Friday, December 13, 2013

REVIEW: The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug continues to waffle between greatness and mediocrity

Peter Jackson appears to suffering from George Lucas Syndrome.

He’s under the mistaken notion that more is always better.

That’s not always the case.

Peter Jackson did something really special when he brought the Lord of the Rings to our screens years ago. It was dense material that no one ever thought would make it to theaters in a believable way, but Jackson proved them wrong.

He’s struggling with The Hobbit, though.
The Hobbit is a much shorter story with a lot simpler tones. So why are the films so convoluted?

For the life of me, I can’t figure out why Jackson feels the need to pad these films. I can see expanding the book to two movies, but by expanding it to three it feels like these films are bursting with a bunch of filler.

Way too much filler, quite frankly.

That being said, The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug does have true moments of greatness.

The action beats are phenomenal. And, while I was leery about dusting off Orlando Bloom’s Legolas and wedging him into this story, some of the elf story lines are my favorite in this flick. There are laugh-out-loud moments where Legolas is concerned, including a nod to his future friendship with Gimli.
Also, any action scenes involving Legolas are as entertaining as they were in Lord of the Rings – especially his introduction in this film and his antics during the dwarves’ barrel escape. Also, just a note, the barrel scenes could be some of my favorite moments put out on the big screen this year.

Not everything with the elves is hunky dory, though. There are hints of a love triangle in this that baffle me. And, as much as I loved Evangeline Lily as Kate on Lost – she lacks something on the big screen. Sure, the elves are supposed to be largely detached, but Lily seems to struggle when forced to play those beats.

The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug opens up in a flashback at the Prancing Pony. It’s not lost on me that the first person we see is Peter Jackson, in one of his tongue-in-cheek cameos. Unfortunately, instead of being cute, this time it smacks of narcissism. Jackson seems like he’s getting too big for his britches – like he knows more than J.R.R. Tolkien enthusiasts do.

While the scenes with the skin shifter are interesting, the movie doesn’t really seem to pick up speed until our heroes make their way into Mirkwood -- which is beautifully rendered. After a showdown with some hungry spiders, the dwarves face off with the elves and then are on their way to Laketown.

The casting in these is still really strong, with Richard Armitage, Ian McKellen and Martin Freeman
holding over as standouts from the first film. Luke Evans manages to carve out a stoic figure with Bard in this film, and Lee Pace has some chilling moments as the erratic Thranduil.

My complaints for this movie, though, are the same as the first. Only three of the dwarves – Thorin, Balin and Kili – seem to have any definition. And, while Bilbo’s concern over his growing “longing” for the ring are poignant, they’re also spaced out.

The biggest waste of the film for me was Gandalf’s side journey to deal with Sauron. Huh? Yeah. It was totally unnecessary and, unfortunately for McKellen, highlighted the moments where the film starts to lag.

That being said, the end of the film had a magical quality and Benedict Cumberbatch does a rousing
turn as Smaug. The scenes, towards the end of the film, where Smaug is hunting Bilbo and the dwarves are simply fantastic.

Since this is the middle portion of a trilogy, the film does end on a downer note – with Smaug tearing off to make the citizens of Laketown pay.

As much as I love the source material – and revere Jackson’s film versions of Lord of the RingsThe Hobbit has been really hit or miss for me.

I still have hope, though, that Jackson will be able to pull everything together for the finale. I hope I’m not disappointed with a lump of coal next Christmas.

What do you think? Is The Hobbit living up to the hype?


Anonymous Anonymous said...

Nice review Amanda. Better than the first, but not by much.

December 13, 2013 at 2:16 PM 

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