Date Posted: 2013-12-23
Tolkien Fan Level: 6
Film Format Seen? 2D 24 fps
Will view again in a different format? No
Like the first film, TDOS is certainly a mixed bag, but after my horrendously low expectations, it soared into my good graces.
AUJ's worst: Radagast. The Goblin King. Stupid dwarf humor. Black magic. Boring visuals. Lazy, ham-fisted foreshadowing of the other films. Ridiculously large, cartoonish action sequences. Not being LOTR. How does TDOS compare? 1. Radagast. Thank God, he only has five minutes. 2. The Goblin King. His replacement would have to be Stephen Fry, somewhat of an improvement. Fry is a typical oafish bureaucrat, railing against a rising tide of progressive revolutionaries led by a surprisingly engaging bargeman, Bard. The politics are simplistic, but brief. 3. Stupid dwarf humor. Much less of that, but there's much less humor in general. 4. Black magic. Only of a vague sort, and rarely mentioned. Not as clumsy as Radagast's mumble over the hedgehog in AUJ. Instead, dark smog vs. light bubble! Sauron is a black cloud when he's not a fiery eye when he's not a kaleidoscope. 5. Boring visuals. One of the great things about TDOS is the frequently changing scenery, jumping from mountain plains around Beorn's house to dark claustrophobia of Mirkwood to graceful Elven caverns to Pirates of the Caribbean-esque Laketown to oceans of gold in Erebor. Things move so quickly that there isn't time to get used to any location. 6. Lazy foreshadowing. A morgul arrow healed by kingsfoil, a weed. Dwarf with a crush on an elf. Glowing elf who heals a bloke by speaking Elven words. 7. Action sequences. Sure, these were bigger and badder, but there were only two major ones- the barrel race, which took too much screen-time and contributed nothing to the film, but was quite fun and superior to the never-ending Escape from Goblin-Town. Speaking of never-ending, the movie's end in The Lonely Mountain is a sort of Indiana Jones on steroids, with a Cumberbatch dragon. 8. Not being LOTR. I gave up on that a long time ago. Overall I hate to say it in the light of the desolation of Tolkien going on, but I think this movie is better than the 1st. The pace doesn't drag, though I wish we could have lingered with Beorn and Mirkwood. The only part which fatigued me was the last action sequence, going from massive chamber to massive chamber in Erebor, culminating in a weird gold statue thing, and ended with a cliffhanger promising more destruction. As for characters, they are almost completely sacrificed to the action. Martin Freeman is wonderful in whatever scene he's in, but there are precious few of them. This movie really ought to be called It's a Mad, Mad, Mad, Mad Middle-Earth, not The Hobbit. Really, I think the greatest tragedy about this film is the lack of Bilbo - he's lost in the swirl of CGI and events. Gone is his homely love of the shire, gone is this essential connection to everyday life that LOTR always managed to hang onto. There are more departures. The one scene in the film that I felt had raw drama to it was when Freeman first felt the malign influence of the ring, which would have been great if I hadn't been thinking "This isn't Bilbo- this is totally wrong." In this film, Bilbo Baggins's trademark cleverness is traded for an unexpected and inappropriate skill in fighting. He doesn't survive by his wits, but by the sword- a true alteration of the book's character. Even the classic verbal sparring with Smaug is overshadowed by the fact that Bilbo is scrambling over gold after the Arkenstone all throughout the complex conversation. Speaking of Smaug. Benedict. Cumberbatch. Is. Awesome. While the dragon vs. dwarves climax was too long, the 1st few scenes where Bilbo realizes the sheer magnitude of Smaug come the closest to real suspense. Richard Armitage & Ian McKellan are predictable. As for the other dwarves, they're indistinguishable. Twilight meets Middle-Earth: a bland love triangle. Tauriel is one-dimensional, as is every other elf. If there was any chemistry it was completely drowned out by the thunder of Tolkien rolling in his grave. Not to mention a certain lewd comment from Kili that made me just hope my younger siblings weren't paying that much attention. Dol Guldur. As for Gandalf, his role is minimal, and of little importance. Sauron's cameo was cool, but...kaleidoscope. As for the spiritual element, it's practically nonexistent. In AUJ we had Gandalf's moral of the story, his inspirational moment (cue "Breaking of the Fellowship" tune) saying that humility is more important than ambition, mercy than vengeance. In TDOS, there's none of that, bar some political stuff in Laketown. If it ever believed in those sentiments, its action hero style obviously valuing ambition over humility, discredits the effort. All that said, this movie was fun. It's not LOTR. I'd go so far as to say it's not even Middle-Earth, but it's fun. Cling to that. Originally posted at http://www.longish95.blogspot.com/2013/12/the-hobbit-desolation-of-smaug-indiana.html
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