The trailer for The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug promised me a dragon. Not only a dragon, a giant lizard with the silvery pipes of Benedict Cumberbatch. I was super excited. An Unexpected Journey left me underwhelmed, but a dragon! Awesome, right? Of course, in typical Peter Jackson fashion I was forced to wait well over an hour before the dragon even shows up.
The scenes with Smaug are the most exciting in the entire movie, but you have to sit through a lot of boring crap to get there. Again, why did these need to be three films? Two maybe could have worked, if only to give the Gollum scene in the previous movie and the Smaug sequences in this one room to breathe. Three movies is just ridiculous, because there are so many scenes added to the movies that did not need to be included.
One thing I noticed while watching An Unexpected Journey is that the movie tried hard to connect those events to the ones in The Lord of the Rings trilogy. This is even more evident in The Desolation of Smaug. Gandalf keeps running off to do other things and talk to people who aren’t even in the book, but who will appear in LOTR. These scenes aren’t very fun, detract from the actual story, and make Desolation feel very uneven. Everything involving Bilbo and his generic dwarf friends is adventurous and fun, even when they’re facing scary monsters. Gandalf’s scenes are dark and dreary, dealing with the much more serious business that will soon threaten Middle Earth. I’ve been told by people who have actually read the books that The Hobbit is for kids and LOTR is for an older audience. This is obvious in these films, because the Gandalf scenes just don’t jive with everything else.
I can understand the instinct to want to marry The Hobbit films with the LOTR ones. It’s been awhile since audiences were transported to Middle Earth, and given how successful those movies were, it seems logical to include references to them here to remind people of that fact. But I don’t think we needed such huge reminders. It’s enough to see Bilbo find the ring and bring it back to The Shire. It’s unnecessary to see Gandalf running all over the place fighting orcs or whatever. Furthermore, unless you’re a huge fan of the movies and/or books, you’re likely not going to remember how most of the Gandalf scenes fit in with the events of LOTR. I imagine the films’ more casual fans were lost or bored (or both) during these scenes.
It really seems like Desolation of Smaug is trying too hard to be “grown up,” when it should really be aiming for a sophisticated children’s audience (there is such a thing). Let The Hobbit be what it is: a fun introduction to Middle Earth. Once the kiddos are a little older, show them Lord of the Rings. There’s no need to add dark and serious scenes to appeal to adults, because the best parts are the fantasy adventure bits, and grown ups will enjoy them, too.
This was the first film set in Middle Earth that I did not see on Boxing Day when it was released. In fact, I did not see this second Hobbit film in theatres at all. I was so let down by An Unexpected Journey that I just had no interest in seeing this film at all. Obviously that doesn’t mean I wasn’t going to own the movie one day, I just waited until it was under $10 in the bargain bin at JB HiFi (that’s like Best Buy for all my Yankee readers). So watching this film for the blog was actually the first time I had seen this movie. The second Hobbit film, The Desolation of Smaug, is certainly an improvement on the first movie, but still fails to capture the magic of the original Lord of the Rings trilogy.
We pick up the story right after the events of the first film. Bilbo (Martin Freeman) and the dwarves have been saved from goblins or orcs or whatever they are by some giant eagles. Why the eagles didn’t drop them off at the mountain is beyond me. They flew them so far, but leave with ages to go until they reach the Lonely Mountain. The eagles are a plot device that are easy to mock. Whenever they turn up it is to get a character out of a jam. They feel so forced and only there to move the story along. It is unimaginative storytelling in my opinion. Anyway, I digress… So the dwarves have to venture through a land run by elves, where we meet an old friend (Orlando Bloom’s Legolas returns for this installment) and some new elves as well. After dealing with the elves, and sitting through a forced romantic sub plot between one of the dwarves and Kate from Lost, the dwarf party continue on their way to the Lonely Mountain, where they will find Smaug the dragon (Benedict Cumberbatch), and Bilbo will be asked to steal the dwarf king’s diamond from him.
Just as in the first film, these Hobbit movies just try too hard to connect to the Lord of the Rings movies. There are several sub plots about what Gandalf (Ian McKellan) is up too when he disappears from the dwarf party. I really didn’t care what he was up too. We know that Sauron comes back, if you are seeing the Hobbit films chances are you’ve seen LOTR too, so you know what happens. We didn’t need to see it.
The Desolation of Smaug is an improvement on the first film. It was cool to see Legolas again, even if he was only there to remind audiences that this is Middle Earth and this awesome trilogy of films also exists. I really liked how Smaug was depicted. Cumberbatch has this booming voice and is perfect for the evil dragon. I enjoyed his performance a lot.
In the end though, this film still fails to make you care about the characters as much as you should. I have deliberately not mentioned any of the dwarves by name in this review because the only one I could really identify with any consistency was Thorin (Richard Armitage). All of the others just blend into a group of dwarves and are instantly forgettable. I would have liked a little more time spent introducing the dwarves individually. The first film did not do that, and neither does this one. They try and create a romantic sub plot between one of the dwarves and an elf, but it feels so forced and unnecessary.
The Desolation of Smaug is an ok film, but it still doesn’t have me rushing out to see the next one. This is a shame, because when the first trilogy came out being there on Boxing Day was a requirement for me. With these ones, I could care less if I see them in the theatre, or at all.