Film review: ‘The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug’

The main takeaway that I take away from watching The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug, second in Peter Jackson’s very fat movie adaptation of a fairly thin book, is that I have no interest in buying the DVDs. I want to see the movies in theaters, don’t get me wrong, but I can’t find in my heart any desire to buy them and watch them again.

The main reason, I think, is that there’s too much Peter Jackson here. The mix works out to about 50% Tolkien’s story, 50% Jackson’s special effects indulgences. He promised us a Hobbit fleshed out with material from the Silmarillion and other Tolkienian sources. But in fact most of the added stuff is just fluff – improbable chases, a Rube Goldberg strategem for fighting the dragon (voiced by Benedict Cumberbatch, and wonderful to see in itself), and an entirely implausible romantic subplot. Also a fighting female elf, unknown in the original material.

As with the first film, it’s visually wonderful. Glorious, beautiful, dazzling. But I kept getting pulled out of the story by Jackson’s self-indulgences. I don’t think he trusts the material. In the classic moviemakers’ tradition, he wants to do the story the immense favor of improving it in his own image.

I kept wanting to tell him to sit down, shut up, and let Tolkien talk.

My movie companion thought it was better than the first one. He may be right. But I continue to feel that great opportunities were lost here.

Cautions for frightening scenes and fantasy violence. OK for kids above, oh, eight, I’d say.

Oh yes, I wanted to mention that the wise old dwarf Balin is played by Ken Stott, who played Inspector Rebus in the second Rebus TV series, reviewed here.

One thought on “Film review: ‘The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug’”

  1. Film making has become a very calculated form of cultural and psychological conditioning as it has and always been a venture of free enterprise to be as profitable as possible while being entertaining. Peter Jackson’s Hobbit is a logical extension of his Lord of the Rings (LOTR), but it is more obvious now and getting more negative criticism. I can vividly remember my initial impressions of the LOTR which I saw on DVDs. On one hand, I was very dazzled by the great cinematography and fell in love with the New Zealand landscape and the elaborate scene prop sites. On the other hand, I was disappointed, but not terribly surprised, by the films’ focus on battle and fight scenes and aggressive and violent interactions between characters. I saw the first Jackson Hobbit film on DVD. My impressions were exactly the same. Jackson has not changed his spots and stripes. Indeed, he has and continues to be very consistent and his Hobbit film will be very popular (despite some negative criticism) and will be very profitable for an extended period of time. However, there is just so much you can do with a short children’s book compared to an epic three volume set of adult novels. Next year some time I will watch Jackson’s Hobbit, part two via Amazon’s Instant Video rental scheme, when the price goes down, to satisfy my curiosity. For now I will be content with just viewing the film and production trailers…and reading the critical film reviews.

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