With the conclusion of finals week and the end to a tough semester, I’m up again to review the blockbuster pictures that are flying in for the holiday season. This weekend, the legendary quest to take back the lonely mountain of Erabor continues as 13 dwarves, or little people as some prefer, one hobbit, and a legendary wizard continue to trek the unforgiving grounds of Middle Earth. Although a little later then intended, my review is on The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug, Peter Jackson’s latest installment. The trailers that were released months ago, painted great promise for this chapter, with the potential for action and excitement hiding behind every corner. Yet as I’ve said before, the creators of trailers are masters at their trade, and good editing can greatly escalate a movie’s potential. Was it worth the hype? Read on to find out.
One of the biggest complaints for the Hobbit was the slow start at the beginning of the book/movie that seemed to bore many of my fellow moviegoers to a level of annoyance. Well we’re in luck friends, this time the slowness is a fraction of the time… at least at the beginning. After a flashback that seems rather pointless, despite a possible foreshadowing of a Peter Jackson twist, the film picks up in the heart of the mountains as our company is being pursued by the great white orc. The chase helps get the momentum going, pushing the film to give just enough details to get a big picture, without putting you to sleep.
Despite the linearity of the Hobbit story though, Jackson decides to once again take creative liberties and turn one simple plot line into three, each focusing on a particular part of the company. The main quest of Bilbo (Martin Freeman) and Thorin (Richard Armitage) is the main storyline that has the most sustenance and “follows” closest to the original plot. Gandalf’s tale was greatly enhanced from the book, taking what little detail Tolkien mentioned of his quest and running with it to make an emotional, yet predictable tangent that provided some dwarf relief. As for the third tale, well it provides a relationship/drama plot line for those looking for more love and less violence, well sort of.
Of the three the main quest is my favorite, as Jackson’s team managed to expand on the immense detail crammed into the novel and intertwine it with plenty of things like action, character development, and story. For action audience will get a blend of dwarves running from CGI creatures, fighting of orcs using well timed throws and stabs, and for the most part watching Legolas (Orlando Bloom) and Tauriel (Evangeline Lilly) firing an infinite supply of arrows and slitting throats of various creatures. Many of these scenes are fantastically done to provide a balanced piece that keeps people on their toes, and drives the plot without overdoing it, well for the most part at least. While the elves mainly slay the orcs, the dwarves do have some moves of their own, many of which are humorous accidents, and use their wits to tackle their challenges. All of the action is fun, and well matched with an incredible soundtrack that adds that little extra edge. Yet like his running time, Jackson still lets his imagination run loose sometimes. Some of the action carries on a little too much, especially near the end, where the movie has dragged on for so long you are ready for it to just finish so you can go home, or in some cases go to the bathroom. I love action don’t get me wrong, but when you have as big a project as this, sometimes you need to edit for the theater and save the creative licensing for the director’s cut.
Speaking of creative licensing, Jackson has gone to extreme ends to alter the story to add in the blonde elf that made the girls swoon back in the day. Bloom comes back in his quiet glory, somehow keeping his hair perfectly straight despite the grueling combat he finds himself in. Ladies, including some of my friends, were happy to have the eye candy, while guys will enjoy the limitless skill the former pirate shows off, perhaps even picturing him or herself firing the arrow. Story wise it’s a stretch, but Jackson didn’t do a bad job getting Legolas back into the films, even if it was just to go on a glorified hunting trip to impress a certain female. Depending on how much of a purist you are though, the introduction of Legolas could send you foaming at the mouth for the blasphemy that Jackson beseeched on the holy works of Tolkien.
If Legolas wasn’t enough, then perhaps his female counterpart Tauriel will entertain you instead. Jackson’s movie specific character is the complete package with beauty, bite, and magic all wrapped in one pretty presentation. Lilly has settled well into the world of Middle Earth, and portrayed the servant class warrior elf with poise, yet show off her warrior vigor without screaming like an animal going into the kill. Yet the red headed huntress was not just a warrior, but also in love as well. While the circumstances are odd, Jackson’s approach at the love triangle was not that bad, and Lilly performed beautifully; perhaps a few other actresses should take note for how to show the proper emotion of love instead of the two extremes. I latched on to Tauriel for all of these reasons, and wished that there could be more adventures to put her into, but Jackson can only go so far with his creativity before it comes crashing down.
So I’ve brought up a lot of good points, but let’s use this paragraph to sum up some of the big weaknesses in this movie. The first is the slowness this movie has to it. While a much better opening than the first, Desolation of Smaug hits plenty of slow parts, especially near the end where the long running time and lack of drive combine to make it seem as time is standing still. This is most likely do to the second option of Jackson letting his imagination go a little too far for a movie. Much of the extra details were very good at helping develop the story, but was it necessary? My opinion no, it could have been left for the director’s cut and we could have cut out about an extra 20-30 minutes. Yet for those who are all about plot and character development, you might not be too upset with his additions, while again those who are purists will be ready to shoot them down. Other than a few CGI overuses, and a few boring parts, the movie was still pretty entertaining, though not meant to be seen late at night.
Desolation of Smaug is a fun addition to Jackson’s film giants, but for me not worth the hype. Yet I do encourage people to see it at some point if you are a fan of the series or want to indulge in something new, after all it is still much shorter than the Lord of the Rings films.
Here are my scores:
Movie Overall: 8.0
So until the next movie, this is Robbie K signing off, and wishing that all your days have a defining ending and not a cliffhanger ;).