This being a SF/Fantasy blog, I thought I should comment on The Hobbit: Desolation of Smaug. I’ll preface the review with one minor note. The Hobbit was the first Fantasy novel I ever read. In many ways, it set me on my own unexpected journey, and it will always hold a special place for me. That said, I’m not one of the types of people who requires a movie to be an exact replica of the book it was based upon, so that has also had some effect on how I viewed the movie.
The Hobbit: Desolation of Smaug manages to make a full length movie (very full at over 160 minutes) out of what was a relatively small section of The Hobbit. They do this through the addition of scenes that were not in the book. To make this clear, they weren’t in the book, but some of them are referenced in the book or in JRR Tolkien’s notes. Some of these scenes and even characters are made up for the movie.
They do this to develop the film from an adventure set from Bilbo’s perspective into a much grander thing. In the book, The Hobbit, we know there is this greater world, of which we only see the smallest portion, and then only through one character’s eyes. The movie expands upon this, while staying true to Tolkien’s concept of Middle Earth.
All that aside, it was a lot of fun. I’m not the type to see movies twice in theaters, but I did with this one. I think that the character development and story arcs are what made the movie so great, for me. The special effects were nice, and the story was good, but special effects seem to be easy enough, anymore and I already knew what was going to happen, seeing as I read the book and all. The characters are where the movie makes its money. The first stirrings of the One Ring’s pull on Bilbo. Kili’s interaction with Tauriel. Thorin’s internal conflict between ambition and responsiblity. Even Gandalf has moments of character development as he is forced to weigh his duties to his companions versus his duties to all of Middle Earth. These characters are those we come to care about, and makes them far more real, for their conflict, suffering, and hardships.
The big reveal on Smaug was excellent, though at times, with the vast scale of the dragon and his domain, it is difficult to put him to scale to a man, dwarf, or even hobbit. I left knowing he was big, really big, but somewhat uncertain as to relative sizes. My only complaint, about Smaug, is not the graphics, or the sound of his voice, or any of that. Smaug seems a little to much the cliche villian, given to long, profound monologues while he lets heroes get away. Maybe it’s just me, but he seemed far more clever and conniving when he and Bilbo had their battle of wits in the novel.
All in all, however, I thoroughly enjoyed the movie.