The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug Trailer Explained

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The trailer for The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug, the second of Peter Jackson’s planned trilogy of Hobbit movies, is out. The movie itself comes Dec. 13. But here’s what secrets the trailer seems to reveal:

1) Yep, the movie is still part of a trilogy. None of the fan outrage has stopped Jackson from sticking with his Plan A: adapting the book as not one, not two, but three films. Three LONG films. Which will annoy many Tolkien fans who wanted this film experience to be shorter.

Orlando Bloom returns as Legolas (Image: MGM/New Line/Warner Bros.)

2) Legolas is back. Legolas (Orlando Bloom) definitely makes an appearance, as had been rumored. Woot! Or, what?

3) It’s a quest. Like the first film, An Unexpected Journey, this one is just as quest-y. The plot, the scope, the tone of the trailer all suggest how Jackson has taken the simple tale of a hobbit’s journey and turned it into a save-the-world-scaled adventure. “The quest to reclaim a homeland and slay a dragon,” Thranduil the Elvenking intones. In case we did not get the importance of the dwarves’ mission. But what about Bilbo’s journey?

Evangeline Lilly as Tauriel (Image: MGM/New Line/Warner Bros.)
Tauriel who? Evangeline Lilly as elvish warrior Tauriel, a character NOT in the book (Image: MGM/New Line/Warner Bros.)

4) Tauriel who? There’s a clip of a conversation between Legolas and the elf warrior Tauriel, played by Evangeline Lilly (an invented character not in the book, which might be the most egregious affront fans), about growing “evil” and whether the elves should get involved. “‘Tis not our fight,” Legolas doth protest. “It ’tis our fight,” counters Tauriel. Again, making the stakes bigger to better match the events of The Lord of the Rings?

5) Gandalf said what? As Gandalf, Ian McKellen still has gravitas. But the dude still mutters his lines! Can someone please tell him to get those lembas out of his mouth and speak up and enunciate?

6) Action! Cut! More action! Based on the trailer, I’m getting the sense this is as much an action movie as the first. There’s a roller coaster-like barrel ride through rapids, elves and goblins and orcs leaping left and right and out from trees above, as well as a dozen different fight scenes, and thudding drum-beats to up the tension. Purists won’t be pleased.

The ruined city of Dale, at the foot of Erebor(Image: MGM/New Line/Warner Bros.)
The ruined city of Dale, at the foot of Erebor (Image: MGM/New Line/Warner Bros.)

7) Grand scale. Jackson has also upped the scale and grandeur of Middle-earth. We see sweeping camera moves through a cavernous Elvenking hideout (at least that’s what it seems to be), the ruins of the city of Dale at the foot of the Lonely Mountain, aerial shots of Lake-town, and a chill-inducing shot of the Fellowship (whoops! I mean the Company) marching across the axe-clenched fist of a giant stone dwarf carved into the side of the Lonely Mountain. The visuals alone are astounding.

8) It’s a trap! Radagast shouts “What if it’s a trap?!” and Gandalf mutters … well I’m not sure what. “[unintelligible] … definitely [?] … a trap.” Can anyone hear what he says? [According to those with better hearing than mine — hey I’m old and deaf — the line is: “It is undoubtedly a trap.” Thank you, loyal readers.]

9) Monsters. We see glimpses of a Mirkwood spider. A bear busting through a door (probably Beorn?). And a somewhat obscured shot of Smaug, right at the end of the trailer — but it’s murky. Just glowing orange eyes, his head and snake-like neck.

10) Bilbo, where did you sneak off to? Not one line dialogue in the trailer from Bilbo (Martin Freeman). Strange. As if this second movie is not about a hobbit at all.

You thoughts and differences of opinion welcome below.

A glimpse of Smaug
A glimpse of Smaug (Image: MGM/New Line/Warner Bros.)
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17 thoughts on “The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug Trailer Explained

  1. I had to watch the trailer in French in order to get that line. To Radagast who says: “Et si c’était un piège?” Gandalf answers: “C’est sans aucun doute un piège… » (much clearer in the translation)

    Rewatched the original trailer. Gandalf does say: “It is *undoubtedly* a trap…» So there you are…

    Is it me or doesn’t Smaug feel un-CGI in the trailer? Almost like a rubber animatronic?

    J.S. Dubé

  2. “It’s un-dah-tah-dly a trap.” (Where “un-dah-tah-dly” must be Gandalf for “undoubtedly.”)

    And in discussing Gandalf’s intelligibility in point 5, you’ve created a new topic for Jim McQ to cover in Word Nerd. It’s “enunciate” (pronounce clearly), not “annuciate” (announce). 🙂

    Your point about “scale and grandeur” is interesting. We saw less of this in the first movie (or, it seemed appropriate because it was natural scale and grandeur), but if that is the ruins of some external part of the dwarf city in the picture, it seems too big. I’ve always interpreted “The Kingdom Under the Mountain” to mean “underground beneath the mountain” as opposed to “at the foot of the mountain,” and the part of the book that talks about them scouting the South Gate reads like it isn’t much more than a gate. Other discussion in the book suggests that the “underground” interpretation is correct. So if that’s the tip-of-the-iceberg external part, what kind of population was needed to justify and support a city that large?

