Before I begin: This is a SPOILER filled review. There is no other way for me to write it. Trust me.
The Hobbit by J. R. R. Tolkien is and always will be one of my favorite novels. I have fond memories of my Dad reading the book to me when I was seven. I also read the book again in High School, and as a school project in College, where we went into the psychology of the story. So naturally, I hold this story dear to my heart, and worry when liberties are taken from the director. I knew long before the first movie trailer that Legolas would be involved. I also knew that they would create a female elf, and we would finally see Smaug after being teased at the end of the first movies.
Here are my praises:
Smaug! A dragon so amazing, terrifying and clever that when I first pictured him in my head, I envisioned a giant, regal beast covered in red scales with treasure stuck between them. He was even better than I had pictured him in the film, and when he finally breathed fire, I was blown away. I know Smaug didn't talk much in the novel, but Benedict Cumberpatch had such a presence to the voice, that I can't imagine Smaug any other way. The conversation between Smaug and Bilbo was such an incredible scene in the film.
Bilbo. He was more of a hero, which I was worried they weren't going to stick to. In the novel, the spider fight scene is iconic. It's when Bilbo names his sword, rescues the dwarves and discovers that he can be a hero. I was worried Legolas would steal the show, but I was glad that Bilbo had taken care of most of the spiders before Legolas showed up. He has grown as a character, and it really shows after the spider scene in the film.
Gandalf. He's always an amazing character! I liked his coversation with Bilbo before he leaves to go after the necromancer. He points out that Bilbo is not the same Hobbit he once was. As usual, Gandalf's battle scenes are epic.
Tauriel. I really enjoyed her part to play in the story. She is strong, and the actress did a great job not being too gung-ho and overdoing the female warrior. And yes, haters may hate, but I loved the crush Kili had on her, and their converstaions were so sweet, especially talking about the stars. There was great chemistry between the actors, and the dialogue, which would have been cheesy in any other film, was perfect for them.
Kili. Did I mention that he's my favorite dwarf? He has been since the first movie. I loved the extra character development for him, and his obvious crush on Tauriel was so sweet. The actor has a great balance between serious Kili, and goofy Kili. He's able to preserve the character from the novel, and add another layer to the character from the film.
Bard and his family. I loved the way we were introduced to him, giving him more of a back story and the pressure he feels being his father's son. The only thing strange about his character was that he wasn't a warrior, which he was in the book.
The last light of Durin's Day. Absolutely perfect! It showed how much Bilbo had changed, determined not to give up after all they had overcome. It was wonderfully done, and just as silly as I remember from the book.
Now for the negative:
Beorn. I was really disappointed with our introduction to him. It was so quick, and confusing for those who haven't read the book. I wasn't happy with Beorn's appearence either. The bear form was fine, but the man looked really weird and more werewolf than werebear.
The Spiders. Okay, this is nothing personal. I'm arachnophobic. The spiders didn't look bad at all, in fact they were downright creepy. Mission accomplished! I was glad that they talked though. They did in the book. (There's a possiblity I closed my eyes during most of the spider scenes lol)
The chase scene in the mines. This was an entertaining scene and fairly intense, but it seemed strange compared to the scene where Smaug attacks them on the mountain. The village sees this, and that's when Bard decides that he might have to follow his father's legacy and try to defeat Smaug. But they couldn't see the fire from inside the mines. (It would make an amazing 3D ride though. Seriously!)
Not necessarily a complaint, but some of Gandalf's scenes were a little awkward in pacing. They were still epic, but as a script writer, I couldn't help thinking that I would have placed one scene earlier and one scene later. But to be fair, it's hard to balance these events because they weren't written in the Hobbit, but explained later, which changes the tone of the book, and creates the anticipation for The Lord of the Rings.
One sort of silly complaint that I share with my dad is when they turned the lights back on as Smaug headed for the village. It ruined the climax of the scene :(
But Smaug's dialogue at the end, and the song "I see fire" following it was amazing!
I give The Hobbit the Desolation of Smaug 4 of 5 golden rings. (lame pun I know)
It was an amazing adventure with many wonderful surprises and the best dragon film will ever know.
I recommend it to anyone who loves adventure and fantasy films, people who have read and love the novel and anyone who wants to learn how to face their fears and become the hero of their own story.