The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug

Dec 6, 2013

Exciting storytelling.

The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug

Grade: B

Director: Peter Jackson (The Lovely Bones)

Screenplay: Fran Walsh (Heavenly Creatures), Philippa Boyens (King Kong), Jackson, Guillermo del Toro (Pan’s Labyrinth) from J.R.R.Tolkein novel The Hobbit

Cast: Martin Freeman (the World’s End), Ian McKellen (X-Men)

Rating: PG-13

Runtime: 161 min.

by John DeSando

“Where does your journey end? You seek that which would bestow upon you the right to rule. A quest to reclaim a homeland, and slay a dragon!” Thranduil to Thorin

By now most geeks and civilians know the general story about Tolkein's Hobbits, especially the good hearted thief Bilbo Baggins (Martin Freeman), who is aiding the dwarves' regaining their homeland, this time from Smaug, the fiery dragon.  Although much of this long Odyssey smacks of Homer's inventive mythology, it remains unique in its celebration of the little people, both literal and figurative.

The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug grandly and warmly depicts the indominatable courage of Baggins, a reluctant hero, who aids the dwarves frequently through his artful thievery.  However, he is only one among many who excel in this adventure:  Thorin (Richard Armitage), the leader of the dwarves, vacillates between selflessness and greed, a legacy from his relatives who lost to the dragon, possibly because of a fateful attachment to gold; Tauriel (Evangeline Lilly) of the elves, a Katniss for Middle Earth, who like the Hunger heroine connects with a dwarf while having her other attachment to the heroic elf Legolas (Orlando Bloom).  Sounds like a Hunger Games scenario to me, who is well aware that both ladies are wickedly accurate and swift of arrow. The triangle lives.

On the other side of the age groups, Gandalf the Grey (Ian McKellen) teaches the youngsters not to desert their friends although he doesn't have an easy time of it given the numerous factions involved. McKellen as actor, however, has an easy time letting his Shakespearean chops show through.

This Hobbit seems to me more humanistic and simpler than previous adventures, as director Peter Jackson aims at returning the dwarves to their home, slaying the dragon, and establishing peace in the Middle Kingdom. Though the parallels to today's Middle East may not be perfect, the struggle of oppressed minorities remains the same.  Tolkein and Jackson prove a robust, entertaining, and engaging adventure is all you need to enlist our sympathy.

John DeSando co-hosts WCBE 90.5’s It’s Movie Time and Cinema Classics, which can be heard streaming and on-demand at Contact him at