Oh hey look, a new Hobbit film is coming out at the end of the week…that’s cool I guess. Well I was far from one of those people who hated The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey, I wasn’t quite a defender of the film either. It was mostly a bland and overstuffed exercise in how to stretch a source material far past its natural breaking point, and lacked both the energy and urgency that made the original Lord of the Rings films so great (most of the time, at least.) It worked here and there and was definitely entertaining (thank the heavens for Gollum and the national treasure that is Andy Serkis), but was overall a forgettable adventure that left me no desire to see its sequel. But was I wrong to so quickly pass of the further adventure of Bilbo Baggins and his dwarf companions? Could The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug be one of the best film in the Lord of the Rings series? Reviews have come in and, for quite a few at least, the answer is yes.
It seems the world over has already laid witness to the Desolation of Smaug…or at least quite a few film critics have! Let’s kick things off like always with the positive: a fantastic “A” score from Twitch:
Quite simply, The Desolation of Smaug has elements the equal to any part of the previous iterations. In time, the division between the Hobbit films and the LOTR trilogy will be seen as a mere inconvenience of chronology, as the separation is actually far less than even in the original books. These works remain the pinnacle of this type of cinematic epic fantasies, and it is this blend of both comfortable familiarity and outright wonder at the spectacle that makes this film work as well as it does.
And here’s another really positive one from The Wrap:
If “The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey” was a single-serving tribute to the fans of the J.R.R. Tolkien book that inspired it, its follow up, “The Desolation of Smaug,” offers a nod to the uninitiated moviegoing audiences that made a prequel trilogy possible. Eschewing the kitchen-sink minutiae of the first installment (or maybe just having used all of it up) Peter Jackson creates a rousing, immersive sequel that offers the same sort of sweeping action — and more crucially, emotional engagement — that helped the “Rings” films become a cultural phenomenon, regardless whether or not you were familiar with the source material.
More positivity, courtesy of ComingSoon.net:
To some, “The Desolation of Smaug” will certainly be seen merely as a “linking movie” since it does pick up in the middle of the story and ends on a cliffhanger, forcing us to wait a year for the conclusion, but like the recent “The Hunger Games: Catching Fire,” it also leaves you breathlessly wanting to see more, knowing that the biggest battle and some of Jackson’s most fantastic set pieces are still yet to come. Captivating and exciting from start to finish, “Desolation of Smaug” is a welcome return to form for Jackson that should help remind everyone why they loved “The Lord of the Rings” trilogy so much.
Here’s another slightly positive one from Total Film, who have a lot of good to say about the movie, but also criticize it for its very “middle of the trilogy” nature:
The Two Towers (the middle child of the Lord Of The Rings trilogy) avoided that second-film pitfall: it kept the overarching journey chugging forward, but had its own self-contained story with a worthy climax. The biggest flaw in The Desolation Of Smaug, one that sees it fall short of its epic forebears, is that it feels very much like a middle. [But] despite suffering from middle-act wobbles, The Desolation Of Smaug nevertheless delivers rousing action, incredible visuals and one stupendous dragon.
And a similiar one from Indiewire, who also complain about the episodic nature of the film:
If the “The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey” was a bloated 2 hour and 49 minute slog, replete with dull merriment, songs and a distended prologue that threatened to put you to sleep, then in contrast, “The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug” is a brisk, engagingly paced 2 hours and 41 minutes which goes to show that length never matters—it’s how well your narrative engine runs. And yet, conversely (and ironically), pace isn’t always the salve either. To wit: the Peter Jackson-directed ‘Hobbit’ sequel might be the more vigorous, action-packed, darker and more (superficially) engaging version of the series thus far, but that doesn’t actually mean it’s a keeper of any sort. In fact, rather than calling it a sequel, ‘The Desolation of Smaug’ is better served described as an episode. And the episodic, middle chapter-itis that is currently hurting the modern-day tentpole sequel is fully evinced.
And finally here’s the most negative review I can find for the film from Jordan Hoffman over at Screen Crush:
There comes a time when we must stop kidding ourselves. These ‘Hobbit‘ films – with ‘The Desolation of Smaug‘ representing the shank of the trilogy – are not real movies. These are exploitation films for Tolkien nuts, for enthusiasts of the original ‘Lord of the Rings’ movies and for audiences so hungry for high fantasy they’ll gobble up whatever is served to them and ask for seconds. I can’t fully dismiss any movie with a giant talking dragon, but I must confess that I found the last film superior. And I didn’t even like that one that much.
Ouch. Overall though, these reviews seem to indicate good things for the sequel, and fix a lot of the problems people had with the original—namely the numerous and not very memorable characters, the unexciting story, and the dull pace. Even if the film is nothing more than The Hobbit 2: Electric Bugaloo, I really don’t care—I just want to have some find times with swords and dragons. And is that really too much to ask for?
We’ll find out when The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug hits theaters on December 13. Do these early reviews leave you confident about the fate of the film? Let us know in the comments.