After a over long first chapter in Peter Jackson’s new trilogy (which yes even using the appendix still is mystifying) comes the second part with ‘THE HOBBIT: THE DESOLATION OF SMAUG’, a film which unlike the first one, is 10 minutes shorter (but still overlong), but also seems to address some of the story elements which to some were seen as a issue in the first film (for example the overlong pissing about singing sequences are addressed). It is refreshing though that part two doesn’t just start out with Peter Jackson cameo eating a carrot, but more the fact it seems to have more get up and go about it, willing to get on with the story, some which the first film didn’t have a issue in doing.
This saying, it doesn’t mean that the film doesn’t drag, as indeed it does. There are some parts you think, why have they got more screen time then some of the other more important elements from the book. This can be seen with a pit-stopped (there is a lot of these in this) Stephan Fry’s lumbering Master of Lake-Wood, who when he was on screen I nearly fell asleep during, compared to the far more interesting Beorn, a man who can shape shift into a bear, which has a lot of character exposition explained, only to appear once (not unless I’m wrong and he returns again). There is some welcomed new characters to this film, Bard the Bowman (Luke Evans) has a backstory to care about , and the original creation (who I believe is the replacement to Aragorn – but my book knowledge is rusty) of female elf Tauriel (Evangeline Lilly) is far more respectful as expected. Orlando Bloom’s Legolas appears and does the cool fight scenes for the kids. This is fine and all but the love triangle played up earlier in the film just seems to fizzle out (not unless it picked up in the next instalment). I also hope when people are discussing this trilogy once it’s completed, don’t see the first one as ‘’the one with Gollum in’’ and this one as ‘’the one with Legolas’’ in. Other performances are good- Martin Freeman is still one of the main advantages as Bilbo, and Richard Armitage’s Thorin Oakenshield is still very much the most interesting and fleshed out character. Benedict Cumberbatch does a great job of the tricky work of Smaug himself, which isn’t just some voice over as you might expect, but feels more like a performance, brings a far more sinister playfulness which I felt was missing when he was Khan in ‘Star Trek Into Darkness’.
Generally speaking Jackson direction isn’t bad. It a shame some of his experimental shots, and sense of tightness and isolation in Mirkwood forest has gone. Still there is some good set pieces, with battles against giant spiders, and the iconic barrel moment being given justice it deserve on screen (even with added action beats for the younger audiences). I think the biggest issue thought, is that other then Smaug himself, the general CG looks unfinished. There is a particular big scene with Gandalf which is just looks dreadful, which in turn I could image will become something of a joke over the internet. I don’t know if it’s something to do with Jackson shooting the film at 48 frames or what, but there is a over reliance of CG. One weird case of this is how the CGI have been used to create generic looking Orc’s, which in the original ‘The Lord of the Rings’ trilogy (since its now presented as a straight prequel to them films) used makeup bring a sense of real menace, particularly with the black goo coming out of its mouth. Regarding it being presented as a straight prequel to ‘The Lord of the Rings’ film trilogy, I just feel like they haven’t got the essence of the book. ‘The Hobbit’ to me was a separate story, the world felt, and was written differently; here it is very much the same. This makes perfect business sense presenting it like this – but it also means that the films will be compared to that beloved film trilogy. I think the biggest issue is that Jackson wanted new audiences who hasn’t seen the ‘’The Lord of the Rings’’ trilogy to be able to watch this as a standalone piece (very much like the book). I personally do not believe this is the case, particularly for younger viewers being introduced to the brand, there is a lot of assumption you will understand what happening as its in the ‘Lord of the Rings’ trilogy.
I think the biggest issue though is the fact that films just seems to add more and more dilemmas. Bigger ones then what’s presented in the books and more so then in the actual ‘The Lord of the Rings’ films. And considering you sit through a 2 hour and 40 minute film it is too long for something which doesn’t have a shred of resolve. If there is one thing, the next instalment is going to be a long film. Again another mixed bag, which if we can take anything from this second instalment is that maybe try and view it a individual film, it might be hard though.