The film's screenplay was written by Peter Jackson, his longtime collaborators Fran Walsh and Philippa Boyens, and Guillermo del Toro, who was originally chosen to direct before leaving the project in 2010. The ensemble cast also includes Evangeline Lilly, Lee Pace, Luke Evans, Orlando Bloom, James Nesbitt, and Ken Stott, and features Stephen Fry,Sylvester McCoy, and Manu Bennett.
The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug premiered on 2 December 2013 in Los Angeles, and was released internationally on 11 December 2013. Like its predecessor, the film used a shooting and projection frame rate of 48 frames per second, which was advertised as "High Frame Rate" to the public. The film was nominated for three Academy Awards: Best Visual Effects, Best Sound Editing, and Best Sound Mixing.
At the Inn of the Prancing Pony in Bree, Gandalf persuades Thorin Oakenshield to obtain the Arkenstone to unite the Dwarves, and suggests that a stealthy burglar would be needed to steal the jewel back from Smaug.
One year later, Thorin and his company are being pursued by Azog and his Orc party down the Carrock following their escape by eagles. After Bilbo informs the group that a massive black bear is also tracking them, Gandalf ushers them along to the nearby home of Beornto seek his aid; Beorn is a skin-changer who sometimes takes the form of the bear. That night, Azog is summoned to Dol Guldur and instructs his son Bolg to take over the hunt for Thorin. With the aid of ponies provided by Beorn, the company reaches Mirkwood the next day, ahead of their Orc pursuers. Here Gandalf discovers Black Speech graffiti imprinted on an old ruin, coinciding with a telepathic message from Galadriel urging him to go to the High Fells, and abruptly leaves without explanation after warning them to remain on the path and wait for him before entering the Lonely Mountain. However, they lose their way and are caught by giant spiders. Bilbo, with the help of the One Ring, sets about freeing the dwarves, which results in him dropping the ring; Bilbo begins to learn of the corrupting influence the ring has on him after brutally killing a spider to retrieve it.
Just as the spiders are about to overwhelm the dwarves, a patrol of Wood Elves arrive, led by Legolas and Tauriel. The Elves kill the remaining spiders, but take the dwarves back to their underground halls. Bilbo evades capture by turning invisible with his magic ring. The Elvenking Thranduil offers to aid Thorin's quest - but wants a portion of Erebor's treasure-hoard in exchange. Thorin denounces Thranduil, who angrily decides to keep the dwarves imprisoned until Thorin relents - for years if need be, as the immortal Elves can be patient. Bilbo, however, manages to arrange an escape using empty wine barrels that are sent downstream. While being pursued by the Elves, they are ambushed by Bolg and his Orc party and Kili is wounded. Thranduil seals off his kingdom when he learns that an evil entity has returned and is amassing great power in the south, but Tauriel disobeys him and leaves to assist the dwarves, followed by Legolas. Meanwhile, Gandalf meets Radagast to investigate the tombs of the Nazgûl, which are found empty. Gandalf reveals that they answer to only one master.
The company then meets a man named Bard who smuggles them into Esgaroth, the Lake-town where the descendants of Dale now reside. Thorin promises the Master of Lake-town and its people a share of the mountain's treasure for their assistance, and receives a grand farewell. Kili is forced to stay behind, tended by Fili, Oin and Bofur. It is also revealed that Bard is a descendant of the last ruler of Dale, and possesses the last black arrow capable of defeating Smaug. Meanwhile, Gandalf returns to Dol Guldur in the south, while Radagast is sent to warn Galadriel of their discovery at the tombs. Gandalf finds the ruins infested with orcs and is subsequently attacked by Azog. While he attempts to escape, the Necromancer reveals itself, and a duel erupts between the two. The Necromancer overpowers Gandalf and reveals its true identity as the Dark Lord Sauron.
Meanwhile, Thorin and his remaining company reach the Lonely Mountain, where Bilbo discovers the hidden entrance and is sent to retrieve the Arkenstone, only to awaken Smaug. In Laketown, Bard attempts to bring the black arrow to the town's launcher, but is arrested in the process, leaving his son to hide the arrow. Kili, Fili, Oin, Bofur and Bard's daughters are then attacked by Bolg and his Orc party, who have infiltrated the town in search of Thorin. Legolas and Tauriel arrive soon after and fend off the Orcs. Legolas leaves in pursuit of Bolg, while Tauriel stays to tend to Kili; the two then acknowledge the bond that has developed between one another. Meanwhile, a defeated and imprisoned Gandalf awakens and watches as Azog and the Orc army march off towards the Lonely Mountain.
