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The Hobbit: The Desolation of Peter Jackson

Posted on Thursday, December 26, 2013 in Uncategorized

(Yes, I know it’s been a year since I posted anything here. Tempus fugit!)

desolation: devasation; ruin.

I had the experience of finally getting around to going to the theater recently and seeing (HFR 3D again) Peter Jackson’s most recent installment of The Hobbit epic, The Desolation of Smaug. I posted a review of the first film back on December 16, 2012. First, as stated in that year-old review:


You have been warned…

In re-reading that same review, I’m reconsidering a few statements made in 2012:

  • I’m planning on seeing the next two without question. I may be re-considering this, although I will (in the end) most likely see There and Back Again next year.
  • There were some parts that dragged on too long (more on that below) and some superfluous material,… My word, this year this goes double.
  • but, overall, it kept my attention, …snooore…Oh, I’m sorry, nodded off there…uh, yeah, not so much this year.

Okay, so that being said, what did I like in The Desolation of Smaug. This won’t be a long list:

  • Legolas: His presence in the movie was fine. After all, the Elvenking is his father; Legolas is a prince of the Woodland Realm. I’ll get into misgivings about Legolas below.
  • Tauriel: Believe it or not I was okay with Jackson’s made-up character. She conveyed the difference between the ruling Sindarin family and the Silvan Elf population quite nicely.
  • The Spiders: The evil insects and Bilbo’s initial encounter were spot on. I found it interesting that Bilbo could only understand the spider’s language after he put on the Ring.
  • Laketown: The town itself was an Alan Lee/John Howe art-piece come to life.
  • Bilbo’s initial encounter with Smaug: The first few minutes were great.
  • Languages: As usual, I enjoyed hearing faux Tolkien languages (or maybe neo-Tolkien languages) used on screen. For some misgivings, see below.
  • Bard: The Lake-man actually comes off alright, but once again a little too much Jackson-inspired backstory.

And that’s about it. It will say that it was nice to see Beorn represented (What was up with the eyebrows??), but he was introduced so suddenly and then exited so suddenly, he seemed far too superfluous. Undoubtedly, he is just being set up for an appearance at the Battle of Five Armies. By that time, many will simply say, “Where did this bear-guy come from?”

Unfortunately, and I say this as one who was hoping for the best, the movie was somewhat forgettable. I just saw it a few days ago, and even now it just collapses into a senseless, 2-hour-40-minute action sequence. I’ve read some reviews that tout this as a ripping, adventure-packed follow-up, and, yes, it is “adventure-packed” but the film rarely stops to take a breath. The characters are running and running and running some more. Quick scene, then back to the running.

Let me address some of those misgivings mentioned above. The barrel-riding sequence seemed interminable! Having the dwarves ride in open barrels was the first faux pas in my opinion. Rhett Allain over at Wired has written a great piece about the issues with standing up in floating barrels. I realize they had to be open to do the whole fighting sequence, but they really shouldn’t have. The dwarves, orcs, and elves action-sequence here went from bad to worse. And Bombur with his spinning arms-poking-out-of-the-barrel move was where I really started to just shake my head and sink further down in my seat.

When the orcs fell through the ceiling of Bard’s house in Laketown, I just started laughing. That was my true WTF moment! It was all just too farcical. The subsequent fight through Laketown by the orcs, then Bard being chased by the Master’s men, then… it was just all too much.

And then we come to the dwarves escapade on the Lonely Mountain. I was with them up for awhile. Even the suspenseful bit with the moon being the “last light” of Durin’s Day worked for me. Thorin’s big old boot saving the key. Nice cinematic touch. Bilbo going down the tunnel, meeting Smaug, the brief interchange between them…. then again… WTF? During the loooooong encounter with Smaug and the dwarves racing around, I kept expecting the score to break into the Benny Hill theme. (aka Yakety Sax). Oh, my, and the whole thing with the forges (I’ll admit it was cool to see the Forges of Erebor lighted up but what came next… shudder). And then trying to drown Smaug in gold??? I realize this was a little homage to Smaug’s epithet as “the Golden” but… really?! That’s how Jackson fits it in? Wired‘s Allain does a great piece about the melting gold, too.

The conlangs? Always nice to hear a well-developed conlang in a film but consider this? Why do Legolas and Tauriel seem to constantly switch back and forth between Sindarin and English (presumably meant to equate to Common Speech/Westron)? If they’re just talking between themselves, why not just speak in their first language? Same way with the orcs. Sometimes they use Black Speech/Orkish, sometimes the Common Speech? Pick one and stick with it! For additional info on the conlangs, check out David Salo’s blog that covers Black Speech, Elvish, Khuzdul, and Orkish.

This movie was such a disappointment. I was ready for Jackson fan-fiction. Even the dwarf-elf “love story” but even taken from a cinematic perspective, there were so many lost opportunities as well as long sequences that did nothing to advance the plot (like Beorn’s segment). Others have pointed out the movie’s shortcomings, including The Top 5 Most Preposterous Scenes in The Desolation of Smaug, The Hobbit 2 is Bad Fan Fiction, and The 6 Most Pointless Scenes in The Desolation of Smaug so there’s no need to belabor the point. Suffice to say, I’d really like to see the Smaug get stuck by Bard and the Battle of Five Armies (and Gandalf stopping it)… but seeing those scenes through Peter Jackson’s distorted lens may just be too much. I guess we’ll see when Hobbit 3 comes to theaters next year. (Fingers crossed)