Peter Jackson continues his successful Hobbit franchise with its second installment of the trilogy. The Desolation of Smaug, being the second of a trilogy, has a large responsibility in its need to carry the story, flush out the characters and maintain interest in the story. So does it hold up?
Our story begins with a flashback, as we are shown the initial meeting between Gandalf and Thorin Oakenshield, played by Ian McKellan and Richard Armitage respectively; as they discuss the importance of retrieving, the Arkan stone to unite the dwarves to battle impending war. Shortly thereafter, the story cuts to present day, as we saw our company of heroes avoiding the orcs and seeking refuge. They continue voyage to the lonely mountain so they can retrieve the jewels while avoiding the wrath of the dragon that has lived in the mountain for several years. On the way, they are imprisoned, escape from the wood elves, and must avoid the ever-watchful eye of the corrupt government of men in Laketown. All the while, Gandalf the wizard is looking to see just what evil seems to be growing and looming on the horizon.
Perhaps the biggest issue with the movie is a continued reference to the later movies. Although this is a prequel and there must be obvious nods to the later movies as the continuation of a story, but the Hobbit is a strong, stand-alone film that has plenty of its own plot and characterization that needs to not be completely dependent on the strength of the Lord of the Rings films.
The Hobbit may be one of the worst sufferers from nameless henchmen syndrome of any action movie that doesn’t have Schwarzenegger or Stallone. A nearly endless throng of orcs is thrown at our characters, and yet the dwarves and then the elves nearly effortlessly and tirelessly eliminate them. We can’t be made to feel as though the enemy is any kind of real threat because at no point does any of their advances seem to do anything other than provide overly choreographed fight scenes.
Ironically, most films are guilty of attempting to fit too much without giving the time to properly flush out the characterization and flush them out. In The Hobbit, it is the exact opposite. There are moments when the film completely drags on, and the pacing suffers as a result. For example, with the virtually forced romantic interest between one of the dwarves and Tauriel; it was a completely forced and unnaturally feeling bit of subplot that only served to give a weak amount of character development that, to the film’s credit, it sorely needs.
There are approximately 15 main characters in this film, and yet most of them don’t have even enough characterization for a name let alone giving any sense of who they are. A true challenge to anyone who isn’t a hardcore fan of The Hobbit to name at least four of the dwarves other than Thorin. To the film’s credit, we are given glimpses of their personalities, but largely, the audience is left completely clueless as to who most of these characters are. However, considering that this is really the story of Bilbo, the strength of the supporting cast is a more of a nitpick than a legitimate gripe of the film.
The visuals are completely stunning. There are moments that perhaps utilized a little too much CGI than necessary, but it was still very well done and with sufficient rendering and in conjunction with enough practical effects to suspend the audience’s disbelief as to what was real and what was not. The movie looks completely amazing, and the accompanying musical score gives it a truly epic feel in every way possible.
The Hobbit is a far cry from a bad movie, but it doesn’t do a great job of being universal to the general movie going public. If you are the kind of person who wants a strong, character driven narrative that gives a good amount of screen time to the supporting cast and villains, than it will leave you wanting. However, anyone fancying themselves a fan of the fantasy, action or epic film genres would take a lot away from this movie. With a 160 minute runtime, it might be better served to just wait for this one to come to DVD as even an Eye-Max presentation does little to enhance the effects that can’t be seen in 2-D. Two stars out of four.
Watch the trailer.