Inside the Lonely Mountain, Bilbo and the Dwarves, now being hunted by Smaug, trick the dragon into rekindling the forges, and attempt to kill him by drowning him in molten gold. However, Smaug emerges and stumbles out of the mountain, determined to destroy Lake-town and its people for aiding the Dwarves. He then takes to the air as Bilbo watches in horror at what they have unleashed.
Most of filming was finished during 2012, ending in July 2012, but during May 2013, additional shooting for the film and The Hobbit: There and Back Again, began in New Zealand, which lasted 10 weeks.
The musical score for The Desolation of Smaug was composed by Howard Shore in association with local New Zealand writing teams. It was performed by the New Zealand Symphony Orchestra. The original motion picture soundtrack album was released on December 10, 2013. It received positive reviews, especially for its new themes.
Peter Jackson provided the first details about the second film in the series at a live event held on March 24, 2013. The access code was attached to the DVD editions of The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey. The live-broadcast event revealed some plot details; Jackson said that the role of Tauriel, acted by Evangeline Lilly, is a part of the elven guard and a bodyguard of the Elvenking, Thranduil. In addition, he revealed a scene from the film in which Gandalf and Radagast the Brown search for the Necromancer fortress and discover that the Ringwraiths have been released from their graves. The first trailer for the film was released on June 11, 2013. On November 4, 2013, an extra long 3 minute trailer/sneak peek was released and revealed new footage and major plot points. On November 4, 2013, a special Desolation of Smaug live online fan event, hosted by Anderson Cooper in New York, was held across eleven different cities with participants including Peter Jackson, Jed Brophy, Evangeline Lilly, Lee Pace, Orlando Bloom, Luke Evans, Andy Serkis and Richard Armitage.
Martin Freeman, Richard Armitage, Benedict Cumberbatch, Luke Evans, Evangeline Lilly, Peter Jackson and, to a lesser extent, Orlando Bloom and Ian McKellen, took part in the press tour, appearing on talk shows and giving interviews before the film's release.
The film premiered in Los Angeles at the Dolby Theatre on December 2, 2013, and was released internationally on December 11, 2013 and in the United Kingdom and United States on December 13, 2013.
The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug will be released on DVD, Blu-ray, and Blu-ray 3D on April 7, 2014 in the United Kingdom and on April 8, 2014 in the United States. Three different versions were released: a Limited Collector's Edition Blu-ray, Blu-ray 3D, DVD, and digital download combo pack; a Blu-ray 3D combo pack; a Blu-ray combo pack, and a two-disc DVD special edition. Extras include three making-of featurettes, 4 production web videos, and a music video for "I See Fire" by Ed Sheeran. At Target on The Blu-Ray/DVD combo pack it comes with an Exclusive Lego Mini Figure Legolas and Three Lego Stop Motion Shorts: Dwarven Dreams, Bard The Bowmen: The Beginning, and Middle-Earth Motors.
On 24 April, 2014, an extended edition of The Desolation of Smaug was confirmed, with over 25 minutes of new material and original music.
As of March 20, 2014, The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug has grossed $257,903,709 in North America and $686,400,000 in other countries for a worldwide total of $944,303,709. It is the 24th highest-grossing film, the fourth highest-grossing 2013 film. It grossed $209 million worldwide on its opening weekend.
In North America, The Desolation of Smaug earned $8.8 million during its midnight opening, making it the second-highest December showing ever, behind only the first instalment. The film topped the box office on its opening day with $31.2 million. It remained in first place throughout its opening weekend, grossing $73,645,197, a 13% drop from its predecessor. The Desolation of Smaug was in first place at the box office for three consecutive weekends.
Outside North America, The Desolation of Smaug opened to $135.4 million in its opening weekend. Its largest openings occurred in China ($33.0 million), Germany ($19.0 million) and the United Kingdom, Ireland and Malta ($15.2 million). It topped the box office outside North America on four consecutive weekends and five in total. It is the highest-grossing film of 2013 in many European countries, as well as in New Zealand and Fiji.
