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How The Hobbit’s Smaug Death Was Nearly Much Different

VFX artist James Willingham explains how Smaug’s death in The Hobbit: The Battle of the Five Armies was at one point going to be different and more difficult to create. After being the main threat in The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug, the menacing dragon is killed shortly into The Battle of the Five Armies, as he needs to be dealt with before the movie focuses on the eponymous conflict that takes up the majority of the story. Smaug is slain by a black arrow fired by Bard the Bowman.

While speaking with Corridor Crew, Willingham shares his pitch for Smaug’s death in The Hobbit: The Battle of the Five Armies, which would’ve been more complex and drawn-out than the version in the completed movie. In the film, after Bard fires the arrow that penetrates Smaug’s one weak spot, the shrieking dragon careens onto the surface of Lake-town and crashes through multiple buildings. He takes to the skies once more before he plummets into the waters of Lake-town. Check out the video and Willingham’s comments below:

In the book by J.R.R. Tolkien and in the third Hobbit film, Bard kills Smaug by firing his final black arrow into the one spot on Smaug not covered in protective scales. The novel and the movie take different approaches to how Bard discovers this weakness. The book features a talking thrush who flies toward Bard as Smaug attacks Lake-town. The talking bird informs Bard of Smaug’s weak spot in the hollow of his left breast. With the knowledge provided by the thrush, Bard knows how to defeat Smaug, and uses his bow to fire the arrow accordingly.

There is no thrush that helps Bard in the movie. As Smaug taunts Bard, he notices the dragon’s weakness through his own observations. Before Bard makes this discovery, the movie makes the scene more dramatic and more dire as he realizes that his bow has broken, and he has no way to save himself, his son beside him, or the town from Smaug. Bard has to craft a makeshift bow and steady the arrow with help from his son in order to successfully fire the arrow.

While The Battle of the Five Armies has its faults, the movie successfully makes Smaug’s death more dramatic and more personal for Bard than in the book. It gives him more agency with the makeshift bow, working with his son, and realizing Smaug’s weakness without relying on the thrush. Willingham’s vision could’ve made the scene more of a spectacle, but the final version works, and is one of the more memorable scenes from The Hobbit trilogy.

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