Review of The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug

It’s been a few days since I’ve watched the movie, and I’d like to jot down some thoughts on it.

I’m a big Tolkien fan, so naturally, I like the movies, especially since I think they’ve done a generally good job being faithful to the books so far, with mostly understandable additions or subtractions.  Thus, I was eagerly looking forward to the second installment of The Hobbit.  I couldn’t wait to see Smaug the dragon and heck, even see Legolas, even though he’s not mentioned in the book.  I was skeptical about stretching out The Hobbit over three movies, but I liked the first one well enough so I decided just to trust Peter Jackson.

However, after seeing this next one, I think it may have been better to leave it at two movies.  Or perhaps, if it was to be three movies, there needed to be better decisions about what to add to the movie and what to leave out from the book.

What I liked

Martin Freeman remains a great Bilbo.  He captures both Bilbo’s uncertainty yet growing bravery really well.  Ian McKellan is once again great as Gandalf, and the other actors were mostly fine.  Nothing really to complain about here.

Even though Legolas is not mentioned in the book, I’ve said for years that I sincerely hope theu include him in The Hobbit because it simply makes sense for him to be involved.  His father, King Thranduil, is in the book (though not mentioned by name) and it’s not inconsistent at all with the book to have him there.  In fact, if Tolkien got around to revising the book to make it more mature and better connected to his trilogy, it’s not hard to imagine that he’d include him.  I was thinking more of a cameo appearance for Orlando Bloom (like in The Battle of the Five Armies, which the movie doesn’t get to), but I didn’t mind seeing him.  I thought Bloom also did a good job portraying Legolas as less mature and brasher than his incarnation in the trilogy, and he’s still nifty with his knives and his bow.

With that in mind, I don’t mind the addition of Evangeline Lilly either.  I dislike where they took the character (I’ll get to that in a moment), but if that want a female elf shooting orcs, then whatever.  I understand it’s a movie.

Furthermore, Benedict Cumbermatch did a great job voicing Smaug.  Not much else to say here; deep British voice gets the job done, in my opinion.  Also, after thinking about it, I don’t mind that Gandalf goes alone to face the Necromancer (Sauron) alone and briefly battles him, though it makes zero sense that Sauron would leave him alive.  I guess it helps explain Gandalf’s absence without a more convoluted explanation.

As far as the special effects, they were mostly fine.  Smaug looked good and so did the spiders.

What I didn’t like

Generally, there was a curious focus on some random crap with precious little time given to things that would have mattered more.  For starters, Beorn’s role in the movie is tiny; he gets introduced, and then boom, we leave his house.  It’s a big scene in the book, and they cut it short for some overly ridiculous action scenes.  I don’t mind more action, but some of the scenes, most notably the barrel fight and the fight with Smaug, were way too drawn out and absurd.

Speaking of the fight with Smaug, there wasn’t one in the book.  In fact, the mountain isn’t quite that big for him to be moving around all over Erebor; I mean, they make the mountain seem like Mt. Everest times ten.  And I hated that they took away the famous conversation between an invisible Bilbo and Smaug in the book.  I thought they did a good job portraying the riddle game between Bilbo and Gollum in the first movie, but I did not like this adaptation.  Bilbo is supposed to be invisible, steal a cup, and make Smaug angry because of that.  Bilbo is then supposed to have a playful war of words with Smaug while still invisible, which confuses and frustrates Smaug.  Instead, they inexplicably make Smaug actually aware that Bilbo is wearing the One Ring and then have the odd ability to expose him.  Maybe they thought it’d create more tension if a giant dragon could actually see Bilbo, but that change irked me.

However, nothing irked me more than the asinine and completely un-Tolkien romantic tension between Lilly’s character and Fili the dwarf.  Oh my goodness, that was so dumb.  Not only is it completely contrary to how dwarves and elves operate in Tolkien’s world, it was poorly executed and a giant waste of time.  You’re telling me that Beorn got less screen time and the Smaug conversation was gutted for this crap?  This is one of the worst decisions by Peter Jackson in all the movies.  Maybe he wanted short people to feel hope that they can attract immortal beautiful women, but it was needless and silly.  Ugh.  I still can’t get over how immeasurably stupid that was.

Lastly, I still find it completely unnecessary to have Azog follow them around.  Oh, and it makes no freaking sense that the eagles saved the party and they’re still running from the orcs.  How did the orcs find them, and how did they catch up with freaking eagles?  Anyway, Azog should be dead; at least they introduced Bolg, who is actually alive in the book.  I understand they want tension, but it’s just another character that they introduced at the expense of developing the ones actually in the book.

Conclusion

It was an entertaining and decent film, but I think it was quite clearly the worst out of all the Tolkien movies by Peter Jackson so far.  There were several senseless changes, a really bad romantic subplot, and some over-the-top action scenes that just seemed to drag on.  Either they needed to keep this to two movies or they needed to shorten the films and do a better job adapting them from the book.

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