. Perhaps Peter Jackson thought his cast of Dwarfs wasn't good enough to create an enjoyable movie? Gandalf's scenes in Dol Guldur were an interesting addition in concept, but they are just too slow. I feel his scenes mostly serve as an attempt to raise The Hobbit to The Lord of the Rings' level of epicness. And that just doesn't work.

The story is full of illogicalities. How does entering the mountain to steal the Arkenstone to unite the Dwarfs to kill the Dragon to enter the mountain work exactly?? And remember that heartwarming last scene of An Unexpected Journey, where Thorin finally accepts Bilbo? Well, that's all gone again. Even though he keeps outsmarting all the Dwarfs, Bilbo is back to being an unappreciated 5th wheel of the party. And did the writers really think viewers would be so desperate for a love story that they'd enjoy an Elf and a Dwarf flirting it up? Their scenes feel forced and are painful to watch.

Martin Freeman's acting is top notch again, but sadly he hardly gets any screen time. He only shines in his scene with Smaug. Now Smaug as a character is awesome, no complaints there. Yet most of his scenes are way too dragged out. There's a 20 minute scene with the Dwarfs running around thinking they can defeat him. Only at that point the movie already hinted at the only possible way of defeating him. Perhaps the worst aspect is that these scenes make Smaug look like an unintelligent creature. Dwarfs luring a Dragon around by going "Nana-nanana you can't catch me!" is not only silly and cliché, it's an insult to Smaug's character.

Final complaint: the whole movie builds up to a scene.... that's apparently going to be the opening scene of movie 3. Nobody in the cinema was sure if the movie had ended, or there was just an awkwardly long pause when the screen went black.

A movie like this you'll want to see, no matter how good or bad it is. You can't miss out on such a huge release, especially when it looks gorgeous in HFR 3D. But where I watched each Lord of the Rings movie 3 times in cinema, watching The Desolation of Smaug just once was enough for me.

In the end, most problems of the movie seem to stem from the decision to turn the cute Hobbit tale into three epic movies that have to live up to the Lord of the Rings hype. It doesn't work.
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ericm45 January 2014
Warning: Spoilers
Tolkien's works mean a great deal to me. I spent my childhood reading and rereading The Hobbit, the Lord of the Rings, and whatever else I could get my hands on published posthumously. The Hobbit is a gentle story. Bilbo, with some help from Gandalf and the Dwarfs, is able to accomplish amazing things, despite his small size, because of his luck, wits, and strength of character. The other characteristic of the book is the vastness, diversity, and beauty of the world, filling one with curiosity for what is just around the corner, but also taking just enough time to linger a while in every place.

These Hobbit movies don't linger, characters and scenes are abridged in all the wrong places in order to make time for pervasive and repetitive chase scenes. Even where there isn't a chase scene, they are added. Jackson seems to have taken every scene in the book and asked the question "how can I make this into a battle/chase scene?" Bilbo's power and strengths, are greatly usurped in this film by the intervention of Legolas saving the day each time. Beorn is truncated. The magic and mystery of Mirkwood is particularly lacking. The gentle escape from the elves in the barrels is turned into a farce obviously designed to tie in with a future theme park ride.

Don't see the films nor allow children to see them before reading the books. You should exercise your brains and imagination, creating the images yourself, rather than letting someone else imagine for you, causing you to be stuck with the images from these mediocre films.

Jackson seems to know nothing of the poetry of the book, of mythological archetypes, language and history, nor the unique, gentle fantastic quality of Tolkien's work. Its very sad.
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Miraculously unkillable elves fight endlessly with badly CGI-d orcs
Sapphire Blue6 January 2014
Warning: Spoilers
A large proportion of the film is over-taken with elf-orc fight scenes: two elves that aren't even in the book manage to heroically slaughter hundreds of orcs in scenes that aren't in the book.

The ridiculous 'not in the book' love interest between the female not-in-book elf and dwarf culminates in her healing him from a wound that didn't happen in the book, which separates him from the others (again, not in book) using magical powers that it is really unlikely she would have even if she did exist as only a tiny number of elves have that power.

Then at the end, in more 'not from the book' drama, it would seem that hiding behind a sliver of stone will shield people completely from nearby dragon-fire. DRAGON FIRE which apparently doesn't get you if you turn the corner or jump off the cliff in the nick of time.

This lies at the heart of what is wrong with this film, it is trying to turn the Hobbit into an action movie complete with totally unbelievable escapes from danger. This is (theoretically) based on a children's book, it should be more Narnia and less LOTR. Just because they are in the same world should not make this a prequel to LOTR.

