The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug (3D)
Cert: 12A / 161 mins / Dir. Peter Jackson
Despite what I'm about to say, I did enjoy the second installment of The Hobbit. I just wish I'd really enjoyed it. The film (indeed, series) has all the makings of an intense, sprawling epic, and all the mannerisms too, but I can't seem to invest on an emotional level. No matter how earnestly the characters frown, scold and rage, I'm just not buying it. The chase-scenes are dramatic and fraught, but since there's no question of Martin Freeman, Richard Armitage or Aidan Turner dying in the second film*1, I just don't feel the danger. I know this is an issue with most multi-film storytelling, but you've got to sell me the jeopardy (There's also the fact that I don't really care of one of fourteen protagonists carks it, but that more or less goes back to the first movie, to be fair).
Poor old Ian McKellen gets rather shortchanged this time around, too. At an early stage he's Sent Off To Be In The B-Plot, and spends the rest of his scenes booming out the most mundane dialogue as if it contains the meaning of life (in scenes which I've been informed have remarkably little to do with the source-text anyway). That said, he gets his own slice of the action in the third act, but it's not that entertaining to watch an army of orcs beating up an old man. Considering how the last movie shoehorned in Blanchett*2, Weaving and Lee*3 to accompany him, they're conspicuous by their absence in TH:TDOS*4
And my final gripe would be Laketown. Just when the pace has picked up and we've got elves, dwarves and orcs all slugging it out, the action switches to a set which looks like a thawed out Muppets Christmas Carol, ruled over by Stephen Fry playing Stephen Fry™. In all honesty, Peter Jackson may as well have just called him General Melchett and been done with it. Don't get me wrong, I love Stephen Fry, but his appearances completely pulled me out of Middle Earth and invoked a sort of Potter-esque star-spotting.
But… it's great to see the elves in action once more*5, and Evangeline Lilly and Orlando Bloom bring an interesting dynamic to the mix (in that they have conflicted feelings about what they want, rather than being told what they want by a manipulative old man). The waterfall/river chase was the highlight of the action for me, even though the lion's share of the effects work clearly went on the film's climactic scenes with Smaug*6. The titular dragon, incidentally, looks every bit as fantastic as you'd hope, although he was perhaps a little too… conversational for my tastes. Although I did enjoy Thorin's victorious flourish of "And I have you now, right when I pull… this… LEVER! …if you wouldn't mind just waiting there for 45 seconds or so, that'd be great, thanks. Any second now. Any second. Oh, HERE we go! YEAH!"
As much as I piss and moan, at least we don't spend ten minutes watching someone do the washing up. The Desolation Of Smaug is an entertaining if overly-long film, and a move in the right direction. I'm really looking forward to see what, and who, Jackson pulls out of the bag for next year's conclusion. If you're going to see this, see it on the big screen, although the 3D's not a deal-breaker.
Oh, and if you've got a thing about spiders, That Part Of The Film is going to feel like it's going on forever. fyi*7.
Well, the trailer's a lot… snappier?
It looks nice on a big screen.
At some point, but I doubt it'll be at the cinema.
I didn't hear one this time around.
In the bit in the river: how do those barrels stay upright for the duration? That wouldn't happen, would it?
*1 A sort of reverse-spoiler, there. For those of you who think there's actually a chance that the principle characters could be killed off so early.
*2 That shot of Blanchett which has clearly been lifted from the Lord Of The Rings era doesn't count.
*3 Blanchett, Weaving & Lee would be a good name for a Middle-Earth themed solicitors or architects firm. You can have that one.
*4 That's what all the cool kids are calling it, right? TH:TDOS?
*5 I know Legolas isn't supposed to be in the Hobbit. I don't care about that, I just want an engaging movie.
*6 How do you pronounce his name, Smaug or Smaug? I always pronounced it Smaug.
*7 Thanks for reading all of these footnotes, I appreciate it. This actually is how my mind works.
• ^^^ That's dry, British humour, and most likely sarcasm or facetiousness.
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