Posted December 11, 2013 by Nicolo Parungo in Movies/TV

MOVIE REVIEW: The Hobbit – The Desolation of Smaug

hobbit review poster

Being the second part in a planned trilogy is a somewhat troublesome position to be in; it has to coast with the momentum of the first movie, introduce several storylines that won’t be resolved (until the next film) and provide a satisfying cliff-hanger that will encourage the audience to come back for part three next year. In theory, part two is almost always expected to be a let-down in some level due to the fact that it’s simply the bridge between the beginning and the end; it is the middle child for better AND worse. However, in spite of all these factors going against it, The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smog doesn’t disappoint at all; exceeding whatever expectations – big or small – were expected of it and burning them to the ground in a blaze of glory. One could even say that it DESOLATES them.

In terms of momentum, The Desolation of Smaug moves at a faster pace than its turtle slow predecessor, An Unexpected Journey. Aside from an effective prologue chapter focusing on Gandalf the Grey and the dwarf Thorin Oakenshield, the movie almost never lets up with the action, featuring plenty of exciting set pieces and some of the best fighting choreography you will see all year whether it’s the dramatic – and dare I say KICKASS? – Entrance of the Elves, the multiple battles with the Orcs or the climactic showdown with the Dragon.


A barrel of laughs…

The conversations here also don’t waste any time; always getting to the point and moving the story forward. And yet, given this the story never feels rushed; even more impressive is how the film juggles multiple subplots like Bilbo Baggin’s fondness and eventual corruption to THE Ring, the romance between Kili and Tauriel along with Legolas’ jealousy, Thorin’s plight to redeem his family, Gandalf’s secret mission to name a few; all this without losing track of the overall goal, which is finding the Arkenstone. I will admit to being apathetic towards the love story, but I can understand its greater place in the narrative; providing a breather in between all the intense story developments and jaw dropping fight scenes, it’s just disappointing that it starts with a “something is hard in my pants” joke (I wish I was joking) which prevents me from taking it seriously, though I suppose that’s what the rest of the movie is for.

A great story can only be enhanced with great character work and we thankfully get plenty of that; all of which feature stellar acting.

Richard Armitage is great at portraying a tragic hero as Thorin, he captures his inner struggle extremely well and each line he delivers is full of conviction, whether he’s calling out Lee Pace’s wonderfully evil Thranduil on his verbal diarrhea or having to make a hard decision, Armitage nails the role. Ian McKellen is his usual terrific self as Gandalf the Grey, making every scene he’s in a must watch, I also like that he is much more light-hearted here given how serious he is in J.R.R. Tolkien’s more well-known trilogy. McKellen’s fellow LOTR alumnus Orlando Bloom gives a surprisingly strong performance as a younger, more arrogant Legolas; it’s not that I doubted Bloom’s acting ability, it’s just that given how he was essentially a patron saint with little personality in the previous three part masterpiece I was astounded as to how Bloom convincingly conveyed so much anger and cockiness towards a character I thought I knew, while still keeping him honourable. Luke Evans also shines as Bard even if his role is small here; he seems to be getting built up for something big in the next movie and his potential character arc is interesting; a nice contrast to Armitage’s Thorin.

legolas lol

Legolas aims to please…

I’ll even give credit to Evangeline Lilly and Aidan Turner for their performances as Tauriel and Kili respectively. Their love may have been executed poorly by the story, but the actors make the most out of it; they even have decent chemistry, I just can’t help my eyes from rolling like a washing machine on steroids when Lilly has to blush like a school girl after a dick joke, moments after she killed a bunch of giant spiders. Once again I’m not faulting the performers – Lilly never looks out of place whether she’s infatuated or in the battlefield and Turner is a charming performer – and I understand the romance being there to provide breathing room for the louder and more heart stopping moments, but I still can’t like it.

Given my previous paragraphs, the movie could have easily been called Middle Earth: Desolation of Smaug and no one would bat an eye, it is even arguable that given all the storylines played out here that Bilbo Baggins can feel like a bit player in a movie that prominently features his race as its franchise title. Whatever side you choose, I don’t think anyone will doubt that Martin Freeman is absolutely astonishing as Bilbo; I honestly can’t remember the last time an actor or actress expressed so much personality through actions alone, but Freeman does it here. I love how his body shakes when he holds his knife and prepares for a fight as a way to convey BOTH fear AND courage, I love how he lovingly looks at the Ring as if it’s everything he’s ever wanted in life, I love his facial expressions and gestures when a plan doesn’t always follow through, I love how he often runs, stops, puts his fist under his chin and tries to think his way out of whatever trouble he’s in; possibly chastising himself for agreeing to this quest to begin with, but still pushes through anyway because he promised he would. Even with the odds against him – better judgement, be damned – he doesn’t give up, because he’s a hero. One worth rooting for, even if we all know what that one shiny object will do to him in the coming years, we want him to be victorious; with or without it’s help. We all know this because Martin Freeman is FANTASTIC.


You won’t be Bard with this movie…

One last thing to take note off is the cliff-hanger ending. I won’t spoil it here, let me just say that Peter Jackson knows how to leave an audience wanting more. The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug will breathe fire and life to any movie fan. Whatever negative sentiments you may have going in, ignore them, THEY. WILL. PASS.


A big thank you to Warner Bros. for the premiere!



Nicolo Parungo