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08 January 2014 @ 03:42 pm
Film Review: The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug  
Warning: I did not enjoy this movie.

When it was first announced that Peter Jackson intended to turn The Hobbit into three films, I wasn't too pleased. Particularly when it became clear each installment would be over 2 hours. The first installment exceeded my expectations thanks to some good acting and a good handful of genuinely fun moments. The second installment, sadly, confirmed for me that the greed of wanting to cash in on this book as much as possible by making three movies out of it was a poor decision.

The movie picks up immediately from where the first installment left off with Thorin's group going toward the mountain from where the eagles dropped them off. If the eagles had only dropped them off at the base of the mountain, this movie wouldn't have existed because the entire film is literally the band of dwarves plus one hobbit getting to the mountain. That's it. Oh, and they briefly (VERY BRIEFLY) meet a dragon. Yes, the journey there is fraught with danger but I honestly couldn't remember much, the pacing was so deathly slow.

The bulk of the screen time was filled with excess conjured up from Jackson's imagination. The most notable being Tauriel (Evangeline Lilly), an elf who hails from the same group of elves as Legolas (he also makes an appearance) and is a warrior in her own right. I'd read that Jackson created her to balance out the all male cast of the 2nd film, which makes sense and is appreciated. If only he didn't then completely relegate her to a love triangle storyline. And a completely limp one at that. Much gets devoted to Tauriel's almost immediate attraction to Kili (Aidan Turner), arguably the hottest of all the dwarves while Legolas who apparently harbors some affection for Tauriel (we get told this rather than actually see it as Bloom is as wooden as ever) looks on with...some sort of displeasure? I don't know. All I know is that the storyline took up what felt like an hour and it was torture.

Earlier in the film we get some hints of the One Ring, now in Bilbo's possession, starting to take a bit of a toll on him as he uses it to battle dangers while clearly getting very attached to it. Only that plot line gets dropped almost right away. In fact, apart from a couple of scenes that illustrate the Ring's influence on Bilbo, it never happens again for the rest of the film no matter how many times Bilbo uses the Ring which was disappointing. I thought Martin Freeman did a great job showing Bilbo's mounting horror at his own behavior under the Ring's sway while also not wanting to give it up. More about that would have been a welcomed character exploration. But instead it gets dropped for that elf-dwarf love story I mentioned above.

After two hours of this, the group finally reaches the mountain and we meet Smaug, the dragon who has been taking a gold-encrusted nap for several years. As someone who has never gone easy on Benedict Cumberbatch and his tendency to scene chew, I'm not being fannishly blind when I say I loved his performance. Smaug in general as a vision of CGI looked wonderful and Cumberbatch's voice fit the imagery perfectly as did his acting which yes, got a bit overwrought but it really worked in the case of Smaug. His conversation with Bilbo in the gold-filled cave was probably the only sequence I really got excited watching. He was perfectly creepy, egotistical, and just very luxurious as the grand Smaug who loves his gold and brings death and destruction where ever he goes. It's a shame we didn't get a chance to see him do very much other than fail at killing a bunch of dwarves despite being able to breathe fire several hundred yards and taking off to decimate a village now that Thorin and his gang woke him up. We'll see what happens in movie 3.

If I were to give the Best Acting Award, I'd divide it into thirds and give one to Martin Freeman who continues his lovely portrayal of Bilbo, the hobbit who really pulls his weight in this one by rescuing dwarves and deftly solving riddles and distracting dragons, one to Benedict Cumberbatch whose vocal work here was so much better than his villainous turn in Neverwhere. My mother aptly described his Angel Islington toward the end of the radio play as sounding like "he's trying to swallow his own head." And lastly and surprisingly, Lee Pace who portrayed Thranduil, Legolas' father who was rather creepy and unsettling which was fun.

Overall, this movie more than highlighted that The Hobbit had no business being turned into three movies. Particularly three movies that are each over 2 hours long. Someone needed to take an editing axe to Peter Jackson's studios and hack away because this second installment could have easily been sifted into movies 1 and 3.
bailangwangbailangwang on January 8th, 2014 08:54 pm (UTC)
Agreed. Boring, winding aimlessly and going nowhere, telling no story, introducing characters with no charisma, who only take space and time.
aelfgyfu_mead: Bilboaelfgyfu_mead on January 9th, 2014 02:19 pm (UTC)
I too was disappointed. A number of people wrote that it was better than the first movie, and I must say it was not quite as bad, but I kept wanting bits to end so that we could get back to Bilbo.

I felt embarrassed by the Kili-Tauriel love story. It's the kind of fanfic that I might have started reading, but I'd have given up before getting very far. Ugh.

It's really all about Bilbo, and Peter Jackson seems to have missed that key fact. (BC as the dragon was loads of fun, though they'd processed his voice so much I think I wouldn't have recognized it as him if I hadn't gone in knowing. And Lee Pace is always a pleasure.)