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292 of 300 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars What we can expect from the Extended Edition.
The extended edition for The Hobbit: Desolation of Smaug will contain 25 minutes of new scenes, in contrast with An Unexpected Journey's 13 minutes. It also has over 9 hours of behind-the-scenes footage and interviews, detailing the monumental task of bringing the incredible world of Middle Earth to the screen. Here is some stuff we'll see in the Extended Edition:...
Published 1 month ago by Anthony L.

versus
85 of 107 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Not "the Hobbit". Perhaps "inspired by the Hobbit" would be better?
Ok first let me get this off my chest. This movie is NOT The Hobbit. There, I feel better already. That said, it is not a BAD film, but neither is it the timeless classic that a true movie based on the book COULD be.

The first problem is that Peter Jackson is a very literal movie director. There is NOTHING subtle or suggestive in his directing - unlike...
Published 8 months ago by G. Peterson


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292 of 300 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars What we can expect from the Extended Edition., September 24, 2014
By 
The extended edition for The Hobbit: Desolation of Smaug will contain 25 minutes of new scenes, in contrast with An Unexpected Journey's 13 minutes. It also has over 9 hours of behind-the-scenes footage and interviews, detailing the monumental task of bringing the incredible world of Middle Earth to the screen. Here is some stuff we'll see in the Extended Edition:

1. MORE OF DOL GULDUR. Specifically, we get to meet Thrain, Thorin's mad father. Gandalf meets with him and has a pointed discussion. The makeup and prosthetic effects for Thrain are just amazing. Wait till you see it. Richard Armitage also promises glimpses of a vast, bloody battle in Moria.

2. A LOT MORE OF MIRKWOOD. I was surprised and pleased to learn that two scenes from the book were actually filmed: Bilbo, Thorin and company crossing a slimy, enchanted river in Mirkwood. Contains some humor, some amazing sets, some amazing Martin Freeman acting, and a little bit of dark magic. Another sad scene contains a beautiful stag and Dwarvish target practice.

3. ENHANCED INTERROGATION: Beorn, in bear form, and an orc, in crying-for-my-mommy form (presumably). Mikael Persbrandt promised his first scene was a "messy" interrogation of an orc. More Beorn is always welcome. We might also see flashbacks of Beorn himself being tortured in Dol Guldur, back when Azog the Defiler exterminated the Skinchangers.

4. MORE OF BEORN'S HOUSE. And we know what that means: more of that glorious New Zealand landscape that we all love. All we know is that we see Beorn with big muscles and a bigger axe.

5. BEORN AND GANDALF. Beorn has a conversation with Gandalf about the dangers that lie ahead of the Company.

6. MORE THRANDUIL. Peter Jackson smiles upon us and gives us more Thranduil, including a conversation between father and son, and the dwarves, paraded in front of his mighty throne. Anticipate some elvish hubris and the bitemarks from Lee Pace's scenery-chewing.

7. MORE OF THE LONELY MOUNTAIN. The Lonely Mountain gets less lonely as Bilbo and Company explore the ruins of Smaug's desolation - Dale.

8. STEPHEN FRY, SCENERY CHEWER. Stephen Fry promised us last year that he would eat testicles in The Hobbit. We're hoping he fulfills that promise. At the very least, he shows what a scheming conniver he is, expressing his hopes that "Old Smaug dines on dwarf for a day or two..." Poor Master of Laketown...

9. MORE EVIL ORC ARMIES. Honestly, who doesn't want to see more shots of an orc army marching to doom and a red dawn?

10. "THE WORLD OF MEN". Most of Laketown was a stunningly detailed set built for real, and we get to see more of the workings and tradings and the men that live there, through the eyes of a hobbit very far from home... We also see the orcs attack the men of Laketown.

Bilbo Baggins story will conclude with The Battle of Five Armies, but until then, the roads go ever on and on. Naamarie, mellon!
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2,197 of 2,384 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars The Desolation of Smaug: One Tolkienian's Perspective, February 26, 2014
By 
I have read absolutely everything that JRR Tolkien has ever written, and consider myself a Tolkien fanatic. This is my perspective on The Hobbit: Desolation of Smaug. Please stick with me to the end, and I'll try not to lose you. Let's begin. So...if The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey was Peter Jackson giving the purists their dues with a relatively straightforward and book-faithful film, then THE DESOLATION OF SMAUG is Peter Jackson saying: "You've had your fun. Now stand back and watch what I can do."