Also, all of this inserted stuff really grates and is mostly boring as it has no substance. I don't believe films have to slavishly follow the book but any changes should be justified and these most definitely are not.

Finally, the new bits are given precedence over the actual story and original content. How can they turn a single book into three films and yet cut-down or skip or rush through loads of really good bits from the book? How can they expand the fake characters at length and yet the real characters are barely used? Only a couple of the dwarfs are even distinguishable from each other.

No real attempt has been made to dramatise or flesh out the Hobbit book at all. This is a completely different film. And not even a good one.
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Everything wrong with film in one endless CGI nightmare.
thomasshahbaz18 August 2014
I would never normally watch a film of this genre, let alone review it, but I had a soft spot for the LOTR films (and the book of the Hobbit... never liked the LOTR books), and enjoyed the first Hobbit film. Well! This film is a perfect manifestation of why American (and I mean that in terms of the capitalism-inspired film factory rather than the nationality) cinema is risible and pathetic. Here's a list of why: 1) Awful CGI throughout. Not a single shot doesn't look like some sort of teenage boy's x-box wet dream. 2) Terrible, boring dialogue. I neither understood, nor cared about, what the hell anyone was talking about or the apparent "plot". 3) The film consists of: dwarfs run to a huge set piece and are besieged by CGI baddies, none of which are remotely original; dwarfs run to another massive set piece (all of which look like some sort of fantasy mini-golf world or look like they've been stolen from earlier films such as Pan's Labyrinth). 4) Pisspoor acting all round. Even Sir Ian is over-acting, probably trying to lend some sort of gravitas to this cash cow. 5) Crap music: couldn't be arsed to come up with anything new? 6) Whatever this new HFR thing is meant to be, it looks AWFUL. The heightened colours only serve to make everything look like plastic. This is expounded by the constant use throughout the film of the swirly filter akin to something from Photoshop. Zzzzzzz.

I actually gave up concentrating when someone said "Yeah, I told him to go..(something in Elvish... "get a real job" perhaps?). This reminded me of the "Game Over" line in one of the LOTR films: totally out of place and designed to make the film appeal to morons. STOP FUNDING THIS RUBBISH! Put the money to better use.
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The word you're looking for is "reimagining"
H K Fauskanger11 December 2013
I won't "review" the content of the movie in any detail, but provide some thoughts about how this film should be approached. I consider myself a Tolkienist (in fact I saw this movie on opening night because I secured a promotion deal with the local cinema: I spent four hours until midnight writing people's names in Elvish writing!) It is to be expected that many fans of of the original book will perceive this movie as a bloated, garbled monster version of the written story they loved. It is important to realize, before going in, that this is not simply "the movie of the book". This is Jackson's The Hobbit, not Tolkien's, and they are best appreciated as independent works. They represent different media, come from different centuries, and have partly different target audiences. The children's book was written before Tolkien had any idea of the grand trilogy to follow; Jackson had already produced his Lord of the Rings trilogy and somewhat understandably tries to make the prequels resemble it, in tone and scope.

One could argue that Jackson's Hobbit trilogy, when complete, will set up the LotR film trilogy far better than Tolkien's simple children's book sets up the literary LotR. (The change in tone from children's book to grand epic is VERY pronounced, even grating for those who try to read The Hobbit after finishing LotR.) Incidentally, Jackson's prequel trilogy apparently will not spoil the LotR trilogy the way the Star Wars prequels give away important plot points of the original movies. When finished, Jackson's six Middle-earth movies can be profitably watched in sequence of internal chronology.

To be sure, Jackson's Hobbit trilogy is "based on" the 1930s children's book in the sense that the characters have the same names and visit much the same places in somewhat the same order (though new characters and places are also added). Their basic motivations are also the same. But beyond that, one should not expect much "fidelity". There is hardly anything that isn't greatly embellished and vastly elaborated, mostly so as to allow for a FAR darker tone and MUCH more fantasy action (i.e., fights). The spiders of Mirkwood here approach actual horror, as compared to their rather more children-friendly literary counterparts (where we have Bilbo insulting them with silly "Attercop" rhymes).

The wizards' conflict with the Necromancer of Dol Guldur, which in the book happens entirely "offscreen" and is just briefly alluded to when Gandalf has returned near the end, is here actually shown. This is understandable; Gandalf would otherwise be completely absent for much of this movie. Also, Jackson's audience will already know that this is the start of the war with Sauron, and the all-important Dark Lord could not well be ignored. Tolkien in his letters noted how Sauron casts just "a fleeting shadow" over the pages of The Hobbit; in Jackson's movie the shadow is darker and deeper.

