The Desolation of Smaug, Part 2 in Peter Jackson’s The Hobbit trilogy, gives us more of the same with a really cool dragon added in to keep us watching for the full 161 minutes. There were so many pointless plot threads added to this movie (I presume to make it long enough to be a trilogy) that I won’t even try to give a full plot summary. Instead, I will mention only the heart of the story, which is the only part that is really interesting (and happens to be what is more or less in the book). This is simply the storyline about a group of dwarves, along with Bilbo Baggins, trying to reclaim their homeland by sneaking into The Lonely Mountain and stealing … something from a really nasty dragon.
I LIKED the dragon. I think this movie captured Tolkien’s vision for Smaug quite well. This doesn’t surprise me too much because Peter Jackson and crew are at their best when they are creating and directing CG beasts and monsters. The whole movie in fact is a feast for the eyes with incredible settings, monsters, and outrageous actions scenes that mix actors with computer imagery so flawlessly it’s hard to imagine that what you’re watching is not real.
I DID NOT LIKE the overly long scenes of peril where dwarves and hobbit run for their lives from all sorts of evil creatures, escaping with nary a scratch. These are the scenes that reminded me too much of the first movie. They worked then, because it was all still new. But, now the newness is gone and scenes that are supposed to be suspenseful are becoming humorous. That’s because we all know by now that nobody in this band of short heroes will get killed. Therefore, there is no real danger despite the incredible special effects.
And then there is Legolis, everyone’s favorite character from The Lord of the Rings trilogy. It’s a great idea to bring him into these movies, what with the miracle of makeup and all, but why does he have to be turned into Superman? He does so many incredible stunts in this movie, I was wondering if Peter Jackson has made a deal with DC Comics to make him the newest addition to their upcoming movie, The Justice League. Somewhere around Legolis’ 5th incredible stunt (out of 30?) I was rolling my eyes and saying, “Give me a break.”
My last criticism, and probably the most important of all, is the lack of character development in this movie. The first Hobbit movie worked because of the character arc of Bilbo Baggins. We empathized with him as he went from a mild-mannered hobbit who only wanted his peaceful life at home with his books and his food, to a courageous burglar and indispensable part of the dwarve team. In Desolation of Smaug, there is none of that growth for Biblo. I’m hard pressed to come up with any character growth here that was even half as interesting. We were given a budding romance between dwarve Kili and elve Tauriel, that holds promise, but otherwise, there was way too much running from bad guys and not enough character development for me.
Because of the lack of character development, I think Desolation of Smaug is aimed mostly at the kids, but I cannot recommend it to the younger ones. The special effects are so realistic that I am concerned that kids will get lots of nightmares from what they see. There is also lots and lots of
violence including heads being chopped off and bodies being stabbed and sliced that happens so fast that it almost seems cartoonish. But, again I caution parents because the special effects are so good, that the violence borders on gruesome.
If you love fantasy movies with great special effects, rent it and have a good time. If you are a fan of the book or Tolkien in general, you may enjoy Desolation of Smaug if you don’t mind the liberties Peter Jackson has taken with the plot, but then again, you might come away cursing the name of Peter Jackson for ruining a work of literary art. My suggestion for everyone is to read the book The Hobbit by J.R.R. Tolkien. You can’t go wrong with that.