And the ride he takes us on is absolutely exhilarating. SMAUG is darker, moodier, and more mature than any Middle Earth film we've seen thus far. Evil hangs over our heroes like a black pall (literally). Beset on all sides by revenge-seeking orcs, wargs, terrifying spiders, pale creepy-crawlies, double-crossing elves, treacherous humans, a growing Evil in a ruined Elvish citadel, and a huge, vain, fire-breathing dragon...both the heroes and the audience are plunged into a terrifyingly new world. And there's a lot of new stuff to feast your eyes on along the way.

Castwise, Tauriel is a welcome female addition to the gang, played with charisma and spunk by Evangeline Lilly. Lee Pace's regal and scheming elf-king Thranduil is absolutely astounding, delivering a tour-de-force in a few minutes of screentime. Luke Evans could not be better as Bard, simultaneously grim and noble. But of course, the real draw here is Benedict Cumberbatch, wearing two very villainous hats. The first is as the Necromancer, who, in addition to manifesting himself as an inkblot, is really quite scary. And the second...is the reason that you came here in the first place: Smaug. The Terrible. Smaug just so happens to be the greatest dragon ever! He is everything I wanted him to be and more: vain, seductive, manipulative, terrifying, and of course, absolutely huge. I'd just like to congratulate Cumberbatch and the conceptual crew on his tremendous design.

Our returning cast is also fantastic. Richard Armitage's Thorin Oakenshield is electrifying, with gravitas and stage presence enough for a character twice his stature. His grave eyes and deep voice tell of a lifetime of war and sorrow, and every line he speaks could be delivered by a king. Martin Freeman continues to be perfect as Bilbo, and Ian McKellen's Gandalf is just as crusty and warm as you remember him. Oh, and Legolas? Legolas is awesome. Like, web-swinging, spider-slaying, arrow-shooting, orc-killing awesome!

Speaking of orc-killing, The Desolation of Smaug has, in THIS Tolkienian's perspective, the best action scene of the year: the barrels. The breathless, crazy, confusing, insane three-way-battle sequence (don't tease me for it) had me LITERALLY crying with sheer unadulterated glee! The rest of the action, including a hard-hitting spider attack, and a sprawling, rather one-sided battle between 10 dwarves, a hobbit, and a dragon shows that Jackson has absolutely outdone himself!

Well, now for the cons. If Desolation of Smaug has a con, it's that it really, really wants to keep moving to newer, darker territories, so whenever it slows down it feels, well...like an intermission between set-pieces. And the ending will divide the audience: you'll either love the breathless cliffhanger, or hate that you have to wait another year to find out what happens! And as a Tolkien purist, I have to address the fact of accuracy. SMAUG really isn't that accurate to the books. But you know what - I actually like that! I enjoy having absolutely NO IDEA what Peter Jackson has cooked up next. God knows what he's got cooked up for Part Three!

So in conclusion, The Desolation of Smaug is a terrific ride. Filled with amazing action, excellent performances, and the requisite gorgeous New Zealand landscape shots and Howard Shore score, SMAUG is everything I hoped for and more. My rating? Five Kings Under the Mountain - an absolute must-see! I hope you've enjoyed my (completely subjective) perspective on the film. Drop a line in the comments to tell me what you thought.

P.S. Remember that the like/dislike buttons are not for saying whether or not you disagreed with the reviewer, but for whether the review was helpful in your decision to purchase the film. If this review was helpful to you, please give it a like. Cheers!
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419 of 477 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Tremendous fun, and a great expansion of the world of Middle-earth!, February 23, 2014
By 
Blue Canary (Berkeley, California) - See all my reviews
First off, I have no trouble admitting this movie is not perfect: I think the editing could have been tighter; I would have preferred a bit more focus on Bilbo's part of the story; and the filmmakers' determination to ignore all laws of physics, (especially in the 'molten gold' sequence), is truly impressive.

So, now that that's out of the way: I ADORED this film! Flaws and all, I loved it, and after watching three times in theater, found I only loved it more.