Entire new subplots are freely created and added to the story. The Elf Tauriel and her unlikely infatuation with one of the Dwarfs is clearly meant to add a love story where the book has none, and have at least ONE strong female character (no concern of Tolkien's when he wrote a story for children in the 1930s).

The continued survival of ALL the protagonists despite their endless brushes with death doesn't just strain credibility -- it utterly and completely banishes and eliminates credibility. We are left with FANTASY action in the truest sense, to be enjoyed for choreography, not plausibility. If cats have nine lives, a Jacksonian Dwarf clearly enjoys a three-digit number of lives.

So, viewed as an independent work, is this a good movie? Technically it is nothing short of brilliant, full of detail that can only be appreciated on the big screen. Smaug is, hands down, the best-designed movie dragon the world has yet seen. If I were a teenager instead of a ripe old 42, this wealth of fantasy action would probably have exited me no end. It is nice to see Legolas again, even if he is not in the book. I liked the sequences with the amorphous Sauron. Poor Evangeline Lily would however look better without those silly ears, which are simply too big and look just as fake as they are. Also, I'm not sure the hinted-at Elf-Dwarf romance adds much to the story. All things considered, I'll award Jackson's re-imagined "The Hobbit" seven stars.

There were also seven stars in Durin's crown, for those of you who can understand the literary allusion ...
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Terrible is an understatement
Peter Nielsen31 March 2014
Warning: Spoilers
Everything that i loved about the original trilogy is gone. How can one make such a bad movie... i don't even know what to say but everything is wrong with this movie, visual effects, direction and story. If you have read the book you will be disappointed. The movie has loss of balance, too much action and no character development. Legolas wasn't even in the book neither was Tauriel which Peter Jackson came up with. The dragon was cool though but that is all i can say i liked about the movie. Two hobbit movies would have been enough to tell the story from the book, i mean just look at the harry potter movies compared to the books, they are just brilliant. The movie is brainless and rushed which is a shame as i've been so excited for the "The Hobbit Movies". I really hope the last one is made with care because it really deserves it.
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The Desolation of CGI - the Hobbit trilogy continues to disappoint
lornloxor11 December 2013
Warning: Spoilers
I saw the movie in 2D because I hated the 3D HFR in the first Hobbit movie. I thought the HFR just made the movie sets look like sets instead of being part of the movie universe. I much preferred the 2D experience here and it was easier for me to try to immerse myself in the movie. Regrettably there were too many things that were wrong with the movie for me to achieve that.

This movie had a budget of something like 200 million dollars, over double that of any of the individual movies of the original trilogy. Where did all that money go? To that mostly horrid CGI? There was just bloody too much of it like in the first movie. Everything looks so damn fake with the CGI slammed front and center with no artistic attempt to hide its shortcomings. For example, when Legolas starts chasing Bolg out of Laketown, even his horse is made with CGI. Why? Couldn't you afford to rent one horse? The orcs were mostly made with CGI and they weren't menacing in the slightest. The few scenes with actual actors with makeup playing the orcs were far superior. Erebor looked quite good in general with its mountains of coins and treasures but the melted gold looked unbelievably bad. Many of the actual sets in the movie were very well done and I'm really puzzled why they didn't use them more. The CGI in LOTR looked far more convincing and epic, the large establishing shots looked like grand paintings come alive. What happened here? I don't get it. It felt like I was watching a video game and I don't want to feel that way when I'm watching a movie. Granted, the original trilogy did have a bit of silly looking CGI here and there but at least it was constantly grounded by real sets.

There was also some really weird editing here too. The movie is already way too long and they still include absolutely pointless scenes. For example, when Gandalf is climbing the stairs by the mountain and the ledge gives up, the movie suddenly cuts to a sweeping shot of the mountain side. Why not just stay with Gandalf, it would provide more intensity. There's many examples like this. In Mirkwood when Bilbo is snapping at the spider web they shouldn't zoom deep into the web with the camera. Stuff like this tells nothing and adds nothing to the film. This also takes time away from the character development. When one of the dwarfs oversleeps and misses the boat to Erebor, I couldn't even remember who he was and why I should care that he was stranded in Laketown. Also, the most puzzling and distracting choice in the movie was using that weird POV camera footage in the barrel scenes, it looked so utterly different that it took me out of the movie completely.

The action could've been cut down significantly too. There was no real context or meaning for most of it anyway. Also, after Legolas has killed his umpteenth orc in yet another physics-breaking and miraculous way, you simply lose interest. He can apparently do anything. My feeling is that in the original trilogy the "laws of physics" so to say were merely bent somewhat, here they're completely shattered. All of this may sound nitpicky but I'm essentially doing this because the movie didn't get me emotionally invested in it in a positive way at all.

