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Reviews
STAR RATINGS EXPLAINED
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Good 3 Stars
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Tragic 1 Star

POSTER ART
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FILM DETAILS
Certificate
12A
Cast
Martin Freeman
Ian McKellen
Richard Armitage
Andy Serkis
Aidan Turner
Stephen Fry
Benedict Cumberbatch
Orlando Bloom
Evangeline Lilly.
Directors
Peter Jackson.
Screenwriters
Phillipa Boyens
Fran Walsh
Guillermo del Toro
Peter Jackson.
Running Time
161 minutes

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The Hobbit: The Desolation Of Smaug
The beast mastered


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Plot
To complete their quest to Erebor, Bilbo (Freeman) and the dwarves must pick their way through a phantasmal forest, navigate raging rapids and escape the clutches of Lake-town's corrupt Master (Fry). Then there's the small matter of a dragon...


Review
The Hobbit: The Desolation Of Smaug
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You've seen his King Kong. Now prepare for Peter Jackson’s Donkey Kong. About an hour into the raucously entertaining middle slab of the Hobbit trilogy, having already tangled with hissing arachnids, a fearsome bear-man and sundry other perils, our posse of undersized heroes clamber into wooden casks and are lobbed into what’s not so much an action sequence as an unrelenting pile-up of lunatic, barrel-based gags. As they rocket down-river, pursued by elves and orcs (who are simultaneously waging war in the branches above), oak cylinders fly at the camera, plunge down fizzing waterfalls and bounce off rocks to scatter servants of evil like skittles. As rousing and inventive as Kong’s triple-T-Rex face-off, this multi-million-dollar flume ride is — with apologies — barrels of fun. And to think that at this stage in the last film, the dwarves were still loading the dishwasher.

While An Unexpected Journey had plenty of bucolic charm, it did, for a Middle-earth film, feel oddly inconsequential. The Desolation Of Smaug remedies that. Moody, urgent and, for want of a better word, Ringsier, it’s a much more satisfying film. If anything, it dispenses with early events with something approaching impatience: Beorn (Mikael Persbrandt), the aforementioned bear-man, is left behind before we’ve really had a chance to savour his peculiar brand of beastly intensity (though no doubt he’ll be back to claw up baddies in the Battle Of Five Armies), and the same goes for Mirkwood’s hallucinatory boughs, which have the company tripping balls in a variety of amusing ways.

One problem with the former film was that it re-trod too closely the footsteps of the Fellowship: it was difficult to share Bilbo’s awe at entering Rivendell, given that we’d already been there 11 years before. Here, you can feel Jackson’s relief at having entirely new worlds in which to play. The forest domain of the Silvan Elves has beauty edged with menace, plus it gives Lee Pace (great as the dagger-eyed Thranduil) an amazing elk-horned throne. But the real standouts are Lake-town and Erebor, contrasting but equally stunning showcases of production design. The former, a fog-shrouded, Dickensian burg that we’re informed “stinks of fish oil and tar”, is a new, pleasingly earthy flavour for Middle-earth. Like Edoras in The Two Towers, it was largely built for real and bristles with detail. Kingdom-under-the-mountain Erebor, on the other hand, is the kind of mad location that could only exist on a Weta mega-computer, its centrepiece a stash of wealth so vast it would give Scrooge McDuck a quacking fit.

As Bilbo (a still spot-on Martin Freeman) and co. near their destination, the film gets increasingly busy, splitting the group in two and intercutting between those strands and Gandalf (Ian McKellen), who’s off poking around the ruins of Dol Guldur. That storyline still hasn’t quite caught fire (it basically amounts to the wizard yelling at a giant, evil ink-blot), and it could be argued that more screentime might have been usefully given to the dwarves, who remain largely anonymous. Besides Thorin (Richard Armitage), whose facade of nobility is beginning to crumble, revealing baser motives beneath, the only one who gets much attention is Kili (Aidan Turner), vying with a returning Legolas (Orlando Bloom) for the attentions of auburn-haired elf ninja Tauriel (Evangeline Lilly). As love triangles go, it’s fairly rote — and might have been more dramatic were Kili not the one dwarf who looks like an elf anyway — but Tauriel, a character created for the film who’s already got some Tolkienites raging, fits seamlessly into the world and gets to execute several pleasingly brutal orc-kills: at points, the film’s one arrow-in-the-head away from turning into The Raid.