Yes, it strays from the book, and embellishes the story left and right; the thing is, those embellishments come from Jackson and co.'s deep love of the material, and their desire to spend just as long in Middle-earth as they possibly can. They LOVE this world, and it shows. They want to show us everything, and bring to life details the books only hinted at. Even when they make choices I wouldn't have made, I'm grateful to them for bringing this world to life so richly.

The cast is uniformly stellar. Martin Freeman, in particular, IS Bilbo Baggins, and every moment he's onscreen is a joy. I was one of those who initially doubted Richard Armitage could pull off Thorin, (so much older in the books), but he has won me over completely. I've really come to love all the dwarves, in fact, and to appreciate them as individual characters, which is frankly something the book never actually managed. (Special shout-out here for James Nesbitt, who's charm as Bofur never fails to make me grin!)

And then there's Tauriel, played be Evangeline Lilly. Her character was controversial, but why? No, Tauriel was not in the book. But as Tolkien never once said, "and all of the elves were men," and as there wasn't a single named female character in the book at all, Tauriel's presence is both justified and necessary. [For the record, I saw the similarly controversial "romance" between Tauriel and Kili as no romance at all: just a very clearly one-sided puppy love from Kili, and a warm fondness and protective instinct from Tauriel. Very sweet, and really not over-the-top.]

Much as I loved The Hobbit: AUJ, this one's better. The pacing is improved, the story-telling is tighter, and the action feels more plot-relevant. I could easily write on and on about my favorite scenes, and how many great moments have lodged permanently in my memory, but better to let folks watch this for themselves.

I do just want to add, regarding those reviews that gave one star expressly because this is not the extended edition: Getting two cuts to chose from is a good thing, folks. No one is forcing anyone to buy the movie twice. Me, I actually WILL buy both, because I know from experience that when I re-watch these films, I'm sometimes in the mood for the longest possible visit to Middle-earth, (extended edition), and sometimes I just want to cut to the chase (theatrical). But no one's making me do that, and it's awesome that we do have a choice!
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141 of 161 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Loved the books, Loved the movies, Art is subjective. Enjoy what you like rather than hating on what you don't, September 25, 2014
I don't have the extended edition yet since it's yet to be released, but seeing that the haters were out in force I thought I should show it some love.

What most of the haters don't seem to understand is that there are 3 distinct versions of Middle-Earth. There is the version that Tolkien wrote, The version that you imagined when you read it, And the version Peter Jackson imagined and put to the screen. Perhaps most tragically a lot of these haters seem to only see thier own opinion as valid and often assume people who like the new hobbit movies never read the book.

I have The Hobbit, The Lord Of The Rings Trilogy, The Silmarillion, The Children Of Hurin, The Shaping of Middle Earth, The Book Of Lost Tales, etc. I also have The extended versions of The Lord of The Rings films and the first Hobbit. I Love all of them. If you don't like a piece of art, be it book, music, game, show, cinema or whatever you are certainly entitled to your opinion. I just wish people would spend more time enjoying what they like instead of hating on what they don't.

In my opinion Peter Jackson brought Middle Earth to life on the big screen in a way most people thought was impossible. I couldn't have realistically asked for a better set of films portraying my favorite fantasy world, even though there were scenes that differed from what I thought they should be. I'm looking forward to seeing his definitive take on this part of the story with the extended edition, and even more so on seeing his vision for the final part in theaters this december.
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48 of 53 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars What we can expect from the EXTENDED EDITION!, October 12, 2014
By 
The extended edition for The Hobbit: Desolation of Smaug will contain 25 minutes of new scenes, in contrast with An Unexpected Journey's 13 minutes. It also has over 9 hours of behind-the-scenes footage and interviews, detailing the monumental task of bringing the incredible world of Middle Earth to the screen. Here is some stuff we'll see in the Extended Edition:

1. MORE OF DOL GULDUR. Specifically, we get to meet Thrain, Thorin's mad father. Gandalf meets with him and has a pointed discussion. The makeup and prosthetic effects for Thrain are just amazing. Wait till you see it. Richard Armitage also promises glimpses of a vast, bloody battle in Moria.