The movie wasn't particularly funny either despite its lighthearted source material, I laughed much more heartily in many parts of the original trilogy. The Gimli joke was quite funny though. There was also absolutely no memorable music in this movie and none of it moved me like much of the music did in the original trilogy. I didn't get shivers at any point of the movie.

It wasn't all bad or mediocre though. Smaug was magnificent and Benedict Cumberbatch did a great job voice acting the dragon, definitely something to witness in a theater. Smaug's discussions with Bilbo were also great. Gandalf's venture into Dol Guldur was also interesting though that is mainly because Ian McKellen is such a fine actor that he can catch your attention with ease. The cameos by Peter Jackson in the beginning eating the carrot and by Stephen Colbert as the Laketown spy were fun even though I think they might've been too distracting had I loved the movie. The pacing in the movie is a bit of a mixed bag. The first movie had bad pacing because it was overly long without anything really happening. Desolation of Smaug swings the pendulum to the other end with endless action sequences pasted after another. Sure it's more exciting to watch but it was dearly missing some slower sequences to digest everything.

I'm a massive fan of the original trilogy but the first two Hobbit movies simply haven't captured the epicness and magic of those movies at all. And if the Hobbit wasn't intended to feel epic, then why make it into three movies? There's also something else I don't get. The original movie trilogy adaptation established what the LOTR universe looked and felt like. Is the Hobbit trilogy still supposed to happen in that same universe? I didn't ever feel like anyone was in any serious danger because they survive crazier and crazier encounters after the next and because of that there's no tension. This wasn't the case with the originals. Huge spiders were very dangerous in LOTR, here Bilbo is just killing them off left and right. I just wish they'd taken much more liberties with the material and really placed this story into the grittier universe that was established by the original trilogy. Or maybe they should've done something completely different instead of trying to imitate the originals and coming short of them. Anything but this.
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If you are a fan of Tolkien you will be disappointed
Patrick Wittman16 December 2013
Warning: Spoilers
This movie is so far from the story found in the book that Peter Jackson wouldn't have needed to get the rights from the Tolkien estate. I disagree with many of the naysayers who think this shouldn't have been turned into a three part series. There is plenty of story, action, and character development in the book to make three reasonable length films. The issue with how Jackson has handled this "adaptation" is that they have truncated most of the important elements to the original story simply so they could make up drawn out action scenes for the sake of action.

The film immediately came off the rails in what should have been the queer lodgings chapter. I was fully expecting another fun scene like An Unexpected Party; where Gandalf lures Beorn into letting a company of Dwarfs stay in his house. What we get is a rushed scene where the entire company barrels their way into his barn-ish house fleeing from Beorn and locking him out of his own house. Then without explanation Beorn is fine with all the dwarfs piled in his house just because he hates orcs more then he hates dwarfs. This was one of my favorite scenes in the book and I was really disappointed with how awful it was done.

Next we get to the edge of Mirkwood where Gandalf seems to suddenly discover he needs to go to the south. In the book you get the impression that Gandalf with his great foresight planned to leave the party at the edge of the forest long before they got there. With Gandalf gone the rest of the company immediately become a bunch of morons who simply get lost in stupidity. The entirety of Mirkwood takes them less than 15min to traverse which really kills the feeling that it's a great and massive forest. There was no black river, not once did Bilbo say attercot to taunt the spiders while luring them away from the dwarfs. The Elves come in to save the day killing the spiders and then take the company of dwarfs to their prison cells. No twinkling lanterns, no fires in little glades that go poof when Bilbo or a dwarf tries to approach.

They are in and out of the Elvin prison in the blink of an eye with no sense of time that it took Bilbo to wander around learning his way around, scrounging for food and concocting his plan to escape. All of this was rushed through so we could have another action sequence of orcs chasing the party while elves chased them both but kinda helping the party of dwarfs. It makes no sense. Something that should have been done in a few cuts got extended to a 5min+ action sequence so they can show off their CGI.

I could go on, but I'll skip ahead to the last part that never happens in the book. The last 15 minutes of the film is a drawn out action sequence of the Dwarfs and Bilbo battling Smaug inside the Lonely Mountain. In the book the Dwarfs never engage Smaug at all. The long straight secret tunnel leading to the hidden door is not long or straight at all in the film. To top it all off, the ending was cut as Smaug is flying away toward Lake Town. There is no battle, no burning of the city, no Smaug getting shot in the breast by Bard and thus falling into the lake causing it to billow up in a cloud of steam.

In summary this is not The Hobbit. It is some film that Peter Jackson made up as he went along with what (conservatively) is less than 40% parts of the books story. If you are a fan of Tolkien you will undoubtedly be let down by this excuse of a movie.

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