This past week I saw The Hobbit: The desolation of Smaug (hereto referred to as Hobbit 2), and upon exiting the theater I am sad to say that my response wasn’t even a resounding “meh.” In fact, I didn’t much enjoy a great deal of it. This saddened me as I enjoyed all three of Peter Jackson’s Lord of the Rings movies, and even enjoyed the first Hobbit film where some others did not. But Hobbit 2 suffered some key problems which borked the overall experience for me. There were bits which I enjoyed immensely, but overall I must give the film a rather low rating, and the reasoning can mostly be summed up with K.I.S.S. (Keep it simple, stupid).
K is for “Kill the sideplots.”
I’m going to start with the complaint which I get into the most disagreements about, and that is the presence of scenes from Tolkein’s Silmarillion showing up in Jackson’s Hobbit movies. In the first Hobbit I actually enjoyed Radagast (unlike many of my purist friends), but I absolutely hated the council scene in which Gandalf and Saruman brought the momentum of the story to a grinding halt. My distaste for these distractions from the primary story continue as they often break away from whatever emotional state the audience had just been worked into via the Hobbit story. Now, I understand why they are in there. Jackson wants to flesh out the link between Hobbit and LotR with more than just, “They’re the same ring!” Unfortunately he released LotR first and it trying to build tension with things we already have answers for. It’s hard to worry about Legolas’ health when I know he’ll be in a later set of movies (especially when he’s just kind of tacked into the movie as an extra distraction). Did we really need to watch Gandalf having a kamehameha-wave battle with a shadow for a couple of minutes? Speaking of distractions…
I is for “Isosceles triangles do not belong here.”
Why the love triangle? I’m ok with a completely new character being added in order to create diversity in the world. I’m ok with said character developing a romance with another character who doesn’t have much going for him to distinguish him from the rest of the bearded short fellows. But why expand that into a triangle of sexual tension? Especially when it’s established that Legolas already doesn’t like dwarves. Does he really need another reason to hate dwarves? Why are we getting so much elf action anyway? What role do they play other then supreme combat badass…
S and S are for “Short and sweet.”
Right. Fight scenes. These are actually what really killed the movie for me. Repeatedly we have elves showing up and doing crazy ninja stunts which make no physical sense in order to dispatch of insane numbers of foes. Their movements are elaborate and unnecessary, and unfortunately reminiscent of the fight between Obi-Wan and Anakin in Star Wars 3 (the one which involved neither one of them actually attacking each other, instead just swinging their lightsabers around like they were at a rave). To make matters worse, I went back and watched the LotR movies to see if Jackson did action scenes the same way back then, and my suspicion was correct: he didn’t. Specifically, the first large action sequence of Fellowship (the one where the group is attacked by orcs and Boromir dies) Legolas stands in one position and fires arrows. Compare that to Hobbit 2 where he is jumping on top of every character and piece of scenery he can while slitting throats and pinning orcs to other orcs and then pinning them to trees with arrows and you get a huge difference in presentation. Every good action film which I have watched understands that action should be short and easy to see. The only time it should last any period of time is because the length enhances the narrative (as an example: Oldboy‘s hallway fight scene because it was grueling and made clear just how effective the protagonist had become at fighting). But since the elves of Hobbit 2 were unrelated to the core narrative of the film, most of the action sequences were just extraneous blobs of time. Hell, the lengthy scene preceding Smaug exiting the mountain was extraneous and awkward.
But I’d like to end on a bit of a high note. So while I don’t actually recommend the movie, I do want to share some things which I enjoyed. I thought it was fun when the fat dwarf outran the rest of the party. I found the dwarf barrel scene to be fun (but unfortunately mixed with the elven ninja fight). Actually, I won’t provide more details and just go with: I enjoyed any comedic scene which focused on the dwarves. Really the parts that focused on the primary story (hobbit and dwarves going on a quest) were the very best parts of the movie, and I hope after the third Hobbit comes out that someone on the internet will edit all three of them together only using the hobbit and dwarf scenes.