The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug

Music By: Howard Shore

Song By: Ed Shearin

Produced By: WaterTower Music

Reviewed by Melissa Minners


                The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug is the second film in The Hobbit Trilogy of films adapted from the J.R.R. Tolkien novel by Peter Jackson.  In this segment of the film, Gandalf investigates a growing evil in Dol Guldur while Bilbo Baggins continues his quest with Thorin Oakenshield and the dwarves.  Gandalf uncovers the deadly danger hiding in Dol Guldur while Bilbo and company finally confront the great dragon who has laid claim to the Lonely Mountain - Smaug.

                The music of The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug was created by Canadian composer Howard Shore.  An Academy Award winning composer, Shore was the obvious choice to create the score for The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug having composed the music for The Lord of the Rings Trilogy and The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey.  Making his film scoring debut in 1979 with the film The Brood, Howard Shore has composed musical scores for a vast number of films in varying genres, including The Fly, Big, Silence of the Lambs, Seven, The Truth About Cats and Dogs, A History of Violence, The Departed, Doubt, A Dangerous Method and more.

                The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug Soundtrack is a two-disc set.  I was fortunate enough to receive an advance listen to the Special Edition Soundtrack featuring extended versions of twelve of the twenty-eight tracks and one bonus track.  The music composed for this film features a smidgeon of the original hobbit theme in The Quest for Erebor, but the theme all but disappears from the score until the seventh track of the second CD, The Courage of Hobbits.  There is something about that hobbit theme that brings me the sense of a steadfast and calm race of beings with an inquisitive nature and resolve that even they, themselves, are unaware of until put to the test.  It was nice to hear that theme again in this soundtrack.

                The music of The Desolation of Smaug begins with a note of adventure, in Wilderland, but moves more toward darkness and impending doom.  Notes performed by the orchestra are played in lower registry, lending an ominous nature to the if darkness approaches.  A choir is employed to heighten intensity in scenes as well as express a sense of majesty (perhaps of the Lonely Mountain itself).  Harps add a mystical quality, while a Middle Eastern style makes its appearance here and there throughout the second half of the score, adding an ethnic flourish. 

                Quite a bit of action-based music can be found on the album as Bilbo and his companions move closer to engaging Smaug and Gandalf moves closer to uncovering the mysterious happenings in Dol Guldur.  Tracks like Flies and Spiders feature swift strings, horns and percussion.  The music grows in intensity as the scenes play out, heightening the listener's sense of the more intense visual moments on screen. 

                There is one song featured on The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug Soundtrack.  Created by British pop star Ed Shearin, a fan of the books having read them as a child, I See Fire has a folk quality to it.  According to Shearin, "I was allowed complete freedom to create what I thought was fitting for the film, which is very rare, and Peter, Fran and Philippa were always on hand to give notes and pointers. The entire team down in New Zealand was out of this world. The film is amazing, Iím still geeking out that Iíve done a song for a Peter Jackson film set in Middle-earth!"  The song adequately describes the journey of the dwarves and Bilbo.  They find themselves united in a brotherhood of necessity, but realize that their mission may end in disaster.  I See Fire is a terrific addition to the music of The Hobbit and offers a wonderful description of the events in the film as well as the feeling in the hearts of the adventurers taking part in the mission to reclaim Lonely Mountain.

                Featuring over two hours of music, The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug Special Edition Soundtrack is an excellent buy at just about $20.00US.  It features music worthy of the sense of adventure I experienced reading The Hobbit as a child...and again as a teen...and again as an adult.  Howard Shore may well be a denizen of Middle Earth in Hollywood composer clothing.  He has a perfect understanding of just what is needed to make Peter Jackson's vision of J.R.R. Tolkien's novel complete and conveys it beautifully through music.


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