(This is a second opinion on this movie. The first, written by Fenrir, can be found here.)
It occurred to me at about the midpoint of this movie that I might be incapable of being objective about the Lord of the Rings movies and by extension, The Hobbit. The original Lord of the Rings movie trilogy is a huge part of my foundational psyche. One of my earliest memories of the internet is spending half an hour trying to get a trailer for Fellowship of the Ring to load. Two Towers was my first ever midnight release and reading/watching about the behind the scenes production is what first made me want to be a filmmaker. I don’t know if it’s possible for me to separate that part of me and be completely objective. So perhaps you can’t take my opinion entirely seriously, but I still rather enjoyed this installment of The Hobbit, flaws and all.
The plot literally picks up minutes after the last one ended. Thorin, Bilbo and company are still heading for the Lonely Mountain. This time the trail takes them through Mirkwood, Laketown and eventually all the way to the Mountain itself. I’d tell you more, but for God’s sake people, this book is over 75 years old.
If this movie has a major improvement over the first one, it’s in the pacing department. The first one, for all that I liked, had some pacing that moved in stops and starts. Desolation, to its benefit moves at a much more natural pace. There are still a couple stops and starts (most notably when they hit Laketown), but it’s overall paced a lot better. In addition, the action scenes that eat up giant chunks of the movie are shot a lot better; it’s easier to tell what’s going on. So Desolation of Smaug solves some of the problems of the original, if only to make room for new ones.
The biggest issue is with the movie original character of Tauriel. On a general level, she’s not necessarily a bad character; she’s got an interesting backstory, she’s well acted and she’s mostly well written. The issue is, well, she winds up in the middle of a love triangle. This shouldn’t necessarily be a bad thing, but it kind of eats up too much screen time. Also, it isn’t exceptionally interesting, and based on the books, I already have an idea of how it ends (can’t be a spoiler, 75 year old book). Plus it really irritates me that one fantasy franchise that I thought would be safe from stupid love triangle bull is now mired in it.
The second issue it has is, well, Laketown. The movie isn’t willing to spend the time to characterize Laketown as anything other than a Dickensian Venice but is also unwilling to just let the company pass through without comment. Some of this will be forgiven if all of the time they spent characterizing Laketown turns out to be important in part 3, but as of right now, it’s just a whole lot of nothing.
But I obviously like the movie or I wouldn’t have ranted about how I can’t be objective. So, what do I like? Well I like the acting; Martin Freeman is still a pretty awesome Bilbo (having progressed from ‘learning to find his courage’ to ‘Oh GOD these people’ which Martin is really good at), Richard Armitage is a good Thorin, Ian McKellan is naturally brilliant. It’s also nice to see Orlando Bloom back as Legolas, and it’s a nice twist on fan expectations to have him be a total douche. Newcomers to the series, like Luke Evans as Bard and Lee Pace as Thranduil, are pretty solid too (even if Evans looks a little like an out of makeup Orlando Bloom…hm). And Stephen Fry is in it too, as the Master of Laketown. I think they missed an opportunity to have Hugh Laurie play his henchman (if you don’t get why that’s funny, I feel bad for you).
Oh and Smaug is awesome; the entire conversation between him and Bilbo is probably my favorite scene in both movies thus far. The rather lengthy and unnecessary action sequence following the conversation is a little on the dull side, but I like Smaug a lot, and Benedict Cumberbatch is pretty awesome as him. I also like the decision to re-imagine the bow that drops him as a mini-bolt thrower as opposed to a regular bow (although I wouldn’t recommend using a bolt thrower to drop a dragon, as dragons usually have 5 or 6 wounds and most bolt throwers only do D3 wounds–sorry, that reference kind of got away from me).
Aside from that, all the stuff you’d expect to be good are good. The action scenes are well directed, the CGI and makeup are really good, all that stuff. It’s still flawed, albeit in slightly different ways from the first one, but it remains a good and entertaining action flick, and that’s all the more valuable in a year that’s been sorely lacking in them.
Elessar is a 23 year old Alaskan born cinephile and he’d like to remind you that Smaug, in the animated version of The Hobbit, was basically a giant cat lizard.
– Good action scenes
– Good special effects and makeup
– Good acting
– Weak 3rd act
– Stupid love triangle