Director: Peter Jackson
Starring: Martin Freeman, Richard Armitage, Ian McKellen, Evangeline Lilly, Orlando Bloom, Luke Evans and Benedict Cumberbatch
Review Written By: Michael Dalton (Prime Minister)
Whilst Desolation of Smaug has the same core issues that plagued An Unexpected Journey, and this whole Hobbit operation in general, it is a much more exciting and enjoyable film than its predecessor. Whilst my primary emotions watching part one were boredom and frustration, this time it was excitement and enjoyment. While Desolation of Smaug is ridiculously long and incredibly self-indulgent, it has that sense of fun and adventure the former film lacked. It is important to address however that fundamental issues remain regarding Peter Jackson’s mistreatment of this material. The Hobbit is Biblo’s story, yet once again he is sidelined in what should be his own film, The Hobbit is sadly not about the Hobbit. In imposing this epic scope onto a simple and personal story, Biblo is completely lost amongst the action; the film becomes bigger than him and in doing so completely loses its focus, core and heart. This is perhaps most telling and frustrating late in the third act, with Jackson leaving so many plates spinning that the film keeps cutting away from the dragon action just as it is heating up, metaphorically and literally. Furthermore, this film continues to act as a Lord of the Rings prequel at times instead of as The Hobbit. When it is being its own thing, it flies, when it is forcing in disruptive Lord of the Rings set-up, it falters and as most of that is contained within Gandalf’s side story, Ian McKellen’s work ends up being among my least favourite in the film.
This overblown nature of the film makes it bloated and whilst I was engaged during the final stretch, many around me were checking their watches, ready for it to be over. However whilst I criticize Jackson’s self-indulgence and his addition of material that was not in the book, it is important to note that one of the best parts of this film, is a new creation. Evangeline Lilly (Of Lost fame) is fantastic as Tauriel, who is one of the best characters in the film. Whilst the love story she is given is superfluous, her character's personal philosophy and psychical prowess make her a joy to watch. Additionally all the scenes involving Legolas (Somebody whose very presence in this picture I despised before seeing) are great fun and among the film’s best. A sequence involving both of the aforementioned characters, our central gang, some Orcs and some barrels is one of the most exciting, well-executed sequences of the year. It is a sequence of true genius, which had my audience audibly responding. Furthermore the tension created by Jackson when we finally face Smaug had me on the edge of my seat, with the titular dragon itself being another wonderful CGI creation in this saga of films.
However regarding the CGI, once again this film at times feels incredibly artificial. Peter Jackson has submerged himself a little too thoroughly in the world of special effects and watching this it is hard not to long for the more tangible, psychical early days of his filmmaking, with the original Lord of the Rings trilogy having a much more believable aesthetic. Also in a year where Gravity was released, you realize just how unremarkable Jackson’s use of the 3D technology is here. Therefore despite crafting some of the most exciting and tense sequences of the year, Jackson is let down by his newfound CGI reliance and a self-indulgent, unfocused script.
In regards to the performances, there is much more to write home about than with the previous film. Martin Freeman is fantastic as Bilbo Baggins and deserves much better than what he has been given in these past two films. Richard Armitage is commanding as Thorin, whilst as previously noted Evangeline Lilly gives a star making turn as Tauriel. While we're talking about elves, Lee Pace is clearly having a lot of fun playing Thranduil, and we have a lot of fun watching him. My favourite performance however may come from Luke Evans as Bard, a character who perhaps has the richest emotional development in the film. Finally, one cannot write a review of this film without mentioning a certain Benedict Cumberbatch as the dragon of the hour, Smaug. Cumberbatch is just as fantastic as you’d expect, with the surround sound of a cinema beautifully booming his deliciously dastardly voice.
The film of course doesn’t end in order to make sure you all buy your tickets for part three, something that was frustrating in both a good and a bad way. I would have been more than happy to sit there for another half hour or hour if it meant wrapping up the story and bringing a true end to the film. The moment it ended on was a brilliant cliffhanger, though I was hoping the film would end with a little more finality, so that I could actually ignore the third film’s existence (Which I inevitably wouldn’t anyway).
Overall The Desolation of Smaug is, like its predecessor, a bloated and self-indulgent mistreatment of its source material. However unlike its predecessor it’s an incredibly enjoyable and exciting piece of fantasy cinema, with some of the best sequences of the year. The performances shine, the pace is fast and there are numerous moments, scenes and lines that emotionally engaged and moved me in a way that An Unexpected Journey never got close to. Last year the thought of sitting down for another Hobbit movie felt like work and a chore, watching it this year it was anything but. Whilst even if you paid me I’d hesitate to watch An Unexpected Journey again, I would happily see The Desolation of Smaug again and in some ways, look forward to it.
Movie Parliament Rating: MAJORITY GOVERNMENT
By Movie Parliament Prime Minister,
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