2. A LOT MORE OF MIRKWOOD. I was surprised and pleased to learn that two scenes from the book were actually filmed: Bilbo, Thorin and company crossing a slimy, enchanted river in Mirkwood. Contains some humor, some amazing sets, some amazing Martin Freeman acting, and a little bit of dark magic. Another sad scene contains a beautiful stag and Dwarvish target practice.

3. ENHANCED INTERROGATION: Beorn, in bear form, and an orc, in crying-for-my-mommy form (presumably). Mikael Persbrandt promised his first scene was a "messy" interrogation of an orc. More Beorn is always welcome. We might also see flashbacks of Beorn himself being tortured in Dol Guldur, back when Azog the Defiler exterminated the Skinchangers.

4. MORE OF BEORN'S HOUSE. And we know what that means: more of that glorious New Zealand landscape that we all love. All we know is that we see Beorn with big muscles and a bigger axe.

5. BEORN AND GANDALF. Beorn has a conversation with Gandalf about the dangers that lie ahead of the Company.

6. MORE THRANDUIL. Peter Jackson smiles upon us and gives us more Thranduil, including a conversation between father and son, and the dwarves, paraded in front of his mighty throne. Anticipate some elvish hubris and the bitemarks from Lee Pace's scenery-chewing.

7. MORE OF THE LONELY MOUNTAIN. The Lonely Mountain gets less lonely as Bilbo and Company explore the ruins of Smaug's desolation - Dale.

8. STEPHEN FRY, SCENERY CHEWER. Stephen Fry promised us last year that he would eat testicles in The Hobbit. We're hoping he fulfills that promise. At the very least, he shows what a scheming conniver he is, expressing his hopes that "Old Smaug dines on dwarf for a day or two..." Poor Master of Laketown...

9. MORE EVIL ORC ARMIES. Honestly, who doesn't want to see more shots of an orc army marching to doom and a red dawn?

10. "THE WORLD OF MEN". Most of Laketown was a stunningly detailed set built for real, and we get to see more of the workings and tradings and the men that live there, through the eyes of a hobbit very far from home... We also see the orcs attack the men of Laketown.

Bilbo Baggins story will conclude with The Battle of Five Armies, but until then, the roads go ever on and on. Naamarie, mellon!
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287 of 348 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Excellent Installment 2 Illustrates Old Adage, January 5, 2014
The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug is an excellent, fast paced, action packed film that was absolutely fabulous eye candy in IMAX 3D; and yet Peter Jackson still takes time to deliver excellent character development and back story, which was well appreciated by this viewer even if some of the story line is original to Jackson's movie. This installment is also more reminiscent of Jackson's LOTR trilogy with the welcome return of the elves as a major part of the story line. I can highly recommend the second film to anyone who appreciates Jackson's deferential approach to Tolkien. However after reading perhaps the hundredth review from fellow readers who still appear not to have noticed, I feel compelled also to point out that all movies based on books are highly abridged versions of the original literary work. The old adage "a picture is worth a thousand words" should be instantly apparent as the reason for this difference before the opening credits are finished rolling. As vastly different art forms books and movies are by necessity presented in a way that will best connect with their particular audience; so why incessantly complain that there are differences between them? In the Desolation of Smaug the art of effective movie making is once again aptly illustrated by Jackson and underscored by Philipa's skillful transformation of the book into a screen play that can still do J.R.R. Tolkien's vision justice. And when a few frames of a movie can chew through twenty or more pages of a book, deviations from the original source material are to be expected in order to maintain pacing and give certain characters enough dialogue to cast leading actors of the caliber required for such an epic film. Not to mention that some readers protests seem oddly out of place in reference to the Desolation of Smaug when the first installment, An Unexpected Journey, was as widely criticized for being too slow paced. The second part of the trilogy is anything but plodding. The extended versions are often the best compromise the movies can offer to the book. I for one can hardly wait for the Bluray, 3D extended version of The Desolation of Smaug to be delivered to my door (while equally glad that I am not required to sit for six hours to watch the complete movie version of The Hobbit--unless I want to at home!)
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85 of 107 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Not "the Hobbit". Perhaps "inspired by the Hobbit" would be better?, March 15, 2014
By 
G. Peterson (Orange County, CA) - See all my reviews
(REAL NAME)   
Ok first let me get this off my chest. This movie is NOT The Hobbit. There, I feel better already. That said, it is not a BAD film, but neither is it the timeless classic that a true movie based on the book COULD be.