    1. Thanks for the catch on “enunciate.” My bad. I was hasty. I do know the difference between the two words, but was just rushing. Thanks for seeing this.

      Re: the Dwarf city, I think I was wrong. That’s the ruined city of Dale, not Erebor. I’ll fix that too.

  3. Thoughts:
    1. Erebor?? Isn’t Erebor supposed to be inside the mountain? I thought that was Dale…
    2. That bear is Beorn in bear form?? Are you sure? I thought in the books Beorn never really had a fight with them…
    3. Dwarf barrels. True to the book. Awesome to see in motion. How could you miss that??

    1. David — you’re right about 1. That’s the ruined city of Dale, not Erebor. I’ll fix that error. re. 2.: not positive that’s Beorn in bear form,. but there is a big nasty creature pictured busting through that door. Maybe it’s a giant dog? re 3. I do mention “There’s a roller coaster-like barrel ride through rapids.” See above. thanks for reading!

      1. ps — just looked again. that is definitely a bear busting through that door. I would not put it past Jackson to have the dwarves and Bilbo having to fight Beorn once. You know, just to up the action quotient.

  4. Sigh… pretty disappointed in the trailer. I really appreciate your last comment Ethan. Where is Bilbo?

    Christopher Tolkein is proving to be much less cranky than he first appeared when he complained that Jackson is turning his father’s work into a hack and slash action films. We really need a moratorium on stakes upping in film. It is getting boring. (Superman appears to be on the same trajectory.)

    This also is the first of Jackson’s films where I don’t like the “look” of the film. That is usually what he gets right. In this case, I have always thought of the elves’ kingdom as being something tunnel like. They are not, after all, high elves. Its nice but still a cave like Bilbo’s home. This huge indoor cathedral is a bit much for me. (It’s bigger and better than where Galadriel lives. Yikes!) The elfin king is supposed to be haughty and puck like. This is the old mischievous idea of elves from the British fairy tales. I just don’t get that vibe from these majestic halls (or his dialogue). To be frank, their halls remind me too much of the goblin city just dressed up in a different costume–lots of narrow bridges over bottomless pits.

    When I look at that trailer, I keep hearing Neil Patrick Harris singing “Let’s make it bigger” from the Tony’s on Sunday.

    I will say that the barrel scene as done in the film makes about as much sense as in Tolkien’s book. The dwarves would have either drown because their barrel filled with water and it sank or suffocated because it remained air tight and thus water tight. There is really no half-way in between. So I guess sending them down what will surely be a central ride at the Warner Brothers Middle Earth Theme Park (if the Tolkien estate loses their lawsuit.) makes about as much sense as what Tolkien did.

  5. I’m actually really excited about the movie, and I know I’m in the minority, but I’m glad it’s a trilogy. A bit much, yes, but what Peter Jackson is doing is expanding what is in reality a fairly thin story. Is Legolas in the book, no. But is Legolas in the book but unnamed and only clear if you know that Thranduil is his father? Yes. Tolkien left a lot of information out the book, assuming people read his other works. And I think weaving some of that information into the movie makes it more accessible, makes you realize the weight of Gimli and Legolas’s friendship in LOTR. Listen, I love the Hobbit, but it’s a very thin book when you think about the richness contained in Tolkien’s other books. So my vote is excited to see this movie, excited to see the unnamed elves in the book finally come to life by becoming three-dimensional characters. Obviously, I should write a post about this 🙂

    1. I agree. I think the exchange between Bilbo and Gandalf in the first movie captures what Jackson is doing. Bilbo: “I do believe you made that up.” Gandalf: “Well, all good stories deserve embellishment.” The Hobbit is indeed a good story and I am enjoying the embellishment that Jackson is bringing to the table.

    1. That’s exactly it! I don’t think this movie is for purists at all. I don’t think they’re his intended audience.

    2. Strangely enough, I’m a purist, but love the movies too! (Talk about a minority!)
      Anyway, perhaps I’m able to compartmentalize them. I love and appreciate them for their own reasons. Sure, a part of me was bummed certain things from the books were left out of the LOTR movies, or changed, but I got over it. Same goes for The Hobbit movies’ take on the books. Maybe I get over it because I understand how much PJ and his team love the books, and how impossible it is to put a great movie together that is a direct screenplay of a book – liberties must be taken, and watching all the HOURS of the “making of” footage made it painfully, beautifully clear how dedicated the team is to honoring the magnificent work that is Tolkien’s. I give them a lot of lee-way for that and try to love the book and movies as separate, yet complementary entities.

  6. Don’t feel old; I couldn’t understand what Gandalf said, either, and I’m a teenager.
    You know, even though there are a lot of changes to the original storyline in this movie version, I am determined that I am going to enjoy the movies nonetheless. There are a lot of things that Peter allowed to remain true to Tolkien’s vision, and much of the “extra” stuff are merely imaginings of what could have been, what elements could have existed outside the small storyline of The Hobbit.

  7. Wow… English is not my native language and I perfectly understood what Gandalf said oO What he says is clear enough to be understandable. If native speakers can’t understand there own language, we have problem… I didn’t cheated by looking at the french trailer ^^ I discovered the (awfully) dubbed version 3 days ago and I regret it.

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