Tuesday, 17 December 2013

The Hobbit: Desolation of Smaug

The Hobbit: Desolation of Smaug starts off where An Unexpected Journey bid farewell one year ago with the fellowship of thirteen dwarfs, a hobbit (Martin Freeman) and a wizard (Ian Mckellen) being tracked by a group of blood thirsty orcs. Attempting to avoid a number of vicious animals that roam the forests, mountains and grasslands of Middle Earth the company’s main quest is to reach the Lonely Mountain, retrieve the Arkenstone and restore Thorin Oakenshield (Richard Armitage) to the throne. One rather problematic issue once they get there is the stone is protected by a fire breathing dragon (voiced by Benedict Cumberbatch) that destroyed the Dwarf city of Dale some time ago.

When news broke that director Peter Jackson was going to split The Hobbit into three different films people questioned how he could spend nine hours (or thereabouts) adapting such a small book. Jackson overcame the issue by inventing characters and adding sequences that were not in the novel. This in itself isn’t too much of an issue (it might be to devotes of the book), but the issue it does create is an overinflated running time. Bagginess is most certainly the biggest issue of the trilogy so far as both films are nearly three hours in length. The Hobbit trilogy seems to lack that special something that made the three hours of each of The Lord of the Rings films fly by.

It is possible that the bagginess of the trilogy stems from the fact that there really isn’t any sense of threat or any sense of danger in which we could lose one of the heroes. It is problematic because it removes dramatic tension from the action set pieces and it becomes a tad tedious every time a character narrowly avoids death. Or perhaps the bagginess is the result of additions to the story made by Jackson and the writers as the addition of Evangeline Lilly’s Tauriel and her possible romance with a dwarf or Legolas (Orlando Bloom) is the most questionable addition to the story. There are pockets of tension peppered throughout the film, like in the forest of Mirkwood (far too little time is spent here as a reliable source informs me that, in the novel, they spend a few months there) and Bilbo’s (Freeman) first baby steps in Smaug’s lair, but the entire dragon set piece at the end of film, whilst being a stunning visual spectacle, does lack that element of tension.

Despite the lack of tension and the occasional bagginess the second part of Bilbo’s journey has a few great and spectacular moments. The walk through Mirkwood forest is effective but criminally short and the Harry Potter like spiders are truly terrifying (though the fight scene itself is messily filmed). The encounter with Smaug, perhaps the moment the majority of people were waiting for, is the highlight and certainly does not disappoint. The dragon is a starling feat of GCI as Smaug’s sheer size, yellow, gleaming eyes and deafening voice make all descriptions of him fall utterly short of his enormity. Benedict Cumberbatch’s booming vocal work adds an extra level of magnificence and awe to Smaug the Stupendous. However, some action set pieces are too silly to contain any actual threat or danger which contrasts to the Lord of the Rings whose action scenes were less extravagant (excluding one or two stunts from Legolas) and far more intense. 

One of the greatest things about the Lord of the Rings trilogy is the visual spectacle, and yet again the landscapes in The Hobbit: Desolation of Smaug are a visual feast as the offerings of visual treats are endless (the Lonely Mountain towering above all is a highlight). The incredible visuals are responsible for the influx of tourists visiting New Zealand over the past decade. The 40% rise in tourism from 2001 to 2006 only highlights how special the visuals are. A number of things that were impressive about An Unexpected Journey are also impressive here, such as the visuals and Martin Freeman’s performance as Bilbo, although there is significantly less attention focused on the hobbit as the attention has been moved to focus on Richard Armitage’s Thorin, and film suffers because of that. Armitage is fine in the role, but Thorin seems to be a poor man’s Aragorn thus he makes for a less engaging character than Bilbo. On the more positive side, however, the issues that the Higher Frame Rate caused in the previous film are no longer an issue in The Hobbit: Desolation of Smaug.
I am going against the tide here, but The Hobbit: Desolation of Smaug is not an improvement over An Unexpected Journey as a couple of great set pieces do not make a great film


1 comment:

  1. I agree that it's not as good as An Unexpected Journey. It just didn't have the heart and soul of the other films. Great review Myerla :)