The first problem is that Peter Jackson is a very literal movie director. There is NOTHING subtle or suggestive in his directing - unlike Tolkien's writing, which is known for having rich depth, back-stories, and nuanced characters. Heck, in the Lord of the Rings film, Jackson opens up with the first 15 minutes explaining the entire history of the rings, Sauron, and Middle Earth - a literal "history lesson" that Tolkien took 1000 pages to slowly reveal. This movie is no different. The story is both dumbed down, by removing important characters or situations, and then dumbed up, by adding over-the-top action sequences that become so gratuitous that after two plus hours of the same stuff they fail to provide any excitement or joy. How could they make Smaug, an ancient red dragon, look pitiful and weak? Simple - after having him chase dwarves and a hobbit around a dwarven city for over 40 minutes without causing the slightest injury to any of them. More on this later...

Why does Jackson feel the need to change the story so much? My biggest complaints:
(1) The continuation of the stupid "orc chasing Thorin" over-story. The orc character was stupid from the beginning, and to have him continue to chase dwarves all over Mirkwood, the Wood Elf City, the City on the Lake, etc, is beyond ridiculous. Gee I wonder if this is going to come to a final conclusion in the last film, with a showdown between Thorin and the Orc? Duh.
(2) The reduction of the role of Beorn - an awesome character in the book who was minimized in the film. In the book Beorn is seen again and plays a vital role at the end. Will he play the same role in Jackson's film? I doubt it.
(3) The reduction of the time in Mirkwood - which did not begin to feel "mirky". Jackson has a problem portraying darkness in his films; the entire section of the first Hobbit movie where Bilbo was lost in the goblin caves was supposed to be in almost complete darkness. Riddles in the Dark felt shallow and artificial because the actors had to pretend that it was dark - and that they couldn't see other even though there was bright lighting. In the book the Hobbit the character of Gollum is never even physically described because he is always in utter blackness. Instead, in this film it was brighter in the caves than in Bilbo's Living Room. Jackson has the same problem with Mirkwood, where in the book the lack of light caused substantial problems. In the movie it is as bright as a Spring Day - and not at all intimidating.
(4) Use of the ring. Jackson takes huge liberties with when and how Bilbo uses the ring. In the book Bilbo NEVER takes the ring off anywhere near the presence of Smaug (because it would have been instant death to do so) and yet Jackson has him chatting with Smaug in plain sight like Smaug is some domesticated pet. There are many other instances where Jackson decides to change how the ring is used - for no apparent reason.
(5) Stand by the Grey Stone when the Thrush Knocks. This is a critical part of the story in the book - the entire reason why the dwarves are rushing to get to the Lonely Mountain within a certain timeframe. Jackson changes how the dwarves find the secret back door. Why? The Last Light of Durin's Day - IS AND WAS the sunset. Jackson changes it into Moonlight? WHY?
(6) Bard the Bowman. This character is changed completely - and is no longer a bowman but a smuggler? Who knows how to use a special dwarven windlass? That is fired from the highest tower of the city hall? That needs a special black bolt? WHY? Once again Jackson both dumbs down the story - then adds unnecessary complexity to it.
(7) The battle with Smaug. There IS no battle with Smaug in the book. In fact, the dwarves never even SEE Smaug in the book. So to go from the dwarves never seeing Swaug to them having a running battle for over 40 minutes with Smaug in the city is ridiculous. Supposedly Smaug, who can melt metal with his breath, entire destroy armies, and devour two complete cities cannot injure or kill a tiny band of dwarves running around. It cheapens him as an evil, indestructible enemy.
(8) Elf/dwarf love? I hated this part. I didn't mind the elvish female character, but I HATED the fact that Jackson felt the need to create a love triangle with her and Fili and Legolas. WORSE - the fact that Fili and a number of dwarves stay behind in the City on the Lake and are not with Thorin in the City under the Mountain. WHY? Now Jackson will have to find some artificial way to join them BACK UP with Thorin for the 3rd movie? Or maybe not?
(9) The sequences with Gandalf were interesting because they touched on what Gandalf MIGHT have been doing while the dwarves were in Mirkwood. However the stupid orc character (who has no point - and yet Jackson continues to stick him in every scene) ruined this for me. The dangers Gandalf was dealing with at the time of the book were a LOT more insidious and threatening than the stupid orc. Additionally there is a section in this film where Gandalf goes to "inspect" a special jail for the leader of the RingWraiths. What???? Once again "literal" Jackson strikes - reducing an evil vengeful spirit into some dude you can keep locked up behind iron bars(?) What?
(10) Barrel ride. I enjoyed the action sequence, but it was completely gratuitous, did not make ANY sense within the context of the story, and felt so artificially inserted that it reduced my overall "suspension of disbelief".

