As part of my self-proclaimed quest to fill my blog with out of date movie reviews I spent Good Friday watching The Hobbit : The Desolation of Smaug.
As a fan of Tolkein and Peter Jackson movies this should have been perfect for me. I came into this film really wanting to have a good time.
Rarely have I been so let down.
The Hobbit : The Desolation of Smaug continues the unexpected adventures of Bilbo Baggins’ and the band of dwarves as they trek to the Lonely Mountain to kill a dragon and allow the dwarf King Thorin to reclaim his ancestral throne.
Also thrown in are numerous side plots that add to an already super-long film. Some like Gandalf uncovering the return of Sauron are mildly interesting but poorly executed. Others like the pointless romance between the new for the film female elf warrior Tauriel and random dwarf number five, Kili, are just thuddingly boring.
Much of the talk I heard about the Hobbit 2 focused about how long the film is and what a travesty the introduction of the female elf Tauriel and return of Legolas was. For me these lines of attack don’t represent the main problem with the film.
I will deal with the Tauriel character first. Tolkein’s book are sausage parties. Given the times in which they were written and the fact that they were designed to be myths this doesn’t really bother me. I don’t see them as a sexist symbol that needs to be expunged from history. On the other hand I don’t have a problem with bringing female characters into the story if you want to change this.
The thing to do then would have been to make some of the characters such as the essentially interchangeable dwarves female. And/Or make the Bard character female. And/Or the Azul character female. And/Or make Steven Fry’s character female.
What an already long film absolutely didn’t need was for Jackson to shoehorn in
another character with a fairly major subplot. Doubly so when the subplot is a bizarre elf-dwarf love story that nobody outside of the more exotic shadows of the internet was asking for.
The second point that many people focused on was the length of the movie. It is long and this is bad. It is not bad because, of length however. It is bad because the story is dull. If Jackson wanted to write a prequel to the Lords of the Rings by including stuff from the book appendixes then I do think there could have been an interesting story here.
It would have involved being more adventurous with the outline of the Hobbit though and changing things around more rather then just telling the appendixes alongside of Bilbo’s main tale.
For me the film has two main interlinked problems. Firstly, everything is CGI. There were barely any real sets for this film. As such unlike in Lords of the Rings none of the landscapes are impressive and the action scenes look like video game trailers that have been directed by George Lucas. You try to focus on the main action but it is slightly blurry and there are five different things happening in the background.
The worse bit of the film was the river barrel fight. Everything was CGI save for a couple of split second close up shots of the rapids which were actually real. The switch between computer world and the real world would have been bad in a student film. For a director of Jackson’s talent to do it is inexcusable.
The second problem is that the special effects make you realise how fake the characters are. Just as they don’t look real on the screen you realise that you don’t care about any of them anyway. Smaug could incinerate them all to dust and I would not have been bothered at all. In fact I would have cheered.
Even the good bits of the film just remind you of how bad the film is. For example, intermingled with the dull CGI fight scenes were a few really cool kills that just reminded you that yes Peter Jackson is directing and that he can direct good action packed fight scenes.
The stand out bit of the film is the third act arrival of the Benedict Cumberbath voiced Smaug. Smaug is genuinely menacing and looks fantastic. The film takes two hours to introduce Smaug and by that time it is too little too late. Plus the brilliance of teh Smaug CGI just reminds you of how bad the rest of the CGI was. I can only presume that the CGI for the dragon took so long that there was no time to CGI in the rest of the film properly.
I really wanted to enjoy the Hobbit but I just couldn’t. Bad CGI, poor plot and dull characters are the stuff of movie poison and The Hobbit : The Desolation of Smaug is a big fat cyanide pill.