The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug Screen 13 articles

The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug

2013

The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug Poster
  • As someone who’s always felt alienated by the myth-making of Wagner and Tolkien, I'm hardly one to say whether Peter Jackson's big-screen adaptations of The Hobbit succeed in conveying the spirit of the book. I can say, though, that Jackson's bloated, hollow spectacle feels closer to a theme park attraction than to narrative filmmaking.

  • In An Unexpected Journey, criticisms of Jackson's choice to vastly extend Tolkien's lean Lord of the Rings precursor were largely dispelled, as the narrative filling-out didn't feel labored, as many feared, but naturalistic. In The Desolation of Smaug (or in its first half, at least), Jackson serves up something else entirely: a lightning-paced, nuance-deprived succession of busy set pieces, many of them exasperating in their breathless insistence on pandering to the blockbuster crowd.

  • The good Mr. Jackson dukes it out with the bad throughout “The Desolation of Smaug.” There are, once again, too many busy, uninterestingly staged battles that lean heavily on obvious, sometimes distracting digital sorcery. But there are also pacific, brooding interludes in which the actors — notably Mr. Freeman, an intensely appealing screen presence — remind you that there’s more to Middle-earth than clamor and struggle.

  • Desolation of Smaug looks as dreary as the title would lead you to believe. The whole thing lingers in the memory as piles of sludge and ash. The movie's achievement is the duration of the adventure sequences. One features a comical use of a barrel and fake-looking rapids, but the movie rarely imparts any visual wonder.

  • Desolation of Smauggot surprisingly good reviews, and it does unfold more pacily than the first instalment; there are funny Spielbergian set-pieces (the escape in barrels) and the usual spectacular backdrops. But there’s really not much to say about this airless, all-but-endless saga. It’s there. It exists. Like Mount Everest, you can take it or leave it.

  • A marginal improvement on the first installment, but it still took me three attempts to get through it... and even the most celebrated setpieces failed to dazzle. Barrel ride plays like a gloss on Spielberg's single-take kineticism in The Adventures of Tintin (which exhausted me to begin with), and I really was not expecting the climactic showdown with Smaug to be a lengthy talking-killer scenario, though presumably that comes straight from Tolkien.

  • The Desolation of Smaug’ shows Peter Jackson in an especially overabundant mood, orchestrating all manner of chaos like a master conductor unleashing his inner fanboy... Exhaustion starts to set in by the time Bilbo and his friends encounter Smaug around the two-hour mark, so it’s a good thing that’s also the point at which Jackson goes full bore with the adrenalising, digitally-augmented braggadocio.

  • This is a rip-snorting, barrel-riding adventure movie — perfect for all ages, as they say (though it isn’t for very young kids) — loaded with fast-paced fight scenes, great-looking effects and enjoyable and/or scurrilous supporting characters. In terms of tone and pace, this movie feels more like the 1938 Errol Flynn “Adventures of Robin Hood” than like Tolkien, but that’s not such a bad model.

  • Much of the bloat is still there, but The Desolation of Smaug, the second film in the Hobbit trilogy, is a real improvement – filled with inventive action set pieces and dramatic face-offs that we (finally, at long last, hallelujah!) care about.

  • There’s nothing like a fire-breathing dragon to inject some heat back into a franchise gone lukewarm... And yet for all the fine spectacle Jackson crams into his lengthy sequel-within-a-prequel, it’s still hard not to mourn the single, self-contained movie that could have been.

  • Though this sequel is padded, it's certainly not turgid this time around, which immediately makes this a vast improvement over its predecessor. In fact, thanks to a prologue that gives the characters' trek to Lonely Mountain a greater thematic sense of purpose regarding the corruption of power, there's an urgency here that propels things along with much more momentum.

  • The good news is that The Desolation of Smaug is a marvelous film, better paced, emotionally richer, and more tonally confident than Journey. The bad news is that Jackson’s approach to making blockbusters is starting to seem increasingly like a relic from another era.

  • Cleared of its duty to start or finish the saga, the latest Hobbit begins and ends in medias res, with barely any exposition. This middle film about Middle-earth thus has more opportunity for tactile exploration: of the contrasting textures of the latex-masked orcs and computer-generated goblins, of Ian McKellen’s shaggy fake Gandalf beard and the platinum-blond hairpieces of the Mirkwood elves. It’s loaded with rococo surfaces, studied in a strangely durational fashion.

More Links