Monday, March 17, 2014

The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug review

    The thing about The Hobbit was, when I first read it, I thought it was a parody. Admittedly, I was about seven-years-old and had been introduced to the world of J.R.R Tolkien by a certain Rankin and Bass cartoon on Nickelodeon. The premise was a stuffy middle-aged guy completely lacking in traditional heroic qualities, a bunch of cowardly dwarves more bluster than substance, and a wizard manipulating them to kill a dragon. A dragon who, spoiler alert, isn't killed by any of them.

    Eventually, J.R.R Tolkien wrote the more traditionally heroic Lord of the Rings. Even then, the actual heroes were an upper-class English gent and his gardener who never so much as throw a punch in the series. Now, Peter Jackson was able to successfully ignore the irrelevance of the Battle of Helms Deep, Battle of Gondor, and other conflicts in order to present the idea of badass elves fighting alongside a scruffy ranger (with hobbits occasionally showing up).

    That's harder to do in The Hobbit.

Let's see a show of hands here. Who is here just for the dragon?
    The Desolation of Smaug confirms what the first movie irritated me so much about--that we were going to completely sacrifice characterization for spectacle. The dwarves are more heroic, Bilbo Baggins has his transformation into action hero in Act I, and there's a never-ending supply of orcs for them to fight because we have to pad these movies about somehow.

    I don't hate TH:TDOS. I'm more inclined to accept its flaws and treat it as an action movie inspired by The Hobbit than a straight adaptation. Really, I think of it as a rollercoaster ride. There's even an actionized barrel-trip that I think would make an excellent attraction at Disneyland. The spectacle drowns out everything resembling characterization and it moves at a brisk pace, preventing you from thinking about it too much.

    I even liked the additional character of Tauriel as I'd prefer them to throw in a smoking hot elf (recently freed from her exile on Lost's island) than continue to pretend Thorin Oakenshield is some Aragon-esque Paragon in direct contradiction to his book presentation. Her character adds to Legolas' own paper-thin characterization from the previous three movies. Ever wonder why the prince of the Mirkwood elves was so eager to get the hell out of there and go on a suicide mission to Mordor? You won't after you meet his father. Denying your son some alone time with the only eligible elf-maid this side of Rivendale?

    Not cool, dude.

Gandalf versus Sauron. It should be far-far more awesome than it is. Note: Not Sauron in the picture. Thank Eru.
    I also salute the movies' reunion of the BBC's Sherlock with Benedict Cumberbatch giving an amazing performance as Smaug. I had to turn my brain off during the fight scene since the amount of gold would devalue the metal to less than the worth of gravel but it was pretty to look at. It might even improve on J.R.R Tolkien in the fact the dwarves of this movie actually have something resembling a coherent dragonslaying plan.

    The element I'm most disappointed in is, ironically, the newly depicted Rise of Sauron. I was actually hoping for much more from this because we have the Necromancer readying his armies, rebuilding his fortress, and summoning all the corrupted Morgoth-worshiping races of men to his side. What do we get? A bunch of orcs around a ruin with a glowing eye that creates psychadelic effects.

    Color me disappointed.

    So, I'm glad I went to see this movie and will certainly go see the end of the trilogy. Did I get my money's worth? Yes, but it's not what I wanted. However, when you can't love the movie you want, love the one you own on DVD. Even if it is the kind of derivative "good guys vs. bad guys, resolving things with the power of violence" which hundreds of authors reduced Tolkien to with their pastiches. I'd be a hypocrite if I said I didn't own hundreds of those in addition to JRR's work.


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