Following the Los Angeles premiere, Metro noted that early critical reaction was "glowing", with critics describing it as a "spectacle", while The Guardian reported that it was receiving "much stronger early reviews". However, before the film's theatrical release, E!reported that reviews had been "mixed", but stated they were still "much better" than the previous film. After the film's international release, MTV reported that the film has garnered a "positive" critical reaction, while the Los Angeles Times stated the consensus is that the film "reinvigorates" the series, putting it "back on course". The review aggregator website Rotten Tomatoes reported a 75% approval rating with an average rating of 6.9/10 based on 209 reviews. The website's consensus reads, "While still slightly hamstrung by "middle chapter" narrative problems and its formidable length, The Desolation of Smaug represents a more confident, exciting second chapter for the Hobbit series." On aggregate review site Metacritic, the film has a score of 66 out of 100 based on 44 reviews, indicating "generally favorable" reviews. According to CinemaScore polls the film received an "A-" from audiences. Nick de Semlyen of Empire awarded the film five stars out of five and wrote that "Middle-earth's got its mojo back. A huge improvement on the previous installment, this takes our adventurers into uncharted territory and delivers spectacle by the ton", while Richard Corliss of TIME declared it one of the top ten films of 2013, and wrote "In all, this is a splendid achievement, close to the grandeur of Jackson’s Lord of the Rings films." Justin Chang of Variety wrote that "After a bumpy beginning with An Unexpected Journey, Peter Jackson's 'Hobbit' trilogy finds its footing in this much more exciting and purposeful second chapter." Todd McCarthy of Hollywood Reporter wrote that "Nearly everything... represents an improvement over the first installment of Peter Jackson's three-part adaptation of J.R.R. Tolkien's beloved creation." He also praised the High Frame Rate of The Desolation of Smaug as being better than that of An Unexpected Journey. Mark Hughes, who reviewed the film for Forbes, was highly enthusiastic, and felt "The Desolation of Smaug is another grand entry in the Tolkien saga, raising the emotional and physical stakes while revealing more of the sinister forces," before concluding "It’s pleasing to see a filmmaker this in love with storytelling, this committed to creating entire worlds... that’s a rare thing indeed, and for it to turn out so well is even more rare. It’s a sight to behold, and you won’t be sorry you did."
Peter Bradshaw of The Guardian scored the film four stars out of five, writing, "It's mysterious and strange, and yet Jackson also effortlessly conjures up that genial quality that distinguishes 'The Hobbit' from the more solemn 'Rings' stories." Total Film also scored the film four stars out of five, but reviewer Matt Maytum noted that, in his opinion, the film suffered "from middle-act wobbles." Despite this, he praised the "rousing action... incredible visuals... and one stupendous dragon", and concluded his review saying "There’s a lot to admire in The Desolation of Smaug." Jim Vejvoda, who reviewed the film for IGN, awarded it 8.5 out of 10, and felt "It's a breathlessly told, action-packed crowd-pleaser that restores the luster of the saga for those underwhelmed by its predecessor and leaves you excited for the final chapter in the trilogy."
Conversely, Peter Travers, who reviewed the film for Rolling Stone, gave it two and a half stars out of four. He felt it was "a little less long and a little less boring" than the first installment, and offered praise for the depiction of Smaug, saying "as a digital creation, Smaug is a bloody wonder of slithering fright." He was, however, very critical of the film's padding of a "slender novel", but concluded: "I'd endure another slog through Middle-Earth just to spend more time with Smaug". Robbie Collin of The Daily Telegraph was even less admiring, and awarded it two stars out of five. He too criticised the decision to turn Tolkien's book into three films and felt Jackson "is mostly stalling for time: two or three truly great sequences tangled up in long beards and longer pit-stops." He continued, writing "There is an awful lot of Desolation to wade through before we arrive, weary and panting, on Smaug's rocky porch," and disapproved of the introduction of a love triangle to Tolkien's narrative, adding: "Maybe this really is what a lot of people want to see from a film version of The Hobbit, but let's at least accept that Tolkien would probably not have been among them."
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