Stephen Fry and Ryan Gage give good sleaze in their brief appearances as Lake-town’s venal Master and his aide, Alfrid. Luke Evans is surprisingly Welsh as hero-in-waiting Bard The Bowman. But the standout new character is, predictably, the titular beast. He’s played Khan; now Benedict Cumberbatch draws on Shere Khan for his performance (vocal and mo-cap) as the blazing-eyed, honey-voiced, spike-helmed “serpent of the north”. We’ve seen many a dragon on screen before, but nothing with this much personality: Smaug is a startlingly well-executed creation, toggling between arrogance, indolence and rage as he uses his wyrm-tongue to try to draw out Bilbo. And once he does, the film kicks into full throttle for an immense, half-hour finale that threatens to bring down the mountain itself. It’s Jackson once more at the top of his game; God knows what he has in store for part three.


Verdict
Middle-earth's got its mojo back. A huge improvement on the previous instalment, this takes our adventurers into uncharted territory and delivers spectacle by the ton. And in case you were wondering, yes, someone manages to say the title as dialogue.


Reviewed by Nick de Semlyen

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Your Reviews

Average user rating for The Hobbit: The Desolation Of Smaug
Empire Star Rating

RE: re the desolation of smaug yawnfest

WETA built and shot more miniatures / bigatures for Jackson's King Kong remake than for all three LOTR movies put together. I always found that interesting. Especially as he was still fully invested in using miniatures at this point. ... More

Posted by DONOVAN KURTWOOD at 11:33, 03 January 2014 | Report This Post


RE: re the desolation of smaug yawnfest

Same here. The Weta Chronicles books have got me in a behind-the-scenes mood so I want to watch all The Hobbit extras in the near future, and then the LOTR ones again. ... More

Posted by Gimli The Dwarf at 11:01, 03 January 2014 | Report This Post


RE: re the desolation of smaug yawnfest

L: Gimli The Dwarf Didn't the miniatures unit end up shooting for over 1000 days or something for LOTR? There was a time I would have known this for sure /quote] Something like that, I think. I haven't watched the Extended Edition Appendices for a while... I should get on that. ... More

Posted by AxlReznor at 10:57, 03 January 2014 | Report This Post


RE: re the desolation of smaug yawnfest

Didn't the miniatures unit end up shooting for over 1000 days or something for LOTR? There was a time I would have known this for sure ... More

Posted by Gimli The Dwarf at 10:55, 03 January 2014 | Report This Post


RE: re the desolation of smaug yawnfest

Regarding the scenery, all of the actual New Zealand bits are real in both movies. The sets that had to be built in the Lord Of The Rings which were impossible to build in real life were miniatures (which ended up needing so much detail for all of the shots required that they got the nickname 'bigiatures'), which gave them a sense of being real objects. However, I'm pretty sure Weta shut down their miniature department to concentrate solely on CGI before The Hobbit entered production - and... More

Posted by AxlReznor at 10:48, 03 January 2014 | Report This Post


RE: re the desolation of smaug yawnfest

L: Gimli The Dwarf L: jonson And then 3 annoying kids (who I can only assume are Peter Jackson's kids as they look like them from the LOTR films) The two girls are James Nesbitt's daughters. hanks, didn't know that. Other than finding the film average, I must mention though that Martin Freeman is fabulous in it, clearly the only one interested. ... More

Posted by jonson at 09:27, 03 January 2014 | Report This Post


RE: re the desolation of smaug yawnfest

L: jonson And then 3 annoying kids (who I can only assume are Peter Jackson's kids as they look like them from the LOTR films) The two girls are James Nesbitt's daughters. ... More

Posted by Gimli The Dwarf at 08:45, 03 January 2014 | Report This Post


RE: re the desolation of smaug yawnfest

I was disappointed by the first one, but decided to rewatch it in anticipation of this. It was better second time round, so was quite looking forward to seeing more action, more dragon, and more dwarves. All in all thought it was more boring than the first, lacked any warmth, the dragon was ok, I enjoyed the barrel scene, thought it was quite funny, but other than that, it failed (for me)on every level (the love for Cumberbatch is bizarre, he just speaks his lines, and I like him as an actor)... More

