Movie review: ‘Desolation of Smaug’ suffers from middle-chapter syndrome

By Chris Mudd, News Writer


The holiday movie bonanza has come and gone, and we’re back in the throes of academia. Hooray.

There were plenty of awesome movies that came out over winter break, but one of the most successful was Peter Jackson’s second chapter in the Hobbit trilogy: “The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug.”

Being a Tolkien nerd my whole life, I dished out the money on opening weekend to get my fantasy fix, yet not without reservations, as the first in the series had its fair share of problems.

I’m also obligated to mention that I’ve read the book, but I’ve attempted to distance myself from the all-too-common “book is better than the movie” trope.

“The Desolation of Smaug” wastes no time in reminding the audience that Bilbo Baggins and his Dwarven buddies are in over their heads. Their quest to reclaim the ancient homeland of Thorin Oakenshield under the Lonely Mountain has not gone unnoticed, as they spend the majority of the film either captured or being run down. To that effect, the film maintains a fast pace from start to finish — with the obvious short moments of downtime.

The action of the film is stellar, although heavily dependant on the use of special effects. It’s a minor pitfall, as the themes of the film do lend themselves to a whimsical visual style. This isn’t “Lord of the Rings.” It’s not about the end of the world. The stakes are significantly more personal.

Therein lies part of the problem. The circumstances never seem dire enough to worry about any of the characters. It’s an issue that all prequels have to deal with. We know who lives, so nothing the antagonist throws at them is of any danger.

The beast, Smaug, has a fair amount of screen time, which he certainly deserves. Brought to life by Benedict Cumberbatch, the most famous of dragons is one of the most interesting characters in the prequel trilogy. His sheer mass and power made the last act of the film one of the mostmemorable moments to watch.

We’re introduced to multiple new characters, like Tauriel the elf, Bard the smuggler and even old favorite Legolas makes his way back into Middle Earth.

Overall, it’s a fun flick. It’s not particularly awesome in any way, but it is worth dishing out $10 to see. The three-hour movie time didn’t bring attention to itself, as there’s enough going on to garner attention.

However, I can’t help but feel let down. “Desolation of Smaug” suffers from middle-chapter syndrome, and serves as a very long commercial for the third and final film. No doubt that is intentional, so we’ll have to see if “The Hobbit: There and Back Again” lives up to the hype.

Illustrated by Jasmine Kemp
Illustrated by Jasmine Kemp