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The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug (8 out of 10)
directed by Peter Jackson
written by Fran Walsh & Philippa Boyens & Peter Jackson & Guillermo del Toro,
from the children's book by J.R.R. Tolkien
Principal Cast
Ian McKellen -- Gandalf
Martin Freeman -- Bilbo
Richard Armitage -- Thorin
Ken Stott -- Balin
Graham McTavish -- Dwalin
William Kircher -- Bifur
James Nesbitt -- Bofur
Stephen Hunter -- Bombur
For a long time now I've been rating films from one to four stars. Starting with The Wolverine review, I've switched to a rating from 0 to 10. Why? Because it is a much better three star film than Man of Steel was. Man of Steel was a 7. The Wolverine is an 8.
Past Feature Reviews
A review by Rick Norwood

The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug The second Hobbit film, billed as simply The Hobbit in the opening credits, would be rated as 10 out of 10 if it were, say, an adaptation of Final Fantasy. But filming a classic raises expectations. Writer/director Peter Jackson has spent so much of his time and money on spectacular action sequences that the emphasis is all wrong. The small character bits are there, but they are overwhelmed by special effects.

The Hobbit is one of a small group of children's classics that are among the greatest books published at the close of the 19th century and the opening of the 20th: Alice in Wonderland, Peter Pan, The Wind in the Willows, The Sword in the Stone, Treasure Island, and Kim are among the best books written at any time and in any genre, and The Hobbit is a worthy addition to their company.

Everyone can enjoy a great children's book or movie. The Wizard of Oz and The Lion King are examples of movies made for children and enjoyed by people of all ages. But the Hobbit films are not children's films. They are aimed at the video-game generation, young adult males who thrive on battles, babes, and smutty jokes. This means that all of the fairy tale elements in The Hobbit must be removed. The introduction of the dwarfs to Beorn, such a memorable scene in the book, wouldn't work in an adult film, any more than Glinda the Good from The Wizard of Oz would work in an adult film. Instead of charm, we have battles. There is a new character, an elf maiden, not in Tolkien. There is a bit of mild bathroom humor utterly remote from the spirit of Tolkien. But mainly, there are lots and lots of battles, among the most spectacular battles ever filmed.

I enjoyed the movie. It's a very good action movie. And a little bit of Tolkien survives.

The substitution of blue butterflies for black butterflies annoyed me. More annoying were the changes in the scene "where the thrush knocks," which make no astronomical sense. Tolkien rewrote entire chapters in The Lord of the Rings to get the phases of the moon right. And, as enjoyable as the battle of the barrels is, a barrel makes a lousy boat -- it ships water and sinks.

See the film for the color and movement, the action and adventure. But please, if you have children, do not take them to see the movie until you have read them the book.

Copyright © 2014 Rick Norwood

Rick Norwood is a mathematician and writer whose small press publishing house, Manuscript Press, has published books by Hal Clement, R.A. Lafferty, and Hal Foster. He is also the editor of Comics Revue Monthly, which publishes such classic comic strips as Flash Gordon, Sky Masters, Modesty Blaise, Tarzan, Odd Bodkins, Casey Ruggles, The Phantom, Gasoline Alley, Krazy Kat, Alley Oop, Little Orphan Annie, Barnaby, Buz Sawyer, and Steve Canyon. Visit his web site at

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