Empire User Rating

Posted by jonson at 08:29, 03 January 2014 | Report This Post


RE: The magic is gone

What utter twaddle. First off, you'll note that nowhere in my post did I claim to be head-over-heels for the LOTR films. I merely commented on the difference in methods regarding special effects. As you brought the subject up, I may as well state my opinion that I'm very mixed on the LOTR films. I appreciate some of the things they did, and genuinely enjoy Fellowship as a film, but overall would say they are highly flawed films with wonky characterisation. I don't accept the embellishment... More

Posted by jackflaps at 18:03, 29 December 2013 | Report This Post


RE: The magic is gone

The Hobbit films, DOS in particular, are entertaining action adventures. I'm going to politely describe them as being pastiche stories in the spirit of Tolkien (perhaps akin to BBC's 'Death Comes To Pemberley'), rather than being remotely faithful to the source material. The Hobbit films are no place for purists, but that doesn't mean they can't be enjoyed in their own right. However, I have to say how disappointed I am with the CGI. The LOTR films have been on a lot on Sky Movies over Christma... More

Posted by BelfastBoy at 10:59, 29 December 2013 | Report This Post


RE: The magic is gone

L: jackflaps Utterly underwhelming film. Saw it with my family, ranging from fellow Tolkien nerds like me to complete fantasy noobs, and not one of us left the cinema feeling satisfied. So many flaws it astounds me that Empire gave it the full five stars. The film is at its best when it actually sticks to the novels. first encounter with Smaug is taken pretty much verbatim from the novel, and is wonderful. It's such a shame, therefore, that despite the fact they're spreading this ... More

Posted by Drone at 09:57, 29 December 2013 | Report This Post


RE: Desolation of Smaug

Utterly underwhelming film. Saw it with my family, ranging from fellow Tolkien nerds like me to complete fantasy noobs, and not one of us left the cinema feeling satisfied. So many flaws it astounds me that Empire gave it the full five stars. The film is at its best when it actually sticks to the novels. Bilbo's first encounter with Smaug is taken pretty much verbatim from the novel, and is wonderful. It's such a shame, therefore, that despite the fact they're spreading this thing over t... More

Empire User Rating

Posted by jackflaps at 23:20, 28 December 2013 | Report This Post


RE: Desolation of Smaug

L: Alistair L: ArseOfSauron I think that's the point.* But I agree with most of your review. *Gandalf is trying to assess whether The Enemy has returned and if so, how strong he is. You see him in the latter film as just the Necromancer, black smoke. Now he is stronger, and briefly appears in forms he takes in LotR - the smoke is now a cover rather than a sign of his weakness. evertheless, it's confusing. I hope that Gandalf has a conversation with Galadriel or something in the... More

Posted by BelfastBoy at 21:00, 28 December 2013 | Report This Post


RE: Woah

L: 7eke What film were you watching Nick? I guess we'll always have the LOTR trilogy. ot sure if that was a response to me but I'm not Nick, unless that's some odd slang I'm not aware of. As fantastic as the LOTR films are, I don't feel they are aging as well as they could - maybe I have seen them once too often, and as a hardcore advocate of the books (there is not a bigger Tolkien/LOTR nut on the forum than me) I believe there will be a more definitive screen adaptation of the... More

Posted by Drone at 11:07, 28 December 2013 | Report This Post


RE: Top-draw cinematic joy

it was nice movie..really enjoyed it.. it was better than the first movie ... More

Posted by chang at 08:07, 28 December 2013 | Report This Post


RE: The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug...hmmmm!

If like me you really didn't enjoy the Hobbit, I am pleased to say this is a zilion times better, and surpassed my expectations. I agree with the five star review completely. I would say this is as close to the LOTR films as it could have been. Fantastic from start to finish. Bilbo's infatuation with the One Ring beginning to form. Tauriel was surprisingly good. Watched the HFR version which was the strangest thing I have ever seen. As much as I enjoyed the film it was spoile... More

