The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug Review Roundup: Critics Can't Find Middle Ground on Middle-earth

Find out the pros and cons of Peter Jackson's latest installment of the trilogy

By Bruna Nessif Dec 12, 2013 4:15 AMTags
The Hobbit: The Desolation of SmaugNew Line Productions

It seems The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug didn't fascinate everybody.

Critics have given mixed reviews for Peter Jackson's newest installment of the J.R.R. Tolkien trilogy, which may leave some fans questioning whether or not it's worth rushing to theaters this Friday to see it on the big screen. But, before you let that disappoint you, there are a couple of things that all the reviews could agree were great about this film.

The first was that Smaug is much better than the first movie, An Unexpected Journey, so that's a plus! And, critics also praised the character Smaug,  the fire-breathing dragon voiced by none other than Benedict Cumberbatch.

But before you make up your mind about whether or not to pay a visit to MIddle-earth this weekend, check out these reviews...

New Line Productions

• "A year ago, Peter Jackson's The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey got the job done, but it was too bright and busy and noisy, with creatures that kept popping up as if out of a jack-in-the-box. The Desolation of Smaug is a more grandly somber movie, and also a much better one, with forces of boldly intense and unified malevolence."—Owen Gleiberman, Entertainment Weekly

• "The dragon of the title—voiced by Benedict Cumberbatch and rendered by the furthest advances of computer science—is the bomb. Smaug is, undoubtedly, the coolest movie dragon ever. He's sly and foreboding and his massive stature is quite palpable. My disbelief was suspended like a kid setting off firecrackers in study hall. ... Too bad it takes about two hours to get to him. Before that you've got a whole lot of nothing."—Jordan Hoffman,

• "It's livelier and better than its predecessor. The first movie's harrumphing throat-clearing has given way to a swift, imposing adventure boasting several wing-ding action sequences. My favorite is the bit where the dwarves do battle with a near-endless supply of enemies, while speeding down a raging river atop their stolen barrels. It's exciting, improbable, funny in its derring-do and a reminder that Jackson, as a filmmaker, can do many things, including finding the precise way to send arrow after arrow through skull after skull, while tossing in a few beheadings, and yet somehow maintain a PG-13 rating. And the right spirit."—Michael Phillips, Chicago Tribune

• "Smaug the dragon (voiced by Benedict Cumberbatch)... [is] a visual effects spectacle to behold (a CGI marvel, really)—nasty, mean and a massive threat, but the character doesn't add up to more than an infuriated bad guy who chases people around and burns their bums with fire because they've woken him up."—Rodrigo Perez, The Playlist

• "In the wake of The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey, last year's dreary, dense, disappointing slough through Middle-earth, The Desolation of Smaug comes as a relief. Peter Jackson's newest installment of the Tolkien trilogy is set afire by the scorching roar of a dragon...As that suggests, the pace is frenetic. There are a few action sequences that go on a bit long, but the emotional arcs are as well placed as any of Legolas' arrows. And if you know anything about Tolkien's work, you know that is saying a lot."—Betsy Sharkey, The Los Angeles Times

• "For those who only want decent special effects and a few quality action sequences in a fantasy setting, The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug will arguably fit the bill. But it is beyond sad that the Lord of the Rings series, which once exemplified all that a blockbuster could be, has now found itself becoming just another empty spectacle. We can and should expect more because we know what 'more' looks like from the parties involved, which we are reminded of any time we hear a piece of music from the original trilogy. On a purely visceral level The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug is a 'better' film than The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey, but it fails to rectify any of the fatal issues at play. It is still not nearly good enough."—Scott Mendelson, Forbes

Courtesy of Warner Bros. Pictures

• "[While] spiders, bear-men and Elves are all well and good, the key reason to shell out for a ticket has always been Smaug, and after a film and a half of build-up, he's certainly worth the wait...A gloriously vast creation, with red-tinged scales, bat-like wings and an elongated jaw set in a permanently sly grin, he's easily the year's most magnificent beast. He has a way with a fearsome one-liner too, and Benedict Cumberbatch hisses out his words with cold-blooded vitriol."—Matt Maytum, Total Film

• "Beginning with the blessing of not being stuck with a bunch of hungry and thirsty dwarves in Bilbo Baggins' hut for a half-hour at the outset, nearly everything about The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug represents an improvement over the first installment of Peter Jackson's three-part adaptation of J.R.R. Tolkien's beloved creation. The 'unexpected journey' launched in last Christmas' box-office behemoth becomes the heart of the matter this time around, making for plenty of peril, warfare, theme-park-ride-style escapes and little-guy courage. For Jackson and Warner Bros., it's another movie, another billion."—Todd McCarthy, The Hollywood Reporter