Review by Derrick Carter

Running Time: 2 hours 41 minutes

MPAA Rating: PG-13 for Extended Sequences of Intense Fantasy Action Violence, and Frightening Images

Smaug poster

Directed by: Peter Jackson

Written by: Fran Walsh, Philippa Boyens, Peter Jackson & Guillermo Del Toro

(based on the novel THE HOBBIT by J.R.R. Tolkien)

Starring: Martin Freeman, Ian McKellen, Richard Armitage, Benedict Cumberbatch, Orlando Bloom & Luke Evans

Peter Jackson has a penchant for making long movies and seems to adore the work of J.R.R. Tolkien. How else would one explain why he’s taken on the task of creating two trilogies inspired by the man’s work? When it was originally announced that THE HOBBIT (a novel only 310 pages long) was to be split into three films, a lot of people were up in arms (including myself). Every studio is jumping on the band wagon of splitting up novels into a number of unnecessarily long movies. The DEATHLY HALLOWS was one of the few that actually worked, but BREAKING DAWN and the soon to come MOCKINGJAY are clearly just doing this to milk some extra cash out of a popular series.

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Last year, THE HOBBIT: AN UNEXPECTED JOURNEY was released with a running time of barely under three hours. It began and closed off strong, but the middle hour was unremarkable and dull. It made me worried for just how the next two movies would play out. THE DESOLATION OF SMAUG is the last true blockbuster of 2013 and it’s sending the year off with a bang. This reminds moviegoers why they put up with some of the self-indulgence Peter Jackson seems to revel in. This middle chapter in the newly formed trilogy is a blast and more than makes up for the plodding in the first film.

Smaug 2

Picking up not too long after the events in the first film. Bilbo Baggins, the dwarves, and Gandalf are avoiding a pack of orcs on their journey to the Lonely Mountain. Gandalf is summoned away from the group to take care of a rising necromancer (tying directly into the events of THE LORD OF THE RINGS trilogy) and this leaves the short-in-height group to fend for themselves as their quest continues. They encounter massive spiders, not-so-friendly elves, a skilled archer, and their journey will take them right into the lair of a fire-breathing dragon.

Smaug 3

DESOLATION OF SMAUG is perfectly paced and never once had me bored (unlike certain moments in THE LORD OF THE RINGS trilogy and nearly a full hour in UNEXPECTED JOURNEY). Martin Freeman (THE WORLD’S END) inhabits his role as Bilbo Baggins and Ian McKellen proves to be the only man out there who can play Gandalf. As for all the dwarves, they’re pretty much interchangeable and this was not too much of a fault this time around. Jackson also sprinkled in plenty of nods to the other books/films in Tolkien’s universe (many of which will be enjoyed by fans of Jackson’s first trilogy).

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The special effects and production values are top-notch as we’ve come to expect from this series. Smaug (voiced by Benedict Cumberbatch) is a villain for the ages. His towering figure and flawlessly executed CGI form is a testament to movie magic that still very much exists today. The looks of the orcs themselves seem more unique and less generic, including the main orc that looked like a last-minute mediocre effect in the previous film. Plenty of things were added to the series, including a long showdown with Smaug involving the dwarves and Bilbo. In this case, it services the story well. These elements and subplots make for a far more complex tale than Tolkien’s original children’s book (which it was considered at the time).

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In 2013, we’ve been delighted with plenty of epic spectacles brought to the screen. Though we have some Oscar contenders to cap off this year (AMERICAN HUSTLE and THE WOLF OF WALL STREET), I feel like DESOLATION OF SMAUG is the ideal way to close off the sheer amount of great blockbusters we’ve witnessed in 2013. It may not be completely flawless (mainly due to the sheer amount of dwarves that are interchangeable), but THE HOBBIT: THE DESOLATION OF SMAUG is a fantastic cinematic experience! See it!

Grade: A

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