Movie Review: The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug

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When we get to the middle of the road, there are two things that are for certain.  There is the road behind us that leads back to the beginning, and the road ahead of us that leads all the way to the end.

With Bilbo Baggins being one year into his unexpected journey,   he was right in the middle of it.  The road ahead led to the Lonely Mountain.  To Erebor, where the lost treasure lay.  The Arkenstone.  The heirloom from the ancestral line of Durin, great Dwarven king of Erebor.  The company consisted of twelve dwarves, with Thorin, son of Thráin, son of Thrór leading the way.  Accompanying them was Gandalf the Grey (a wizard) and Bilbo Baggins (the burglar).  The treasure of Erebor was guarded by an old and crafty dragon named Smaug.  The road behind Bilbo led back to The Shire.  And this point, it was too late to go back.

And at this point, why would he?  Having found the Ring, Bilbo’s life was changed forever.  He also promised the dwarves that he would help them reclaim Erebor and get their home back.

But the countdown begins.  Being on the chase from a horde of  Orcs, Bilbo and company need to open the door to the Lonely Mountain before the end of Durin’s Day.  From there, Bilbo must infiltrate the mountain and steal back the Arkenstone from Smaug, who sleeps deep in the mountain, buried in piles of gold coins.  This is the premise of The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug, the long awaited second part in the trilogy released by Warner Bros. Pictures and MGM Studios.

As we already know, Tolkien is the master behind this masterpiece, but Peter Jackson is the director that is bringing his vision to life.   But how does he deal with The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug?  Is the movie  a victorious masterpiece or a desolation doomed to decline in piles of burning rock and smog?  Let’s find out.

The movie begins in a dark and stormy backdrop, with Thorin (Richard Armitage) meeting Gandalf (Sir Ian McKellen) at the Prancing Pony in the town of Bree.  Gandalf tells him clearly.  There is a bounty on Thorin’s head and the orcs want him dead.  He then convinces him that a burglar would be needed to steal back the Arkenstone from Smaug.

After that, the plot shifts to one year later, where we are right after the end from the previous movie.  Bilbo (Martin Freeman) and company are on the run from a band of orcs, led by Azog (Manu Bennett), their leader.  Bilbo’s party seeks refuge in Beorn’s (Mikael Persbrandt) house.  Beorn, being a skin-changer, despises dwarves.  But he despises orcs even more.  For that reason, he helped them out and protected them with his giant bear form.

Using Beorn’s house, the party makes their way to Mirkwood.  At this point, Gandalf sees some Black Speech graffiti on an old ruin and receives a telepathic message from Galadriel (Cate Blanchett) to go and check it out.  Gandalf leaves the party, and Bilbo and company get lost.   They encounter some giant spiders in Mirkwood and were rescued and imprisoned by Wood Elves.  All except for Bilbo, who was invisible because of the Ring that he had on.

With all the dwaves captured, how will Bilbo rescue them?  Will Thorin and the dwarves unlock the door to the Lonely Mountain before the end of Durin’s Day?  And what about Smaug?  Will Bilbo be able to steal the Arkenstone from him?  Watch the movie and find out.

The length of the movie was completely understandable, and I thought that the plot progressed pretty smoothly.  With almost three hours to work with, that was plenty of time to get to the Lonely Mountain and Bilbo’s encounter with Smaug.  The music was pretty good, although there wasn’t really anything noteworthy like the previous movie.  The cliffhanger was agonizing, making me want the next movie to release immediately, so that I know how it turns out.  (Really.  The cliffhanger was that sudden.)  I know how it ends.  I just don’t know how Jackson’s version is going to end.

Getting to the characters, they were all portrayed faithfully as they were in the book.  There’s Bilbo, Gandalf and the dwarves from the last movie.  Smaug is what made the movie for me.  There was the inclusion of a new character named Tauriel (Evangeline Lilly), which I will discuss a little bit later.  Legolas (Orlando Bloom) too, was oddly present.  Odd inclusions aside, I thought that all the other characters were portrayed well.

The movie had a great number of nitpicks.  So many that I could write a book on them.  The first one is the one that I hated the most.  It was the inclusion of Tauriel in the movie.  Nowhere in The Hobbit OR Lord of the Rings universe is there a She-Elf named Tauriel!  Alongside Tauriel was Legolas, who had no place in the movie at all.  He was not even in The Hobbit so he shouldn’t be in the movie.  Another thing that confused me was Gandalf going to Dol Guldur.  He never goes there in the book!  The dwarf Kili never gets injured and there is never a scene where he gets healed by a She-elf that doesn’t exist in Tolkien’s universe.  In Tolkien’s universe, there is no Ancient Elvish that I know of.  For Elvish languages, only Sindarin and Quenyan exist.  Some other changes were added in Jackson’s director’s cut that didn’t exist in the book.  This included no lids on the barrels when they were traversing the river (fish was added later on the boat),  Azog’s promotion, Smaug being buried in treasure, Smaug being 747-sized and an inter-species love triangle.  I could go on and on about this, but to be honest, this is all that I can stand.  These changes were made to make the movie more appealing to casual audiences, and I thought that it was unnecessary.  Why did they make Gandalf go to Dol Guldur?  This was an addition that I hated the most.  Even more than Boromir taking Frodo and Sam to Osgiliath in the Two Towers.  This subplot was totally made up and only served to fill in the three hours of time that Jackson had to work with.  If any of these nitpicks were not there and the adaptation was closer to the book,  the movie would’ve been way better.

How did The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug do? Looking at the box office results,  it’s doing okay.  The expectation was for it to gross $70 million and it did just that.  In one weekend, it grossed $73.7 million during its opening weekend.  Even with a modest opening, it is still the third highest grossing movie of the Lord of the Rings/The Hobbit series.  Fellowship of the Ring grossed $47.2 million on its opening weekend.  The Two Towers grossed $62 million and Return of the King grossed $72.6 million.  Last year,  The Hobbit:  An Unexpected Journey grossed  $84.6 million during its opening weekend.  The current domestic gross of this year’s movie is $73.7 million.  In adding the foreign gross of $131.2 million,  the worldwide gross stands at $204.9 million.  That’s a little shy of the $230.5 million that The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey grossed last year at this time.  With a production budget of $225 million, it will surely make it back within the next weekend.  With all the nitpicks aside (and there were many this time), I really enjoyed the movie. I loved the visuals and I loved the Erebor scenes with Smaug.  Jackson has done it again.  Although it is a masterpiece, he needs to stay true to the book more.  The unnecessary additions of out-of-place characters made the plot a little confusing for me.  With the differences aside,  the success continues.  The formula was implemented again.  It just needs to be tweaked for the finale.  As with every story that arrives at the middle of the road, this story accomplished this, and has set the stage for the wonderful conclusion.  For this prologue to be better, I advise that Jackson abstains from making tweaks that are too out of place, as this alienates the fans of Tolkien’s masterpiece prologue.  Nobody gives the Mona Lisa a mustache.  Jackson really should’ve avoided doing this to part two of this story.  I give The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug a 4 out of 5.

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