Thorin and his company are being pursued by Azog and his Orc party following the events of the previous film. They are ushered along by Gandalf to the nearby home of Beorn, a skin-changer who can take the form of the bear. That night, Azog is summoned to Dol Guldur by the Necromancer, who commands him to marshal his forces for war. Azog then delegates the hunt for Thorin to his son Bolg. The following day, Beorn escorts the company to the borders of Mirkwood, where Gandalf discovers Black Speech imprinted on an old ruin. This coincides with a telepathic message from Galadriel urging him to investigate the tombs of the Nazgûl. He warns the company to remain on the path and leaves them. Upon entering the forest they lose their way and are ensnared by giant spiders. Bilbo then sets about freeing the dwarves with the help of his recently acquired invisibility ring. He subsequently drops the Ring and first begins to understand its dark influence after he brutally kills a creature to retrieve it.
The remaining spiders are fended off by the Wood-elves led by Tauriel and Legolas. They also capture the Dwarves, and bring Thorin before their king Thranduil. Thorin confronts the Elvenking about his neglect of the Dwarves of Erebor following Smaug's attack 60 years earlier, and is consequently imprisoned with the other Dwarves. Bilbo, having avoided capture, arranges an escape using empty wine barrels that are sent downstream. While being pursued by the Wood-elves, they are ambushed by Bolg and his Orc party, and Kíli is wounded with a Morgul shaft. They engage in a running three-way battle down the river, but ultimately the Dwarves are able to escape both groups of pursuers. Thranduil then seals off his kingdom when an Orc captive reveals an evil entity has returned and is amassing an army in the south, but Tauriel decides to leave and assist the Dwarves. Legolas goes after her. Meanwhile, Gandalf and Radagast go to investigate the tombs of the Nazgûl, which they find to be empty.
The company are smuggled into Esgaroth by a bargeman called Bard. Thorin promises the Master and the people of Laketown a share of the mountain's treasure. It is then revealed that Bard is a descendant of the last ruler of Dale, and possesses the last black arrow capable of killing Smaug. Kíli is forced to remain behind, tended to by Fíli, Óin, and Bofur, as the remaining company receive a grand farewell. Meanwhile, Gandalf travels south to the ruins of Dol Guldur, while Radagast leaves to warn Galadriel of their discovery at the tombs of the Nazgûl. Gandalf finds the ruins infested with Orcs and is ambushed by Azog. The Necromancer overpowers and defeats Gandalf and reveals himself as Sauron.
Thorin and his remaining company reach the Lonely Mountain, where Bilbo discovers the hidden entrance. He is sent in to retrieve the Arkenstone, and while doing so, he accidentally awakens Smaug. While trying to find Bilbo, Smaug reveals his knowledge of Sauron's return. Back in Laketown, Bard attempts to bring the black arrow to the town's launcher, as he fears what may happen when the Dwarves enter the mountain. However, he is arrested in the process and leaves his son to hide the arrow. Bolg and his Orc party then infiltrate the town and attack the four Dwarves, but are quickly dispatched following the arrival of Tauriel and Legolas. Tauriel then tends to Kíli. While Kíli is recovering, he openly admires Tauriel's beauty and wonders if she loves him. Legolas leaves in pursuit of Bolg. Meanwhile, Gandalf watches helplessly as Azog and an Orc army march from Dol Guldur towards the Lonely Mountain.
Back inside the mountain, during a long chase, Bilbo and the Dwarves rekindle the mountain's forge using Smaug's flames to create and melt a large golden statue, hoping to bury Smaug alive in the molten gold. They do so, but Smaug emerges from the gold, stumbles out of the mountain and flies off to destroy Laketown as Bilbo watches in horror at what they have unleashed.
Some characters in the film are not in the novel, but created for the film. Legolas appears in Tolkien's Lord of the Rings trilogy, but not in the novel The Hobbit.The following appear only in the Extended EditionAntony Sher as Thrain: Thorin's father who is held captive in Sauron's stronghold of Dol Guldur.
Additionally, Peter Jackson makes a cameo appearance in the film, reprising his role as the man eating a carrot in Bree, his daughter Katie portrays Barliman Butterbur's wife Betsy, Philippa Boyens's daughter Phoebe and scale double Kiran Shah appear as a waitress and a Hobbit in the Prancing Pony, James Nesbitt's daughters Peggy and Mary portray Tilda and Sigrid, the daughters of Bard, Stephen Colbert and his family along with WingNut Films' assistant Norman Kali and producer Zane Weiner appear as Lake-town spies, and editor Jabez Olssen appears as a fishmonger. Brian Sergent (who portrayed the Hobbit Ted Sandyman in the extended edition of Fellowship of the Ring) and Peter Vere-Jones provide the voices of the spiders in Mirkwood.
Most of the filming was finished during 2012, ending in July 2012. During May 2013, additional shooting for the film and The Hobbit: The Battle of the Five Armies began in New Zealand, lasting 10 weeks. Unmanned aerial vehicles or drones were used for some shots in the film.
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 10 December 2013. It received positive reviews, especially for its new themes.
English singer-songwriter Ed Sheeran wrote and recorded "I See Fire", which plays during the end credits. The song was released on iTunes on 5 November 2013.
Peter Jackson provided the first details about the second film in the series at a live event held on 24 March 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 11 June 2013. On 4 November 2013, an extra long 3 minute trailer/sneak peek was released and revealed new footage and major plot points. On 4 November 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 2 December 2013, and was released internationally on 11 December 2013 and in the United Kingdom and United States on 13 December 2013.
An extended edition of the film had a limited re-release on 7 October 2015, accompanied by a special greeting from Peter Jackson.
The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug was released on DVD, Blu-ray, and Blu-ray 3D on 7 April 2014 in the United Kingdom and on 8 April 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.
An extended edition of The Desolation of Smaug was released digitally on 21 October 2014, and was released on DVD, Blu-ray and 3D Blu-ray 3 November 2014 in the United Kingdom, and 4 November 2014 in the United States, with 25 minutes of new material and original music.
The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug grossed $258,366,855 in North America and $702,000,000 in other countries for a worldwide total of $960,366,855. Calculating in all expenses, Deadline.com estimated that the film made a profit of $134.1 million. It is the fourth highest-grossing 2013 film and currently the 26th highest-grossing film of all time. 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 was released internationally on 16,405 screens. The film earned $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 74% approval rating with an average rating of 6.8/10 based on 222 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 The 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." The New York Post's Lou Lumenick was extremely negative in his 1.5/4 star review and he compared it to Star Wars: Episode II – Attack of the Clones, and remarked "There are probably enough moments to satisfy hard-core fans, but for the rest of us, this amounts to the Middle Earth equivalent of “Star Wars: Episode II — Attack of the Clones,’’ a space-holding, empty-headed epic filled with characters and places (digital and otherwise) that are hard to keep straight, much less care about."