Saturday, December 14, 2013
Cindy Prascik's Review of The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug
Dearest Blog, if ya ever want to test your mettle at the cinema, try sitting through the same three-hour movie twice in 12 hours. Yesterday I did just that with The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug.
Spoiler level here will be mild-ish, nothing you wouldn't know or have guessed from the trailers. Also, I took some notes on the second go-round, but from the darkened theatre to the light of day I can't read them all, so...DKGHSKYIEKSHELDKEIX might be exactly what I think of this film!
The company of Thorin Oakenshield continues its quest to reclaim the kingdom of Erebor from the great dragon Smaug.
My first remark following the midnight screening of Smaug was that I hated it almost as much as I loved it. That wasn't really fair, as the only thing I really hated about it was that I couldn't love it with the unbridled enthusiasm I've always had for the franchise.
I'm the type of gal who likes to get her bad news out of the way first, so here goes.
Clocking in at a mammoth two hours and 41 minutes, Desolation of Smaug is too damn long. Jackson was pushing his luck stretching this little book into two normal-sized movies, and three three-hour movies is just plain stupid. Theatrical cuts of the original LOTR trilogy pressed three hours each (with director's cuts craning towards four), but I wouldn't have changed a thing. Smaug, like An Unexpected Journey before it, is the worst example of Hollywood forgetting how to edit. There are numerous, repetitive action and fight sequences that, if they'd each been trimmed by only a few minutes, could have brought this in at a much more manageable two-fifteen or so.
There's some inexcusably bad CGI, particularly in fight scenes involving Elves.
While most of the actors turn in fine performances in large and small roles, Lee Pace is cringe-worthy. Evangeline Lilly is also kinda awful, but I wasn't sure whether to blame her or the character. The only other thing in which I've ever seen Evangeline Lilly is Real Steel, and she was out-acted by the robot...but, in fairness, so was just about everyone else. Anyway, on that note...
Let's talk about Tauriel. Peter Jackson is noted for fiddling with his source material, to the point it's almost a punch line, but if I don't love his changes they generally don't bother me too much, either; unfortunately, the way this insipid woman is shoehorned into the story is obvious and jarring. Bad enough they added an unnecessary character, but, really, this warrior, this general in the guard, instantly becomes a blushing, eyelash-batting idiot when addressed by a person she might half-fancy?? In the grand scheme of an almost-three-hour film, it's a tiny thing, but I'll be damned if it didn't almost ruin it for me.
In happier news, I still love Middle Earth, and, for the most part, Peter Jackson's vision of it.
Pace and Lilly aside, there's some great acting underneath all the wigs and prosthetic noses. Particularly moving are Richard Armitage and Ken Stott, as Thorin and Balin, when the company first lays eyes on Erebor. If it's taken you 'til now to notice how good Martin Freeman is, well, you can't pretend you don't notice anymore. James Nesbitt, the hidden gem among this company, is under-used but still has some good moments. Of course I would be remiss if I didn't make special mention two of my favorite people, Luke Evans and Aidan Turner, sharing a screen for the first (and hopefully not the last) time. Evans is featured as Bard, and, now that he's getting better films, you can see what I've been telling you all along: the guy is good! Though Turner is mostly exploited for his obscenely-good looks, he has a bit more individual screen time in Smaug, which does my little black heart good.
In the runup to this movie, fans' chief concern seemed to be that the dragon not disappoint, and I am pleased to say that Smaug is magnificent. This dragon is stunning to see and chilling to hear (thanks to some terrific voice work by Benedict Cumberbatch), the undoubted highlight of the film. The movie's 3D is mostly immaterial, but it's worth the upcharge to have this glorious beast right up in your face. However else this movie pleases or disappoints, casual and die-hard fans alike are bound to be awed by Smaug.
The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug runs 161 minutes and is rated PG13 for "extended sequences of intense fantasy action violence, and frightening images."
In the long run, I'm sure I will grow to love Desolation of Smaug as an important part of something that truly matters to me. After all, The Two Towers remains the weakest link of the original series, but a strong finish to this trilogy will similarly erase the negativity I'm now feeling. Still, for the moment, I'm not sure this is going to need that spot I've been saving in my year-end top ten.
Of a possible nine Weasleys, The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug gets seven.
Until next time...
'Member, kids...I saw him first! ;-)