Bottom line - why change a story that is already a classic? Why intentionally replace plot elements - with something that is actually WORSE than the original? The movie felt like someone was vomiting CG money at the screen - without ever asking "does this make the movie BETTER"? In my opinion, 95% of what Jackson changed was changed for the worse.

Sadly, I now know that he HAS to carry some of these elements into the 3rd movie - so I already know parts of the story that will be changed and corrupted. Once again, it will not be for the good of the overall experience.

Note to Jackson - darkness is good. Sublety is good. We aren't all stupid, need to be hit over the head with plot elements, and need action sequences every 5 minutes.

I would have been really upset, but then I thought about this movie as "inspired by" the Hobbit - like a High School Play - and it made me feel better! So if you are looking for The Hobbit, look elsewhere. If you are looking for a bunch of CG action sequences with orcs and dragons and dwarves running around and bumping into each other... they certainly spent a lot of money on it!
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17 of 19 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Plastic Axe Problem on Collector's Edition Bookends, April 11, 2014
Verified Purchase(What's this?)
Loved the movie, I'm annoyed beyond belief about the shoddy work on the bookends (Guards of Erebor). This is the first Special Collector's Edition set that has had plastic incorporated into the design, a short-cut if you ask me. One of my dwarf bookends arrived with the axe broken, it was plastic with a wire that was glued into the hand of the figure. Getting replacement. :( Casting flaws too. Got used to excellent prior collector sets. Will post pictures.
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171 of 225 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars This is the first time I feel this franchise is slipping, February 21, 2014
By 
Jeffrey Timpano (North Bay, ON Canada) - See all my reviews
(REAL NAME)   
I liked Beorn (not enough screen time), Smaug looked awesome on screen, and I can live with the barrel scene despite it having some really ridiculous moments - But I had so many issues with this particular middle earth film unlike all before it - Mind you the first Hobbit movie had its own red flags to dampen expectations. I understand why Tauriel was added with the number of men in the story but her addition felt forced and her 'take no prisoners' aggressiveness made me really dislike her. The love story in LOTR with Arwen & Aragorn seemed genuine and added to the story but the one with Tauriel and Kili was ridiculous to the point of making one cringe - Seriously, why the instant attraction except 'looks' ?!? - It's stupid and the worst decision made in any Jackson movie so far ie: King Kong, LOTR... you name it. Great to see Orlando Bloom but his face has visibly aged since LOTR which I can live with. The Hobbit may be fantasy and less serious in tone to LOTR but there's way too much over the top stuff going on... Even fantasy should obey the laws of physics to some degree. Without sounding too old fashioned my last and most important beef is the crude references in these Hobbit movies so far such as Bofur's ' have the balls for it' reference to croquet in AUJ and Tauriel's finding 'nothing' comment to Kili about searching down his trousers. I never find these references funny - In this case I also find it disrespectful to Tolkien who led a clean and respectful life and especially since he wrote the Hobbit as a children's book. Success might be going to the head of some people unfortunately... At the end of the day these stories are still Tolkien's and I hope that isn't forgotten on anyone especially Jackson and his crew. I love the book and still feel LOTR are some of the best films made but there's a strong chance I might just skip the Hobbit - Even Howard Shore's score does not meet his usual high standards for this film. The Hobbit had more potential and should have been two lengthy movies - I can't see myself buying this one.
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44 of 57 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars As in "An Unexpected Journey", “Desolation of Smaug” Still Preserves the Novel’s Inherent Spirit and Themes, September 17, 2014
***This review may contain spoilers***
Despite “Hobbit” purists’ frenzied accusation of director Peter Jackson’s “Hobbit” movie trilogy’s lack of stringent, precise loyalty to the source material, I believe such loyalty is unrealistic. No movie can exactly duplicate a novel’s characteristics; if it attempts to do so, it becomes ponderous, sluggish and dull.

