The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug Review

hobbit_desolation_of_smaug_posterJust like last year, I went to the Hobbit movie’s midnight premiere. Unlike last year, I didn’t stay up after getting home from the movie to write a review. I know, I know: get my head in the game. Our readers are dying to know what I thought! Well, wait no longer, as my opinions can be found, along with plenty of spoilers, right below this handy-dandy jump.

It was… better than the last one, right? I did enjoy watching it, but here’s the thing: when even I, who has never taken a directing or screenwriting class in my life, could easily name a multitude of scenes that could have been cut for runtime’s sake without affecting the film at all, there’s a problem. The Lord of the Rings films were long, but they were three hours apiece for three hundred pages of action apiece, covering a journey that spanned several countries and at least dozen characters. The Hobbit films are going to end up a nine-hour film trilogy based on two hundred or so pages, and it reeks to me of dragon-esque greed. Did the production companies not read the book? Do they not know what happens to Thorin because of avarice? This, like the Capitol-inspired makeup lines being hawked as Hunger Games merchandise, is an example of a studio unironically selling us a product that directly contradicts the moral message of the story it comes from.

Pictured: The production company's one desire.

Pictured: The production company’s one desire.

I found myself thinking at several points during the movie “I can’t wait till the third one comes out so some sensible person with video-editing skills can pull a Star Wars Revisited on it and cut it all down into one three-hour film for me, and I can download and watch that instead.” That said, due to the generally greater visual appeal of a dragon and lots of gold and fire in this movie as compared to the least attractive being to ever claim the title of “Goblin King” in the last one, the tedious number of extra scenes were at least more fun to watch.

So what makes these movies so long? Well, Peter Jackson, in these extended scenes, is for better or worse writing his own Lord of the Rings fanfic into the movies’ canon. And while some of it was interesting, like the first meeting of Gandalf and Thorin in Bree, and some of it was good for representation, like adding in female elves and other female characters, the majority of it was just confusing and unnecessary. hobbit-trailer-smaug-featuredThe worst offender was the climactic scene, in which the dwarves bait Smaug (for forty-five minutes of runtime) into following them all over the insides of Erebor while they taunt him and attack him with molten things. Smaug was a very impressive dragon, for sure, but he seemed to not use his dragonfire much at all, and if he had done so more often in these superfluous scenes, there would be a lot fewer dwarves for him to worry about.

I did mention female elves there, and so I’m not going to go any further without dwelling on Tauriel. Oh, Tauriel, I had such hope, and then they did so wrong by you. Of course a female character can’t be introduced into a franchise without being part of a love triangle. Of course Thranduil had to throw some friendzone rhetoric into the mix at you by saying “Don’t give Legolas hope for your affections where there is none.” Of course Kili gets to woo you with a charming story and then randomly get struck by an orc’s poisoned arrow, so that you have to appear again later and heal him with your Fancy Elven Magicks.

The-Hobbit-The-Desolation-of-Smaug-2And all of this—all of this—I would have forgiven Peter Jackson for, if, after healing Kili and hearing his bleary, semi-conscious declaration of love, Tauriel had remembered that she was a soldier and then gone to help Legolas, her commander and liege, fight the orcs that had snuck into Laketown. Instead, we are treated to a scene where Legolas, abandoned because Tauriel was too busy staring into Kili’s admittedly lovely eyes, is nearly overwhelmed by a pack of orcs and then rides off after them alone. Good job, Peter. Very excellent work creating an admirable female character who, despite somehow achieving a high rank in the wood-elves’ forces, apparently likes to go off on jaunts without orders and endanger her prince by being too interested in romance.

They did a lot in this movie of Bilbo being really sketchy with and about the Ring, which got sort of heavy-handed by the end. Almost every time he touched it or used it that sneaky-sounding theme from the LotR trilogy would play. Everyone in the audience knows that the Ring is bad news, and if they don’t shame on them. There was no need to punch that message into us over and over again. The bits with Gandalf exploring Dol Guldur and discovering the Necromancer’s true identity also smacked of this. “Sauron! Sauron! This guy’s Sauron!” the movie basically yelled, beating us over the head with fiery eyeball imagery.

And okay, finally, we’ve established that these movies exist as a plurality and not a singular movie because Warner Bros and New Line are all about the cash money, right? So why does it seem like they haven’t poured nearly enough of it into the CG department? There were many scenes in which I was thrown out of the story because I was shocked at how clearly computer-generated, say, Legolas riding down the bridge out of Laketown, or the first pan up over the forest of Mirkwood, or even Azog himself (yep, he’s still around) looked. In the weird part where the Company melted a giant gold statue on Smaug, the statue itself, apart from being strangely confusing from a physics standpoint, was really really fake looking.

This may sound sort of demanding and pretentious of me, but like, if they could do this in 2010, they can make a more convincing looking forest (or just, gasp, pan up over a real fucking forest) in 2013.

All that is pretty negative, I know, but this series could have used some tough love when it was in production and so I really just feel like I’m making up on lost time. I did like Lee Pace’s Eyebrows as Thranduil even more than I expected to (although I’m surprised interrogating orcs in the throne room is crown policy), Smaug was badass, and Radagast was less of a thinly-veiled pot joke, so that was all pretty cool. In fact, all of the actors turned in grade-A performances in my opinion, so it was sad to see their plots drawn out so needlessly. Also, I’m pretty sure I spotted Stephen Colbert’s rumored cameo (I was on the lookout for it all movie) so that was awesome.

What did you think of the movie? Hit me up in the comments and let me know!

4 thoughts on “The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug Review

  1. I was rooting for the dwarf to get shot full of orc arrows while pulling the lever, because I liked him and hate love triangles. That or having the elf and dwarf just be friends.

    Him getting killed:

    1. sets up the stakes

    3. gives the character a good death and saves the Company

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  3. It’s ludicrous to make three films from this one book. Especially since there are so many added scenes, which in my opinion are completely unnecessary. I agree that the actors are all excellent, though. I think Martin Freeman, in particular, is a very good Bilbo. Even though Bilbo can be moody and twitchy at times, he has an inherent goodness about him, and Freeman is very good at communicating both aspects.

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