Posted by Drone at 09:32, 27 December 2013 | Report This Post


RE: Hobbit : desolation of Smaug Full Movie Watch now

Saw this, this afternoon and enjoyed it immensely. Beorn was great though could have done with more of him, The Spiders in Mirkwood were very well done and very scary. It was good to see what Gandalf got up to when he left the group. Bard was a great character, but obviously Tauriel was the best new addition, though could have done with less of the love triangle. Talking of which it was interesting how different the character of Legolas was in this to the LOTR! Smaug was realised very well inde... More

Posted by barracute at 21:55, 23 December 2013 | Report This Post


RE: Hobbit : desolation of Smaug Full Movie Watch now

S FOLLOW:aw it yesterday, and while I would be inclined to agree it is an improvement on the first instalment I still think it was short of any of the LotR films by some distance. Perhaps the best way to enjoy these films is to have never read The Hobbit, to take them completely on their own merits without the influence of the book. It was less of an issue in LotR, because despite taking many liberties the films stayed broadly true to the source material and essential scenes were captured well ... More

Posted by superdan at 14:05, 23 December 2013 | Report This Post


RE: Hobbit : desolation of Smaug Full Movie Watch now

Hmmm, I'm in a dilemma now. You see, originally I was going to just wait until all three were released on blu ray, and then simply watch them all for the first time back-to-back, like one extremely long film; thus I didn't go see An Unexpected Journey. But now all this excitement and praise surrounding Desolation Of Smaug has got me thinking - should I scrap this plan? I mean, if it's really as good as they say, I don't want to look back in the future and think "Jeez, why the hell di... More

Posted by Mr Gittes at 12:03, 22 December 2013 | Report This Post


RE: The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug

In general, film spoilers are not an issue in this thread - you read it at your own peril. But to be very clear - if we are talking about a series and you are talking about something that will happen in a future part as it comes from an existing source you ARE breaching site spoilers rules. Your post will be removed and you will receive a warning, official or otherwise depending on severity. This is exactly the policy we apply in eg Walking Dead and GoT threads. We expect users to show c... More

Posted by elab49 at 09:40, 20 December 2013 | Report This Post


RE: The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug

L: AxlReznor Off-Topic... Dream Of The Red Chamber is - along with Journey To The West, Romance Of The Three Kingdoms and The Water Margin - one of the most celebrated books in Chinese antiquity. I've never read it, either, because it's extremely hard to translate them into English, but I would like to. ote] Well I'm going to read it over Christmas and PM you the ending ... More

Posted by jonson at 09:08, 20 December 2013 | Report This Post


RE: The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug

L: horribleives L: jonson L: AxlReznor The point is, when a story is over 65 years old, complaining about spoilers is a bit dumb. And the fact that it's older than most of us, and it's the sixth highest-selling book in the world make it even dumber. But if I were a literary snob, I'd probably hate the film rather than love it. PS: The Titanic sinks, and Romeo and Juliet die. nd the top 5 biggest selling books are:- A tale of 2 Cities - Charles Dickens - sorry... More

Posted by AxlReznor at 19:06, 19 December 2013 | Report This Post


RE: The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug

L: jonson And I would thinkblee Koran are higher placed, and I've never read them either. ad The Book of Revelation when I was a young teen, so I know how it ends ome annoying Bible basher on the internet told me to read it, probably to put the fear of God into me. It worked, and I became a Christian. ...for about 6 weeks ... More

Posted by Hood_Man at 18:02, 19 December 2013 | Report This Post


RE: The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug

To be honest, this debate shouldn't even be necessary since it's so easy to avoid giving spoilers in the first place. Take the one above, "the Smaug battle was too drawn out" said everything that was necessary; it was too long. The remainder of that sentence added nothing. If you watch a film that turns out to be a tragedy, you can say that; "It's a sad story, a real tragedy." No specifics given, it's all left up to the imagination of the person reading, and you've avoided saying "the t... More

Posted by Hood_Man at 18:00, 19 December 2013 | Report This Post


RE: The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug

5 Stars? Good grief. What for? Overuse of CGI to the point it becomes meaningless and overtakes the entire film, pointless characters and sub stories, convoluted fair ground ride set pieces, more awful CGI action scenes similar to that of the Matrix or Star Wars prequels, stuff that totally defies the ability to suspend disbelief, no focus on the main character of the story but instead deciding to add in everything under the sun that had absolutely no purpose, no story or character progres... More

Posted by Coyleone at 17:40, 19 December 2013 | Report This Post


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