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“The Hobbit: Desolation of Smaug”: Big improvement over first one but is that saying much?

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The second installment of the trilogy amuses and enthralls at times but fails to convince the need for three films

Photo Public domain

Photo Public domain

Peter Jackson returns with the second installment of his new trilogy, based on Tolkien’s The Hobbit. Though Tolkien clearly made the book to stand on its own, Jackson treats it as an overture to his other trilogy, The Lord of The Rings. The film is certainly an improvement over the first installment but given a lukewarm reception for the first one, how much is that really worth?

The film follows Thorin and the other dwarves, along with Bilbo and Gandalf, as they journey to reach the Lonely Mountain and reclaim the lost dwarf Kingdom of Erebor. They encounter many obstacles, but the gigantic dragon Smaug, who occupies the kingdom ever since he destroyed it years before, is their biggest threat, and arguably the film’s biggest spectacle.

Most of the film’s ailments come from the ill-fated decision to make a 300 page book, (granted, the appendices and Tolkein’s notes add about a 100 extra pages), into a trilogy of feature films. Though Jackson does an admirable job with the film’s pacing and it is rarely too slow despite its length, one cannot help but wonder why it is that a third of the book deserves this much time to portray on screen.

Having said that, some of the sequences were too long, especially with regards to conversation. The long segment where Smaug and Bilbo meet gets tedious after the first few exchanges and it becomes clear that the film is trying to buy more time before a slightly frustrating ending.

Some of the positives, however, included great visuals and some very memorable setpieces. The battle of the dwarves in barrels was one of the most memorable scenes and Smaug, in particular, provides a breathtaking moment the first time he is introduced on screen. The scale and realism is awe-inspiring and the film’s availability in IMAX makes it better.

Though Jackson has said that his trilogy is faithful to Tolkien’s own unrealised plan of revising the book, we cannot help but feel that some parts of the script detract from the original style of the book and are there to please a younger and more modern audience. In addition, some lines sound too ominous and dramatic, and eventually turn anticlimactic as the plot progresses.

This is because while the characters are moaning about some inevitable darkness or evil that is coming near, the viewer’s anticipation keeps building for something that never arrives. The film ends with a cliffhanger and we have to wait for the third installment to find out what will happen.

Though the film is clearly a very welcome step in the right direction for the franchise and displays attentiveness to what fans want from the trilogy, it is hampered by Jackson drawing out some sequences too much. We think it is clear that the decision to make this into a trilogy has more to do with the studio wanting to make more money off its new blockbuster series than any artistic decision on Jackson’s part, and this is where the film’s real desolation comes from.


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