The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug

I have no doubt that they filmed the movies in their entirety and then asked Howard Shore to crack down on the music. Because A.) that’s usually how it’s done anyhow, and B.) otherwise you’d never have such a seamless transition as this soundtrack begins with.

Once again I made sure to obtain not just the regular soundtrack, but the fancy expanded version. Because if I’m going to enjoy the music, then I’m going to enjoy all the music. Can’t be a real soundtrack junkie if I don’t go all out, right? Provided you actually buy the physical version, you’ll also get all the images, booklet goodies, and interactive music notes with a smart phone  (which I don’t have but that’s another story). I like having the actual CDs because the casing it pretty nifty – almost like a little gift book. But moving on. Since there are indeed so many tracks, I won’t be going through them one at a time the way I do with shorter soundtracks, so here’s the list with the rest of my review below:

Disc 1 – About 60 minutes total

1. "The Quest for Erebor" - 3:22
2. "Wilderland" - 4:56
3. "A Necromancer" (Bonus Track) - 2:54
4. "The House of Beorn" (extended version) - 4:52
5. "Mirkwood" (extended version) - 5:31
6. "Flies and Spiders" (extended version) - 9:35
7. "The Woodland Realm" (extended version) - 5:14
8. "Feast of Starlight" - 2:48
9. "Barrels Out of Bond" - 1:50
10. "The Forest River" (extended version) - 5:10
11. "Bard, a Man of Lake-Town" (extended version) - 3:18
12. "The High Fells" (extended version) - 3:38
13. "The Nature of Evil" - 3:20
14. "Protector of the Common Folk" - 3:35

Disc 2 – About 70 minutes total

1. "Thrice Welcome" - 3:33
2. "Girion, Lord of Dale" (extended version) - 4:15
3. "Durin's Folk" (extended version) - 3:04
4. "In the Shadow of the Mountain" - 2:15
5. "A Spell of Concealment" (extended version) - 3:22
6. "On the Doorstep" - 7:46
7. "The Courage of Hobbits" - 3:00
8. "Inside Information" - 3:48
9. "Kingsfoil" - 2:25
10. "A Liar and a Thief" - 3:41
11. "The Hunters" (extended version) - 9:55
12. "Smaug" (extended version) - 6:29
13. "My Armor Is Iron" - 5:16
14. "I See Fire" (Written and performed by Ed Sheeran) - 5:00
15. "Beyond the Forest" - 5:25

As I said earlier, things start off with a very uninterrupted sort of style. Things kick off right away with “Quest for Erebor” and continue along with plenty of Orc doom and gloom + Necromancer evil + icky spiders for the first half of the soundtrack. “Flies and Spiders” does have some unique moments that we haven’t heard in the rest of the LOTR world, thanks in part to the use of the flutes. The other good part to it is that we get our first introduction to the Mirkwood elf/Tauriel fight theme which is worth noting.

Otherwise it’s fairly easy to tune these out and I often find myself skipping them for more rewarding tracks – particularly “Feast of Starlight.” This is essentially the love theme between Kili and Tauriel, and no matter how giggle-worthy I find their made-up story it really is a lovely bit of music that I wanted to hear more of (but you don’t get until later on with “Kingsfoil”).

“The Forest River” is the classic barrel escape scene, complete with Orc and elf fighting. It’s faster than the rest of the tracks and I’m happy to have the extended version because it’s got that fully formed fight theme that’s a really nice departure from what we’re used to hearing from Shore – we’re still in Middle Earth, but we’re not stuck with LOTR. Especially when the orchestra hits those sharp notes. The use of the horns and quick strings is particularly nice.

The remainder of the first CD is more doom-and-gloom, low crawling notes, and ominous drumming. Effective for what’s happening in the movie, but again it makes for easily tuned-out listening.

The second disc starts off with a nice little introduction to Lake Town with “Thrice Welcome.” I’m sorry we don’t get a better, fuller theme, however, since it’s yet another new piece that I heartily welcome from Mr. Shore. But it isn’t until “Spell of Concealment” that things get interesting again – and that’s because it’s hard not to perk up when Sauron’s badass theme starts blaring in your ears. It’s so perfect for him, threatening and dark, and you’ll know that Gandalf is in some serious trouble.

It’s easy to miss the first time, but “The Courage of Hobbits” is Bilbo’s first foray into Erebor and mountains of gold, and Shore decides to bring in some bells and other similarly-styled instruments for a truly special new addition to the story. It helps to lead into Smaug’s sound/theme which can be heard throughout every track up until #13 (with the exception of “Kingsfoil”), which I found to help echo the idea of clinking coins and precious metals. You also won’t hear it anywhere else in Middle Earth. “Hunters” is actually a nice blend of Dwarven themed work as well as Smaug’s, and is also one of the most action-packed and also the longest tracks on the soundtrack – given that it’s the section in which the group of dwarves attempts to kill Smaug. It actually continues on, spilling into the next two tracks as well.

I’ll admit – when I first heard Ed Sheeran singing “I See Fire,” my initial thought was, “What the heck is this?” It didn’t seem to fit right and I didn’t like it. Now, however, the song has grown on me and I quite enjoy it. I zeroed in on the lyrics and they work superbly with what’s going on in the notes, so I’ll crank this one up and get into it.

“Beyond the Forest” is nice because it’s your classic credits music that encompasses some of the best bits from the entire movie – that includes Tauriel/Kili’s theme and the Mirkwood elf fight theme.

While I quickly snapped up this movie when it came out on DVD (because dragon), the soundtrack itself doesn’t exactly measure up to any of its Middle Earth counterparts. But to be fair, the first Hobbit soundtrack wasn’t up the LOTR magic either. Likewise, it also isn’t terribly fair to compare these soundtracks to the work Shore did on LOTR. There just isn’t as much dramatic action, no matter how Peter Jackson tried to dress up the story. There’s no Rohan glory or Ent march – just some overly-contrived barrel chase and a dragon who doesn’t get riled up until melted gold is dumped on his face.

Am I disappointed? No. If you paid attention in the movie, you should be well aware of what you’re getting. And after all, I collect soundtracks – it’s what I do, and I wouldn’t settle for missing out on any of Shore’s work. But for casual listeners, you may do best to pick out the meatiest bits and leave the rest behind.



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I am an author, I sell books for a living, and I love music like there's no tomorrow. I've experienced much of this country, from forested hills of the East, to the golden plains of the Midwest, the sandy beaches of the Southeast, and the oh-so-majestic mountains of the Rockies. And when all else fails, eat chocolate.