The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug

Martin Freeman's Bilbo is, as I expected, fabulous.

Martin Freeman’s Bilbo is, as I expected, fabulous.

 

Over the holidays, I’ve kind of gotten caught up on my movie list, so I figure I should add to the “serious literature” by including (hopefully) brief discussions of Hollywood’s latest.  And what better place to start than The Hobbit?

Okay, maybe there is a better place to start, but we’ll go with furry-feet anyway.

I confess that it has been years since I read The Hobbit.  As a younger person, my dad suggested I read it and I never could get into the story.  When the first Lord of the Rings film came out, I saw it, fell in love, and read the entire trilogy and loved it.  I was in fifth grade.  I was a confirmed nerd.  But I still didn’t like The Hobbit.  Now I wonder if it’s because it’s more of a fairy tale than the epic of LotR.  So when the first part of the movie trilogy came out, I accepted that I wouldn’t like it as much, but I still wanted to see it.

Let’s address the first issue: a trilogy of films from one book.  This seems like a poor idea.  I was willing to give old PJ the benefit of the doubt because I was impressed with his treatment of LotR.  And if he’s pulling in extra narrative that we don’t really get otherwise, that’s a plus, right?

Now I have mixed feelings.

Part One (An Unexpected Journey) was actually pretty fun.  I liked the additional storylines, even though I was still not sure how they were going to stretch it to three movies.  The Orc deal was like, okay, I’ll forgive this totally cliched plot because it needs to have some epic element.  I understand.

But for Part Two (The Desolation of Smaug), this was my immediate reaction that I muttered to my dad: “Oh my goodness gracious, I can’t feel my bottom.

Now here’s what I find interesting: Part Two is actually 8 minutes shorter than Part One.  But in Part One, I didn’t feel like I could fall asleep, nor did my legs actually fall asleep.

To be fair, DoS is the ugly middle child of the trilogy, just like The Two Towers (my absolute least favorite book and movie of LotR).  It’s going to be long.  But it just felt like it took forever.  And I don’t know what it was – maybe all the cuts to different storylines (because now there are about a million going at once) or just the general appearance (Lake Town is, unsurprisingly, pretty grim looking).  Even if the length was doable, though, there are still some serious issues with this installment, which I can only hope will make more sense/be better after Part Three comes out next Christmas.

Serious Issue #1: LOVE TRIANGLE

Love triangles are always my least favorite additions to any story.  And yes, sometimes they’re necessary, and I accept that this is not a new concept in PJ’s Middle Earth (I mean, the Aragorn/Eowyn/Arwen situation?  Sure, Aragorn was committed to his elf lady, but it made for some good romantic tension.).  But a dwarf/elf/elf love triangle?

NO.  JUST NO.

I don’t even care if it was a dwarf/elf Romeo/Juliet moment.  We know they won’t end up together because it just can’t happen.  But then you add in Legolas (played once again by Orlando Bloom – that’s a whole other issue) and it just gets ridiculous.  The King of Elves (who looks younger than his son, Legolas) does that great line about “Don’t give him [Legolas] hope where there is none,” and the girl elf (Captain of the Guard who looks like an obvious rip-off of Arwen – who I thought was awesome in LotR) makes the obvious comment about “I didn’t think your son, the prince of this elvish land, could pledge himself to some nobody like me,” to which the king says, “Uh, duh, he can’t.  So get over it.”  Okay, I might have paraphrased a little.  My point is, it’s such a cliche love triangle moment – the prince can’t love the commoner, and she must accept this and move on.  Girl elf would have no problem giving Legoland the thumbs up because they clearly like each other, but when the king puts the kibosh on that, she turns her affections to a… dwarf?

NO.  JUST NO.

Serious Issue #2: Repeat of Fellowship of the Ring

Then the dwarf (Fili?  Kili?  I can’t keep them straight, and frankly, I don’t care because I’ve never liked the dwarves.) happens to get shot with an Orc arrow that the audience then discovers is actually a mortal instrument!

If you remember Elijah Wood’s excellent Frodo moment in FotR when he is stabbed by the Ringwraith sword (no bueno), put those facial expressions on the dwarf.  It’s the same thing.  And then he’s getting worse and worse at Lake Town, until the company splits (???????) and one of the dwarves staying with him says, “Do you have kingsfoil?”  “Kingsfoil?” repeats the human (Bard, who’s pretty cool), “That’s a weed!”

Where have we heard this dialogue before?  Oh, right.  FotR, where the same damn thing happens.

And guess who saves the day?  Yep, the pretty, feisty, and surprisingly action-ready elf lady.  Nobody who saw the LotR trilogy could have seen that coming.

Serious Issue #3: More Smaug!!!

I wanted more Smaug.  Seriously.  Lots more.  He was awesome.  And the whole dialogue between Smaug and Bilbo – when it wasn’t interrupted by annoying clips of Gandalf v. Necromancer or Fili/Kili/young dwarf dying – was fantastic.  I just wanted a whole segment of just them.  I would have been happy.

So those are my main issues.  They’re not big (okay, the love triangle is), but they make a difference.  In smaller issues, I’m tired of the Orc storyline.  And why did Legolas have to come back?  I didn’t like him in LotR and I don’t like him now.  All he does is kung-fu Orc killing.  I don’t need that, because I don’t need the Orcs.  I’m just tired of all this epic-ness when all I want to see is the dragon destroy Lake Town.

As usual, though, Martin Freeman did an amazing job as Bilbo, and Benedict Cumberbatch voicing Smaug was, as I mentioned, magic.  There are still good moments in the movie, and I’m glad I saw it, but it just felt like it was never going to end.

My hope is that the final chapter of The Hobbit is going to make me look back on this and say, “Oh, that’s why they did it.  Never mind.  I was wrong.”  I don’t think I can forgive the love triangle (because we all know it’s not going to end well), but I’m willing to accept it if it’s wrapped up correctly come December.

Overall, I’d give it a 3.5/5.  Worth seeing, but not the smash I was expecting.  Can’t wait for There and Back Again, though, because knowing PJ, it’ll be a huge finale.

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