The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug – Review

I will apologise in advance for not making this one of my rapid reviews. I was going to make this a reasonably short review but I realised I did have quite a lot to say about the film. So it’s time to batten down the hatches and wait for the storm of comments from Tolkien fans like last time, but the most basic comment I could make about it is simply: it is better and I enjoyed it, but it is still too long.

I sat down in the afternoon screening, drink at my side, replica of the one ring around my neck (please don’t judge) and an open mind that was ready for a new cinema experience. I went in wanting this to be a really good film and to come out of it ranting and raving about how incredible it was and how right the mass audiences were. However my patience was tested somewhat after 160 minutes of footage.

I will say first of all that I do think it is good. Honestly, I thought it worked perfectly as an action film and delivered me a lot of pleasure in seeing some of my favourite sections of the book put to the big screen with delicacy. Peter Jackson clearly cares about the source material and respects it, which is why he takes so much care in making his films. Unlike the first film the pace is better, but I think that’s purely based on it’s timing in the novel, starting a point that is quite literally in the middle of the action and then delivering us a chunk of the events from the adventure. I still hold the belief that this will be the best film of the trilogy.

I have to say that one of my favourite elements of the film was how they put Mirkwood to the screen. I have never been so terrified of spiders in all my life, and to be honest the people who made the second Harry Potter film should really take note. It was brilliant. The huge landscape shots of this chilling environment were accompanied perfectly by the close up shots and attention to detail, to the point where you can honestly feel and smell the environment based on what’s on screen.

The acting is once again top notch, Bilbo is one of my favourite characters of all time and it is a real treat to see Martin Freeman playing the role perfectly. The dwarves are as funny as ever, lead of course by Richard Armitage who once again manages to portray a conflicted character longing for his home land but concerned for his own safety. The new star of the film for me personally was Benedict Cumberbatch who proved to be a very good choice as the voice of Smaug the dragon. I understand that his voice has been brutally edited to sound like it is coming from a creature rather than an actor in a studio, but I still think he has done a brilliant job and it is exactly the voice I heard in my head when reading his lines in the novel. The timing between words and sentences, the emphasis on certain words, and the times you can tell Cumberbatch wanted to sound menacing. He was fantastic.

Now I’m not a huge expert on visuals so I won’t pretend to be, but I feel I should address it nonetheless. Personally I didn’t like the visuals for some of the film, I feel as though they were too rushed and didn’t do the book justice. See the thing about the book is this, there is a lot of attention to detail, Tolkien is a fan of adding lots of detail so that the image in your head is as vivid as could possibly be. What you have in the case of the film is faced paced action sequences that are a little bit tricky to follow based on the head ache that develops each time an arrow is fired and the camera angle attempts to follow it. The dragon was always going to be an interesting element to the film, being an important character and a challenge for any visual team. The trailer earlier this year sparked some doubts among fans, but I don’t feel as though it was too bad. Smaug’s presence was intimidating and you could feel the weight of every step he took which was terrifying yet brilliant at the same time.But I would be lying if I said I thought it was perfect, because it was far from that. In fact there were times during Smaug’s appearance when I felt as though I was witnessing the final boss fight of a Playstation 2 game.

This is the bit where Tolkien fans will throw things at me and want to deliver fire upon my household, but I’m going to say it any way: the film is too long.

What annoyed me about the film was that the length was taken up by things we didn’t need to be added. All of the added plot lines surrounding the necromancer were not needed and took up screen time. There is a point also at which there are three different plot lines happening at once and it did make me feel quite irritated. I agree entirely with Mark Kermode in the sense that the film could be two hours long and still be a good film. I know that die hard Tolkien fans will think it’s brilliant because there’s elements added from The Silmarillion, but honestly we don’t need them. It pads out the film unnecessarily and derives the focus away from a book that has enough substance already. It was too long and it honestly didn’t need to be that long.

As if the fans didn’t hate me enough by this point I’m going to add to the reasons to dislike me by saying that I didn’t like the addition of Legolas to the proceedings. I know he added an element of action to the film. I know it an appearance from a character we all love. I know he was the most “bad ass” character in the film. But did we need it? No.

The pace of the film was, and I’m sorry this is the truth, what Kermode refers to as “turned up to eleventy-stupid” which was disappointing. Legolas added to the pace of the action scenes and showed that the second and first unit directors can handle a fast paced action sequence, but he added nothing to the plot. It annoys me that so much action was added to the film that wasn’t present in the book.  I know the film needs to be interesting and entertaining but what I loved most of all about the book is that it was clever. I love the character of Bilbo because he was clever with words and showed how intelligent he can be. For me this was not translated properly in the film, and the dwarves came charging in all too quickly. The parts of the book I enjoyed the most were when Bilbo was being clever, talking to Smaug for lengthy amounts of time which racked up the tension and added to the development of the characters. I realise I said earlier that the pace was better, but the problem is that the pace starts high and stays high, which for me took away the sense of adventure that the book and even the first film had and replaced it with an over emphasis on battle, which was a disappointment.

I know that different people get different things from films. Some people love it, some people hate it. Personally I hated it and loved it. I enjoyed it because it was made by someone who clearly respects the source material and someone who understands film. I disliked it because I’m too stubborn and I love the book with a passion. Of course I’m not right with what I’ve said about the film, it’s just how I felt after the cinema screening. I may need to review it again after a second viewing. It might be because I’m relying too much on the book and I’m comparing them too much, but the point still stands that it is too long.

Knowing what there is to come and what has already been, I don’t know if I should feel excited or worried about the last installment.

2 thoughts on “The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug – Review

  1. Pingback: 2013 Review – from Music to Film and Everything In Between | adamlester17 - "Food For Thought"

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