Thursday, January 9, 2014

The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug Review

This is the review to the sequel to The Hobbit: There and Back Again (which we didn’t review). I think Ari and I felt that this deserved something extra because of our strong feelings about this movie adaptation. So let’s start with a little personal history lesson:

I am a big Tolkien fan; not a dress up, name my children after a character, read all of Tolkien’s books fan but I’ve read The Lord of the Rings series more than four times and The Hobbit twice. I’ve seen the cartoon adaptations of both of these books that were made back in the 80s and have seen the Peter Jackson adaption of The Lord of the Rings more times than I can count. It’s a love that stems from my dad, who ‘discovered’ Tolkien before anyone else did in the 1970s while perusing a paperback spindle in a drugstore in South Dakota. So yes, I was excited to hear that The Hobbit was getting its own adaptation. Super excited when it was originally announced that Guillermo del Toro was going to direct, and understanding when it was announced that the movie was going to be split into two. Then the changes happened. I thought it would be okay that Peter Jackson was directing, I have faith in him after the LOTR. Okay, I get the financial reasons why they split the movies into three and I’m sure in Peter Jackson’s capable hands that there will still be some amazing storytelling going on….

I liked the first Hobbit. It was fine, not exceptional but fine. I thought there were some unnecessary things (like the necromancer storyline, working the infatuation Gandalf has for Galadriel, the white orc) but it was okay. Still beautiful cinematography, and the actors were great. Who doesn’t love Martin Freeman? There was a hope that we would see more character development with the dwarves because of the extra movie and they wouldn’t just be hood colors. It was all very optimistic with the first movie, there were some let downs but so much hope tied to it too.

Then we got to The Desolation of Smaug. There will be spoilers following.
I’m trying to be kinder this year, so I won’t say that the two and a half hours that I spent in the theater were a waste. I won’t say that I felt that this was a completely self-indulgent project for Peter Jackson. I won’t say that I have lost all respect for this series of movies and the time and effort put into them. That would be too harsh. Part of me still understands what the movies were split up into three, part of me still enjoys watching Ian McKellan being Gandalf, and a small part of me still enjoys that action scenes. I appreciate the details that introduce the evil of the ring and the animosity between Gimli and Legolas.

But after seeing this movie I ended up with a lot of niggling questions based on some gentle criticisms as a fan of Tolkien. The positive didn’t make up for the fact that I still forget that three of the dwarves exist and more importantly I’m pretty sure that I haven’t heard four or more speak more than two lines if at all. Where’s the character development? Why do I still not have a sense of who eight of the thirteen dwarves are? I don’t understand why Tauriel needed to be added to the plot and why there needs to be a love triangle between her, Legolas, and the dwarf who is either Kili or Fili and looks like he belongs in a dwarf boy band. Is it necessary to have romance? Why is the band split up? What’s the point of some of the dwarves being in Laketown and the rest at mountain? How is Peter Jackson explaining that Gandalf’s staff has now broken twice and where does he get the replacements that look exactly the same? Admittedly this last one is a bit nit-picky but it doesn't seem to make sense, and if it doesn't make sense why put it in?

So if I felt like there wasn't much in the way with character development, I hoped that there would be more that would happen with the plot. To be honest I expected Smaug to be completely dealt with and that the third movie would focus on the Battle of Five Armies. But no. Instead we get about 25 minutes of barrels, 10 minutes of Legolas, and 40 minutes of running through mines. So almost half of the movie is just swords and running. It just didn't keep my attention. It felt like the movie could've been tightened up and lasted maybe an hour. Or at least kill off Smaug! Then we would've had a more satisfying ending and still had the tension of the oncoming battle. I would have felt like something actually happened in the movie and that all things weren't being squashed into the last movie.

So essentially not a lot happened, I'm still confused about the characters and who they are, there's unnecessary details added, and in summation this was a rather worthless movie. Unless all you wanted to see was ax fights.

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