Sorry this took ages. Here’s the gorgeous end-credit song “I See Fire” by Ed Sheeran to make up for it 🙂 (and it’s long)
this morning yesterday morning two days ago on the 11th of December 2013, I saw the premiere (premieres are ALWAYS fun, even if the movie isn’t that great) of the second installment of The Hobbit trilogy; The Hobbit: The Desolation Of Smaug (The Hobbit: DOS) in 3D and High Frame Rate (HFR) with a few of my friends. After spending half a day lolling about in bed and musing about the film, I finally caught up on reviews and have now sat down to write my own. Like last year, when I reviewed The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey, I will be doing footnotes for spoilers which will discuss things in more depth behind the cut, and won’t be doing a film summary like other reviews usually do.
I have to admit, not having seen any of the trailers and avoiding spoilers like the plague also meant that I was disadvantaged in that I couldn’t remember anything about the first movie for the first couple of minutes. Luckily (or unluckily), there was a malfunction with the film, so after having sat through the 1/4 of an hour of ads in anticipation, the audience had to wait a while longer for everything to be sorted out, which irked me, especially as I’d already had it happen in the HPDH7 Part 2 premiere.
“So, at this point I’m wondering whether Beorn will be central to the second film, as he was quite important in the novel, and how much more embellishing Peter Jackson will do. Also, how the film turned out in 48FR, which I didn’t see because I thought it would be too much of a risk for the first time watching a movie…”
That’s what I thought after watching the first Hobbit film. Well, here are a couple of quick answers!
1. Beorn? I was waaaaaay off with that. Really.  What about you – any hypotheses proven or unproven?
2. This time I watched the film in both 3D and HFR. To be honest, I couldn’t really tell the difference! Yes, at the start it takes a few moments to adjust, but it seemed just as vivid as watching it only in 3D had…Sometimes you end up focussing on the wrong thing, as I mentioned in my previous review, but that’s caused, again, by the 3 dimensional aspect of the film as well. So 48FR didn’t end up mattering too much to me. Could any of you tell the difference?
The film opened with a flashback scene from months before Bilbo’s journey began, re-acquainting the audiences with the general thrust of the plot in a lovely little sequence, and then moved straight into action which would be typical of the next 2 hours and 41 minutes. You can read Peter Jackson’s take on The Hobbit: DOS here. Meanwhile, I shall start with the positives (the few I could find. Feel free to point out more!):
Smaug the Stupendous, Smaug the Impenetrable, Smaug the Magnificent, Smaug the Terrible…Yes, Smaug is indeed all these things and more! With “armour…like tenfold shields, my teeth are swords, my claws spears, the shock of my tail is a thunderbolt, my wings a hurricane, and my breath death!” (The Hobbit), Smaug casts a terrific shadow over the dragons to come in future films, with amazing reality and expression, in part from the CGI and motion capture work of Weta Digital, and in part from the magnificent voicing by Benedict Cumberbatch. This is what a dragon should be, not the pathetic attempt that Eragon made back in 2006. (Although I have to say, I wouldn’t have known it was Cumberbatch voicing it if I hadn’t already known….and how on earth did he do motion-capture for that??? ) The Bilbo/Smaug scene was by far the highlight – the best part of the film, similarly to the Bilbo/Gollum confrontation in The Hobbit: AUJ. Both CGI and 3D were used to great effect here, and the acting was just brilliant.
The visual effects, while sometimes a tad over-the-top in their attitude towards the sometimes disorienting angles and quick-cut panning, were incredible, creating the right atmosphere for every scene, with vistas of Mirkwood, with its spiders and Elves, Laketown, the ramshackle town in the centre of a lake, as well as the Lonely mountain itself. There was an especially glorious snippet of Bilbo enjoying the sunlight for a few moments in Mirkwood. The score of the film was up to par with the previous films – I especially appreciated how they continued to incorporate aspects of the LOTR trilogy.
Character development could have been better, in my opinion, but I felt that the writers did include was very well done: namely, the demise of Thorin Oakenshield and Bilbo Baggins, as well as the role of Balin.
Whilst the movie was nowhere near as humorous as The Hobbit: AUJ,
it still retained a bit of light-heartedness, for which I was glad, and the acting in general was very, very good. Luke Evans, who plays Bard the Bowman, was fleshed out nicely and added to the film considerably, although he was hauntingly similar to a cross between Captain Jack Sparrow and William Turner. It may have just been the facial hair and my imagination, though. 🙂 You can read an interview of him here
I think that personally, the film let me down quite a bit. I am definitely going with my original thoughts back before any of the hobbitsses were released and claiming that 2 films would’ve been better than three.
