Published on Thursday, January 30, 2014 by Jesse Baxter
The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug is the second installment in the Hobbit movie trilogy which premiered on December 13, 2013. After being disappointed by the first movie nearly a year ago, I had low hopes for the sequel. Sadly my expectations proved to be mostly true.
First off, the story was majorly altered again, which I expected, however, it was still annoying. I think this mostly stemmed from the writers or directors trying to cram more action and excitement into the story. This is clearly seen in how Azgog and his orc horde are chasing the party, Bilbo, Gandalf, and the 13 dwarves, like in the book at times, but never as constantly portrayed in the movie. For example, while they were pursued from the Misty Mountains, Beorn killed all the pursuers even though the orcs were not right behind them as in the movie. Also, I think that in the movie Beorn should have just killed the party for barging into his home and then locking him out. In the book they have to slyly get invited through an intriguing story, which I think would have been better in the movie and could have been very funny if done right.
Another part that bothered me was why Gandalf left right before the party entered Mirkwood. He left the party at the same place in the book, but for different reasons. In the movie he left to investigate Gul Dor, which was where the Necromancer was, but in the book he was actually going as part of the White Council to drive the Necromancer out of his abode for good, which was not explained until much later in the book. They do not even know the Necromancer is Sauron until The Lord of the Rings, Gandalf, merely suspects him, but does not know for sure. Furthermore, Gandalf was merely a guide in the book, he had no intention of going with them all the way to the mountain as the movie makes it out to be. Although he did observe the quest after this, it was not his.
Story differences aside, Mirkwood was very well designed overall. The dense canopy, giant trees, twisted tree roots, and spider webs gave it a very old and menacing look. Also, the spiders in Mirkwood were created well and seemed very accurate in relation to the book’s description of them. The only problem I had with the spider scene was that it was Bilbo’s cunningness that set them free by chasing the spider away on a goose hunt and infuriating them while invisible. While he did this to some extent in the movie, he really single handedly rescued the dwarves instead of just helping them to get free initially.
After the party got away from the spiders, they were captured by elves. Here is where the directors added too much. They included Legolas who does not appear in the book at all and a Tauriel, an elf who is not even part of The Hobbit or Lord of the Rings books. They added her purely for romantic reasons, which I feel was to just attract a bigger audience. The only real romance in The Hobbit was between the dwarves and their gold. I feel this just extended the movie and was unnecessary. Also when they are escaping the elve’s palace in the book they do so subtly with the barrels closed and packed. However, in the movie the barrels are open with the dwarves heads poking out of the top. This was just to add more action, as they are attacked by orcs… again. The whole deal with Kili, a dwarf, being hit by a morgul arrow is absurd; it was added just to try to make any connection possible with The Lord of the Rings trilogy. If there were such a thing as a morgul arrow, the Nazgul would have it, not any old orc.
Then, while I liked Lake-town’s appearance, I think the how the producers made the dwarves pay to be smuggled in was overboard as they simply walked into the town in the book. I feel it just dragged the movie out without adding much value to it. It was not how I had pictured the Master of the town but, I still feel like his character was really well done and the actor played him well. However, I don’t understand why Bard was a bargeman in the movie while in the book he was a guard. It seems so easy to simply have him be a guard, I don’t understand why the producers didn’t. Also, in the movie the whole thing with the black arrow was really odd. It wasn’t a giant spear like thing fired from a launcher as in the movie, it was just a regular arrow fired from a regular bow. To top it off, they leave three dwarves behind in Lake-town; it was a bad choice considering they were all together in the book, like family. They did not leave each other behind.
Once they got to the Lonely Mountain it was a race to get the key into the keyhole, which was very unlike the original story. This is seen throughout the movie; it took months to get to the Lonely Mountain, and then weeks to get inside it. While I can understand this for movie purposes, it still felt a bit rushed, especially towards the end. Also when the party actually wake the dragon, there was no confrontation with the dragon and the dwarves at all, the dwarves never even spoke with him in the book. They should not have even tried to fight like they did in the movie, as Smaug would have killed them outright if not for movie magic.
A major annoyance throughout this movie was how violent it was. The Hobbit is supposed to be a child’s bedtime story, which was what it was written for, not some violent hacker story. There were at least two vivid decapitations and many other overly violent scenes which aren’t necessary and are at some point unrealistic. For example, I doubt an elf could balance on two dwarf heads while they are in barrels going down a rapid river, let alone shoot many orcs with pinpoint precision, and, when Tauriel shot an arrow out of the air, it just felt unrealistic and over produced.
Although I have said many negative things about the movie, I really liked the design and graphics overall. It felt very real and simulated Middle Earth appropriately. As I said before, I particularly liked Mirkwood and Lake-town just for the atmosphere and neat design. The acting was also very good and the characters interacted well with each other.
Overall, I did not like this movie much myself, mostly because I like the book better, due to its calmer and more adventurous nature. However, if you don’t mind discrepancies and want to see a good action movie, I would definitely recommend it.