Re: The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug - Grading & Discussion (Spoile I finally got a chance to see this today. While I really liked An Unexpected Journey, I do think that The Desolation of Smaug is, overall, the better movie. However, there are some concerns I had about it, which some of you here seem to share. First of all, I thought they blew past Beorn and Mirkwood way too quickly. It felt like they were in Beorn's home for about two minutes before running off again. And I know there's more to their journey through Mirkwood than we saw; I recall seeing other scenes in some of the production diaries. No doubt they'll appear in the Extended Edition, but for now it feels like they just wanted to get to the Wood-elves as quickly as possible. I have to admit, I really loved what they did with the Woodland Realm. Not only was there some absolutely fantastic design work, but the whole feel of the place was great. There was none of the warm comforts of Rivendell or the ethereal majesty of Lothlorien to be found here. The Elves of Mirkwood are a warier, more dangerous folk; no surprise, given that their home is constantly threatened by giant spiders and other dark creatures. Thranduil was very well-realized by Lee Pace, I thought; again, he's a very different ruler than Elrond and Galadriel. He's colder, more calculating, and a little angrier. He's just as greedy as he accuses the Dwarves of being, but he's too arrogant to see it. I look forward to seeing how he develops in the final film. It was kind of funny to see Legolas, a character who never appeared or was even mentioned in the book, have such a prominent role in this movie. I'm pretty sure he had more lines and got to do more in this single film than he did in all of The Lord of the Rings! But it makes sense that he would have been present for all of this, and I actually really enjoyed Orlando Bloom's performance. This Legolas is slightly younger, more brash and impetuous, and also kind of cold and uncaring, much like his father. While I had misgivings about Tauriel going into the movie, I did enjoy her in this. I still think her addition to the story was largely unnecessary, but I understand why it happened. I thought Evangeline Lilly did a great job bringing her character to life, and I'll admit it was kind of neat to see a "lowly" Silvan Elf take such a prominent role in a series where we've only really gotten to see the more aristocratic Noldor (Elrond, Galadriel) and Sindar (Legolas, Celeborn, and now Thranduil). I actually don't mind the idea of Kili developing a crush on Tauriel, and Tauriel gradually warming to his advances. Why can't a Dwarf fall for an Elf? We already saw it with Gimli and Galadriel, though of course this time it was taken to another level. I think most the issue people seem to be having with it is Tauriel reciprocating. Why is that such a bad thing? Tauriel is apparently a rather young Elf (only a few centuries old, judging by dialogue), and she's also a Silvan, not a haughty Noldo or Sinda. I quite liked their interactions, and I thought Lilly and Turner had pretty good chemistry together. But where I think the love story went wrong was introducing a needless love triangle. From what I've read this was kind of a studio decision rather than a directorial one, but it doesn't really matter. Why did Legolas have to have romantic feelings for Tauriel? Isn't it enough that they're friends and comrades-in-arms? I also wasn't a huge fan of Kili being poisoned and forced to stay behind in Lake-town while Legolas fights off the Orc hunting party and Tauriel heals him. I don't think it was a particularly necessary subplot, and felt more like an excuse to keep the Elves in the movie for as long as possible. And I think it's this addition to the story that really hurt it the most, because without the added time spent on it perhaps the movie would have had a proper ending. Smaug was great. Simply great. I thought Cumberbatch did a terrific job with his voice, and Weta Digital have produced what I think might well be the greatest dragon ever put on film. I was apprehensive about the action sequence with the Dwarves luring Smaug into the forges, which sounded like another superfluous addition to me, but I actually really enjoyed it. I thought it gave Smaug a stronger motivation for flying off to wreak havoc on Lake-town, and it also gave the Dwarves something to do besides wait around outside for Bilbo. But we really needed to see Smaug's attack on Lake-town. Everything was building up to that moment, and just as you're starting to think "Here we go..." the movie ends. What? Why? Now this movie has no actual ending, no payoff. It just stops. And now apparently we won't see the attack at all. What?! How can they just skip over it like it's nothing? It's arguably the climax of the whole story. It seems Smaug has become the Saruman of this trilogy. All that said, I still really, really liked the movie. I thought the Barrels Out of Bond sequence was just thrilling, possibly the best action sequence in the trilogy so far. I saw this in 3D and in High-Frame Rate, and it might just be the most beautiful movie I've ever seen in theaters. I was a little hesitant about HFR (I only saw AUJ in 3D), but I didn't have any problems with it at all. The picture was noticeably sped up, but I loved the more realistic look that gave it, along with the amazing sharpness and clarity. And I thought the use of 3D was well done, particularly in the vast halls of Erebor. Overall I give The Desolation of Smaug an A-. An improvement over An Unexpected Journey with some terrific visuals and some outstanding action scenes, but I felt they cut out a little too much stuff they should have kept in, and added in a little too much stuff they didn't need to add. And the removal of Smaug's attack on Lake-town really, really hurts the ending.