Yes, some of the scenes were good, such as the initial Lonely Mountain sequence and the Barrel-Riding scene (Which, you’ve got to be kidding me. But… sort of great.). Similarly to The Hobbit: AUJ, I think Jackson could have cut right back and made it a much shorter, tighter film. They definitely could have done less on Laketown – three chases in one small city means nothing new came across – and the deviation of the last half an hour with the dwarves in Erebor seemed superfluous to me, like they were just trying to stretch the action…whereas I think they could have done more character development, which Jackson mentions that he tried to bring into The Hobbit: DOS. Or expanded on a couple of scenes which I personally would have found more entertaining  than the original added sequences.
The purpose of the journey also seemed weak to me, as I found the task of sympathizing with the dwarves plight rather more difficult when they were relegated to background of Elvish fighting. However, I think that it was also to do with the tone of the film – The Hobbit is definitely a lighter book than the LOTR trilogy, and the first film really reflected the almost mischievous nature of the dwarves adventure, rather than the doom-defying quest to destroy the One Ring. The Hobbit: DOS seems to try for more gravitas than its predecessor, but to me it made the resultant film less successful and more of LOTR try-hard copy (to be crude).
Pretty, pretty mini-scene of Bilbo enjoying the fresh air
As for the new supporting/main characters introduced apart from Bard: Thranduil, King of the Mirkwood elves, and his son, Legolas (gasp – We weren’t expecting that!) It was odd, because Thranduil looked the part, but from my perspective he wasn’t regal enough, instead acting cruel and, in some cases, a bit petty. As for Legolas, well, I have to say that I never saw that particular ‘fan favourite’ appeal, so to bring him into The Hobbit: DOS seemed a bit pointless to me unless he had an important character arc, which so far he hasn’t. And his lines! Well, to be fair, not only him. There were so many melodramatic, cliché, cheesy, or over-the-top lines that it just felt ridiculous at times.
What was especially disappointing was the character of Tauriel, Chief of the Guards for the Elvenking. As someone who is not what you would call a ‘purist’ – i.e., I can enjoy scenes that are original, or adaptations that work well if you ignore that they don’t match up to the books (not if they destroy the whole concept of the book, though. Or if there is terrible acting/plot) – I was overjoyed that there’d be at least ONE female character in The Hobbit: DOS. In fact, I figure that if they had really wanted to show some parity, they could have gender-swapped some of the dwarves, so there’d be some main characters that were female, rather than a singular secondary character (It could have made for a more interesting dynamic of ‘brotherhood’ and friendship between the 13, as well!). Thus, I was completely dismayed when I watched the film and realised that rather than create a character with depth, the writers had done something (in my view) atrocious: they had relegated Tauriel to a couple of flashy action scenes (because that totally shows the audience how she’s a strong woman, right? Because violence does that; violence apparently, in our society, gives the impression of muscular strength and skills, and disobeying orders to go kill some orcs shows independence, which, when spun together, creates an image of a brave elf doing what she thinks is right to the audience. Apparently this is what violence is meant to show. As if a woman can’t be strong unless she is bearing arms.) and, even worse, formed a love triangle surrounding her. This is how I saw Tauriel; as something meant to appease females all around the world in the hopes that it would garner more viewers who felt that at least they’d now have someone of the same gender to identify with. As a female, I didn’t identify with Tauriel at all. Tauriel as envisaged by Evangeline Lilly here, would have been better to see, but I couldn’t find her. She wasn’t there.
In short, I feel that they shouldn’t have created Tauriel at all. It’s like with the TV show Elementary – if you’re going to do something like that, change the gender of a character, or introduce as female character, at least do it well? Make Sherlock Holmes a woman, not Watson (there are even wacky theories out there which state that Holmes was a woman, you could have backed it up with genuine Sherlockian and Holmesian thoughts on the matter!).
But, hang on, I think I’m being too harsh on Tauriel. In her defence, Lilly played the character as well as she could, given the circumstances, and Tauriel does have a high position in the Elven kingdom. She does speak with ‘the voice of reason‘ and show wisdom at times, as well as being skilled at her job, which is inherently violent. I think that it’s just – we had one character to hang all of our hopes on. Just the one female character. So if she lets us down in any way, because she is all that is there to represent females in the entire film, we are going to judge her and critique her more.
While many critics seem to be approving of the increase in action, I actually found these less enjoyable, as while the site changed, and the sequences themselves looked to have been meticulously choreographed and practised, there were simply too many to allow the full appreciation of the skill expended by the many participants. Additionally, a significant amount of fight scenes were mainly focussed on the elves against the orcs, which I found repetitive, especially as the fighting styles didn’t change.
After reading my review of the first film, as well as from what I remember, I am certain that I was more entertained by it than by The Hobbit: DOS, its sequel, contrary to most others. May the third film be better than the first two put together!
I’m interested in hearing your thoughts and opinions on the comparison between the two, as well as any other comments you have to offer.