‘I feel thin, sort of stretched, like butter scraped over too much bread.—Bilbo Baggins from Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring
And so does The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug
I thought it was a bad idea in the first place to make two movies based on The Hobbit, the book being a rather thin volume. I really think that it could have easily been made into a three hour movie and still be very successful. The Rankin/Bass cartoon from 1977 is only 77 minutes long and for a kids TV movie it’s a very good adaptation of the novel. But, Peter Jackson decided to do two films. Then after they were finished he talked the studio into making it into a trilogy. And this is where the problems of the second film are created.
Now, I do have problems with the first film, subtitled The Unexpected Journey. Mostly, I wasn’t really thrilled with the Azog, the pale orc storyline. I just don’t think it was necessary aside from adding some action and placing a continued villain throughout that first film. Of course, going into the second film I decided to just go with it. I was hoping for it to be interesting enough for me to follow to the end of the third film. But there is a problem with this: The Desolation of Smaug sees him summoned away by the Necromancer and he’s barely seen in the movie. Instead Azog sends Bolg, his look alike and fellow CGI creation, in his stead to follow Thorin and company for the rest of the film. So, the pale orc vs Thorin storyline is just pushed to the side to sit undeveloped until, maybe, the next film.
As for the thinness of this installment: it just doesn’t feel there’s as much going on here as the first film. They seemed to make at least two of the action sequences overlong seemingly to pad for a longer film. And, then they added Evangeline Lilly’s character Tauriel, who doesn’t seem to have much to do other than develop an unlikely crush on the ‘sexy dwarf’, Kili (Aidan Turner). The addition of Legolas (Orlando Bloom) makes complete sense even if he’s not in the book when you consider that his father is the elven king Thranduil. But, Legolas doesn’t seem to have much to do but show off his fighting skills and brood over Tauriel’s attraction to a dwarf. Is this a Twilight like love triangle?
It all adds up as padding for time. If you are going to make a trilogy like this all the films need to be about the same length is the mindset here. And I understand that. But, this all goes back to my belief that The Hobbit should have been two films if not one. Adding a third film didn’t aid the story, is the way I see it.
Even though this film didn’t work as well as the first one, I did like some of it. The spider sequence was great and I wish it was longer (the only part of the film that could have been better with added time). The too-long action sequences mentioned above are good, just too long and drawn out. Lee Pace’s performance as Thranduil was very impressive and I’m looking forward to seeing more of him in the next film. Smaug was very impressive. From the CGI work that not only created his body and form, but the performance was outstanding. Add to that Benedict Cumberbatch vocal performance and you have one memorable movie image for our time.
I’m hoping when placed in context with the first and third films that this one will feel more acceptable. But, as it stands right now, The Desolation of Smaug is rather disappointing.–Charles T. Cochran
Rating: 2.5 stars out of 5