Take for example the scene near the beginning of “The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug (hereafter “Hobbit:DOS”) where Bilbo, Gandalf (Ian McKellen), and the dwarves encounter the ursine, muscular shapeshifter Beorn (Mikael Persbrandt) at his pastoral home. If “Hobbit:DOS” had copied the Beorn episode exactly from the novel, it would have become mired in redundant exposition, since Gandalf relates to Beorn the adventures he and his followers have already endured in order to enlist the surly loner’s aid in their quest. Instead, “Hobbit: DOS” makes the Beorn sequence more economically streamlined and actually more meaningful. Although Beorn is no fan of dwarves (which is why he angrily pursues them in his bear form), he decides to help them because they oppose the orcs and their confederates. Beorn hates orcs and their company even more, since they have decimated and enslaved Beorn’s bear bretheren in the past (he waves a brawny, shackled arm as proof). Though some may complain that the admittedly fiercely charismatic and “bada$$” Beorn gets truncated, limited screen time, “Hobbit: DOS” manages, I think, to capture the sequence’s intent in the novel, and even embellish and extend it to the imminent, encompassing evil of the Necromancer and his legions.

Throughout the novel’s notable set-pieces - From Beorn , through Bilbo and the dwarves’ enchanted, perilous wanderings through the aptly named Mirkwood, through their battle with huge, voracious spiders, through their imprisonment in the Elvish citadel, through their gymnastically stunning and suspenseful escape from the citadel in floating barrels, to their initially furtive and demeaning but ultimately triumphant arrival in Laketown, to their journey to the Lonely Mountain to try to wrest the dwarves’ homeland from the unforgettable dragon Smaug – through all this, “Hobbit:DOS” continues to preserve each sequence’s basic purpose and meaning in the novel despite some tweakings and deviations. Most of the deviations originate from implacable orc Azog the Defiler’s (Manu Bennett) Ahab-like dogged pursuit of Thorin Oakenshield (Richard Armitage) for causing his deformity, and from the elves’ (namely Terminator-like warriors Legolas (Orlando Bloom) and Tauriel (Evangeline Lilly) enhanced presence and intercession in the dwarves’ quests. Except for what I felt was a gratuitous, inexplicable (if still affecting), growing relationship between Tauriel and the dwarf Kili (Aidan Turner), these deviations and detours do not detract from “Hobbit:DOS”’s deliberate but fluid, action-packed, and genuinely exciting and involving interpretation. Indeed, I felt the deviations emphasized the “Hobbit” novel’s indirect reference to the looming threat of the Necromancer and its understated insistence that it is the duty of ALL Middle-Earth denizens (including the isolationist elves represented by Elvenking Thranduil) to face this pervasive evil.

Therefore, Jackson’s “Hobbit:DOS” does have epic objectives above and beyond the dwarves’ quest. But again, I strongly disagree with the purists and other naysayers who argue that “Hobbit:DOS” gives short shrift to Bilbo, Thorin, and his band. Even though his transition from reluctant bourgeois homebody to committed adventurer, inspiration to the dwarves, and even defender seems more abrupt in the movie, Bilbo (Martin Freeman) nevertheless makes his conversion convincing. As in the novel, Bilbo proves his worth and value to the group and even (horrors!) faces the beguiling, mellifluous, but monstrous and seemingly invincible dragon Smaug (Benedict Cumberbatch) even without his ring of invisibility. He even persuades the dwarves, who fearfully do not encounter Smaug in the novel, to show their true legendary courage and confront the dragon in their stolen lair – which I actually think is a logical, plausible improvement.

“The Hobbit” novel touches upon themes of courage, self-reliance, greed, and the duty to resist evil in all its myriad forms. “The Hobbit:DOS” reflects these themes in its somewhat divergent, wildly dynamic and entertaining but still respectful cinematic presentation of Tolkien’s vision and depiction of (as Balin (Ken Stott) would agree) that most remarkably daring and observant fellow Bilbo. 4.5 stars.
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The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug (Blu-ray+DVD+UltraViolet)
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