The second part of the embellished Hobbit trilogy continues, and my opinion hasn’t changed from part one… except to say that this film makes An Unexpected Journey look completely unnecessary.
While still being pursued by the orc horde, Biblo Baggins and the dwarf company are led by Thorin Oakenshield and Gandalf through the region of Mirkwood and finally to the Lonely Mountain, lair of Smaug the Dragon. Along the way they meet many foes and challenges and only a few to help them.
Well here’s a thing: An Unexpected Journey took perhaps twenty pages of the original text and inexplicably stretched it over three hours, yet The Desolation of Smaug probably covers a massive eighty percent of the story!
I’m serious, most of (if not all) my favourite scenes are in this one film, and if I wanted I could just close my eyes and imagine the beginning and end on my own. (It would save me six hours!) We have the barrels, the wood elves, the Mirkwood spiders, Lake Town, Bard, Beorn and of course Smaug the Magnificent! I honestly can’t remember anything of comparable substance in the first film, and I cannot fathom the third film having any more material to work with.
Sounds good right? Well naturally the film looks great too; one cannot criticise its looks any more than previous films (although the indulgent use of CG is still there…) The action sequences here are actually better than in the first film, they feel more natural and without the “surfing on wooden bridges down chasms” problems. The barrel sequence is not the same as the book, it too is an action sequence, with orcs attacking and a dwarf being propelled out of the water, rolling across the cliffs and knocking them down! Very imaginative and creative additions.
But like all good artists producing more of the same, familiar imagery, we can only pick at the imperfections.
I said it already, and I’ll say it again. I have no problem with strong female characters, but I do have a problem with a character entirely made up by the film makers to force a pointless love triangle that only snares up the film’s exciting climax with needless cutaways. If I may indulge (heck, the film makers do!) The Hobbit is set in earlier times; the elves and dwarves do not like each other. Legolas features in the film, and though he was never in the book I didn’t mind his inclusion: he exaggerates the disharmony between the two races (…despite the fact that the Wood Elf King does this fine on his own…) but Tauriel has a romance triangle with Legolas and………… Kili.
Utterly absurd, and I know exactly where this is going in part three, and it is as throwaway as Tauriel herself. She doesn’t override the film, but her scenes just take me out of what I want: The Hobbit as a film.
Right, with that out of my system. The subplot that tethers The Hobbit to the Rings trilogy is much stronger here than in the previous film. Gandalf does indeed leave the company in the book to do other “important tasks”, these are shown as the film deviates from Bilbo’s perspective. It is welcome, if you survived An Unexpected Journey this stuff is more than appreciated by now.
But the same old problem surfaces while watching the film, and as this trilogy goes on, I fear for its longevity. The Hobbit book is not the same as Lord of the Rings, and this is not a good adaptation of it. I dare say this singular film is the best-worst adaptation I’ve seen. The Hobbit is about Bilbo and his very small perspective of a vast world. It is a children’s story. Embellish, but never forget what the focus of a story is…
I still feel there is a better Hobbit adaptation to be made. That Guillermo Del Toro film that was never to be? This outing actually crushes its predecessor into dust, boasting all of the book’s finest moments through the wonderful lense of the films’ creative team. But, there are still unnecessary additions, and I know that they are chess pieces to make the final film more exciting… But are they literally just pawns in an epic that was never meant to be?
Additional Marshmallows: The HFR (high frame rate) 3D was more familiar to me this time, and took a lot less getting used to.
And the winner of “most unnecessary and indulgent director’s cameo” goes to… Peter Jackson! Fabricating an entire opening scene that has little to no purpose other than to get him in there.
… if you are also wondering, is it worth watching only for the dragon?