Last time, I focused heavily on how these movies failed as an adaptation of Tolkien’s original book. This time around, we’ll concentrate more on how these movies failed as their own thing. Mostly because this is the one that really broke away from the source material in many ways.
Bilbo’s journey towards the Lonely Mountain continues. Only now, things are going to become much more difficult, as Gandalf leaves him and the dwarves behind. Now, it’s up to the little hobbit to keep them safe for the rest of the quest. Meanwhile, Gandalf confronts the necromancer and learns a terrible secret.
Again, let’s start with the positives. The ones brought up in my review of the first film still hold here; the cast is solid all around. Now, we get the addition of Benedict Cumberbatch as Smaug, who is easily the best performance in the movie. Not to mention that Smaug himself looks absolutely fantastic; they did an incredible job of bringing the iconic dragon to life!
And… yeah, that’s about it. Not only are all the issues from the first movie still present, such as the lackluster special effects and filler crap, but now there are even more. So many more that it kind of butchers any other potential positives.
The first movie already introduced more subplots than this story needed. Now, the second one adds so many more that you almost forget about Bilbo and the dwarves! Kili gets a love story with an elf, Legolas is here and we go into his backstory, Bard’s family is shoved into the forefront, the Master of Lake Town becomes a secondary antagonist, and all the while, Gandalf, Elrond, Galadriel, and Saruman all deal with the Necromancer/Sauron. And we still have the orcs and the goblins from the first movie. Put it all together and what do you get? A mess.
The tone is just as much a mess. The movie is trying to take itself so seriously, but it fills itself to the brim with the goofiest shit you’ve ever seen. This is the most noticeable during the action scenes, such as the escape from the elves of Mirkwood or the dwarves battling against Smaug (both scenes are embarrassingly terrible and overly long, by the way). It feels like the movie is having an identity crisis right in front of you!
On top of that, all the filler completely butchers the pacing of the story. The whole movie feels like it’s dragging its feet, desperately trying to fill out that run time so they can make a trilogy out of it. Yet nothing they explore gets properly developed. It just throws stuff at a wall and hopes that something sticks.
And as one last cherry on top: the ending. I remember when this movie first came out, everyone I knew thought that ending was a joke. It’s such a blatant and unsatisfying cliffhanger that you can’t help but wonder if it was butchered in the editing room. That, or everyone just gave up.
Embarrassing is the best word to describe Desolation of Smaug. Sure, seeing the dragon himself in all his glory is amazing, and all the actors are making the material work as best as they can. But the whole time you’re watching it, it feels like you’re watching someone desperately floundering to make a mess work while only making the mess worse.
You want to know something fucked up? The third movie is even worse than this one.
God help me…