CT Movie Review: The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug

This movie was painful to sit through. I’m not just trying to pick on a beloved franchise. I mean, this was really bad in big, fundamental ways. The story starts off similarly to the other Lord of the Rings/Hobbit  films, in that we’re reacquainted to the usual band of dwarves at a tavern, Gandalf shows up, Bilbo’s recruited, and so on, the quest begins. This movie, like all of the others, involves a lot of hiking through travelogue-like scenes, the camera seemingly more interested in capturing every bit of set/background design than in capturing the action of the story. Peter Jackson is guilty of the oft committed sin these days of being in love with his special effects at the cost of story and character.

I went to see this movie with a real Tolkien fan, and he seemed visibly shocked afterwards by the liberties taken, when you compare the film to the original book. I read the Hobbit when I was a kid, so I’m a little fuzzy on the details, but it didn’t seem like the same story that I remembered. Granted, they are stretching out a short novel into 3 long movies, so some changes aren’t surprising, but my friend said that the movie was about 20% based on The Hobbit. I’m fine with a film adaptation straying from the original material, as long as it’s good, but this felt like shameless padding to sell more tickets.


The action scenes are terrible. They feel like bad John Woo choreographed genocide. The orcs are evil, yes, but you end up feeling bad for them by the end, because they are so hapless, and powerless in the wake of the unstoppable, unbelievable effectiveness of our “heroes”. The problem is that there’s no sense of real danger, and the dwarves, elves, etc. look almost bored as they swath their way through the action. At one point, in another painfully long moment towards the end of the movie, the elf, Legolas(played by Orlando Bloom), discovers that he has a bloody lip, and his face slightly cringes as if to let the audience know that after butchering 3,867 orcs, he too can feel pain.

I did enjoy Smaug, the big, arrogant dragon who spends his days slumbering in a giant chamber filled with gold, but that final scene just drags on and on, culminating in a very unsatisfying ending.

Just because you can have more frames per second doesn’t mean that you should. It just looks odd. There was a scene where some orcs were breaking into a village home, and terrorizing a family. The picture was so clear, too clear; like I was watching some crazy backstage fight on a reality show. Sure, the visual effects are amazing in this movie, like most movies these days, but that does not supplant good story, good direction, and characters that we really care about.

In my view, this is the worst of all of the Lord of the Rings/Hobbit films. I was surprised by that, because I heard that people liked this Hobbit better than the first. Too often, I think, fans are being cheated from good, competent storytelling in these big, special effects-laden franchises, but apparently they’ve come to expect that, and accept it as quality filmmaking.

– Andy Yates


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