Wednesday, December 18, 2013

The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug - Review

I have seen the second Hobbit film twice.  Here are my thoughts so far, in a semi-structured order.
  • Martin Freeman is still excellent.  I feel this needs emphasising, otherwise it will be overlooked.  He is currently the stand-out feature of these films.  The way he portrays Bilbo is...I want to say perfect.  I can't think of anything wrong with it.  He is incredible.
  • The whole Beorn sequence, so memorable from the book, was very nicely adapted and really well done.  However, it felt short and rushed.  More time could have been spent developing Beorn's character, especially as he will return later, and also the dwarves characters (more on this later).
  • The references to LOTR, such as Jackson's cameo at the start and the line about athelas being a weed, are still making me smile.
  • Tauriel's inclusion was fine.  I don't care if she wasn't mentioned in the book.  There would have been elves like her, in her role within the community.  There's nothing wrong with putting her character in to help develop the story.
  • Linked in with this, I was in favour of having the orcs continue to hunt the dwarves.  I wasn't sure about this at first, but I think it keeps the pace of the story going, and it will link in nicely with Azong's return in film 3.
  • The Tauriel/Legolas romance was understandable but needed to be done properly or not at all.  I felt it was not developed sufficiently to carry weight.  Instead, time was given to the Tauriel/Kili relationship.  Now this was a farce.  No way this would have happened.  Tauriel wouldn't have got into that sort of conversation with a dwarven prisoner.  Dwarves and elves are still at loggerheads at this point in the story.  And the sheer number of times she saved his life started to annoy me.
  • The barrels sequence was good, but over the top.  It was fun, but took it all too far.  Legolas' dwarf surf?  Bombur's barrel bounce?  They're clearly trying to make these films 'entertaining' by throwing in ludicrous stunts, forgetting that stunts and effects aren't that impressive these days, now that you can put anything on screen and make it look realistic.  Impressive filming nowadays is about clever adaptation, a gripping story and engaging characters.
  • The Dol Guldur scenes were great.  Gandalf vs Sauron, awesome.
  • Laketown looked absolutely perfect.  Wonderful design.
  • There wasn't enough development of the Master of Laketown.  In fact, there wasn't enough development of the characters in general, but particularly of the Master.  I wanted more backstory about his rule over the town.
  • Smaug looked brilliant.  He was brilliant all round - the voice, the design, the animation, everything.  Lots of people have said this, but it's still true.
  • The Bilbo/Smaug scene was brilliant  Possibly even as good as riddles in the dark.  The tension was incredible.
  • I'm not convinced by the decision to leave 4 dwarves in Laketown.  It feels like it was only done to promote the Kili/Tauriel thing.  It did give the end of the film a kind of double-focus - the Lonely Mountain and Laketown - and allowed intercutting between them.  But my jury is still out on this one.
  • I think there was too much fighting in Laketown.  As I said above, I'm fine with the continuing orc-chase, but the fighting in Laketown got a bit ridiculous.  It was over-emphasised at the very least.  Yes, it provided a good second climax to the Smaug action (see above point) but I guess it felt unbalanced.
  • Dwarves vs Smaug.  Ludicrous.  Ridiculous.  Unnecessary.  Unconvincing.  As 'Mithril' from said, "what made me cry out upon leaving the theatre 'I want a do-over' was the Indiana ones escapade that they were taken on.  Not only was it completely outrageous but it was confusing and unbelievable.  Start the forges?  What?  Melt millions of gallons of gold in minutes?  What?  Stand on the nose of Smaug 'Oh, greatest of calamities' and not get eaten?  WHAT!!?!?!?!????!"  Quite.  It was a farce.  And what was the deal with the massive gold statue at the end?  Was that there from the past?  Did they just make it?  Was it explosives that blew it up?  What made it melt?  A flipping joke.
  • Ed Sheeran's closing song was good.  Not on the level of the Rings credit songs, but still good.  I enjoyed it.
  • The music was, overall, less noticeable than in Rings or An Unexpected Journey.  I'm not sure why.  Fewer new themes perhaps?
  • Most of the dwarf characters were still undeveloped.  Thorin, Balin, Dwalin, Kili and Bofur excepted.  Bombur still hasn't had a line.  It was about 5 hours into the trilogy before we found out Fili is heir to the throne.  Too much time is spent on foolish 'action' sequences and not enough on character and story.  The way they have made them all look unique is outstanding, but this has not been replicated in terms of character development.
  • Smaug should have died.  They ended the film in the wrong place.  Instead of the disastrous action scenes inside the mountain, and the mostly unnecessary elves vs orcs in Laketown, they should have had Smaug attack Laketown as he does in the book.  It would have been a wonderful set piece, and would have eliminated the issue of having the dwarves split up.
  • Alternatively, cut some of the stupid action, including the Lonely Mountain fiasco, and spend more time on characters (including Beorn and the Master).  The problem with this would be the lack of a conventional climax to film 2.
  • These hobbit films, despite their problems, are the most impressive adaptation I have come across.  To adapt a children's book into a catch-all film, link it pretty seamlessly to a previously made epic and very popular film trilogy, and draw in multiple other Middle-Earth storylines like dwarven history and the rise of Sauron, is truly remarkable.
  • There were several glaring continuity errors.  The most obvious was how Bombur destroyed his barrel and then jumped back into it, seemingly as good as new.  Two others that annoyed me were the spontaneous appearance of a horse in Laketown, which until that point appeared to contain no horses, just in time for Legolas to ride it; and how the gold in the Lonely mountain was conveniently melt-able when the dwarves needed it to be, but didn't melt at all when Smaug breathed fire on it.
I don't really know what to write in summary.  It's a great film.  Some of it is jaw-droppingly good (e.g. Smaug, Dol Guldur, Beorn, Freeman).  Some of it is overly ridiculous (Kili/Tauriel, Dwarves vs Smaug).  It's still the greatest adaptation I have seen, and because of the difficulty of the adptation, my criticisms should be taken with a pinch of salt - especially as this is the notoriously difficult middle film.  Bring on part 3.

1 comment:

Judy said...

I agree with much of your analysis. What you said about Indiana Jones made me laugh; I said something similar on my analysis, which is on my blog: (look for the page with the movie title).
One thing you said that I thought of but did not write was the underdevelopment of the Hobbit's character.
Would love to have you check out my write-up and comment. I enjoyed yours.