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I saw The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug last Saturday, but I’ve been really busy with company and cooking Christmas dinner and in general having fun so I’m just getting around to writing up my thoughts. Also, I just didn’t care that much. The movie neither pleased me or pissed me off so I didn’t feel compelled to say something. And that’s the problem — it just left me feeling… well, meh. It wasn’t bad. It wasn’t good. It just wasn’t much of anything. I did enjoy it a bit more than the first installment because there were elves and the elves have always been my favorites in the novels. I know some purists are furious over the girl elf, but I’m a Hollywood writer. I understand the need to not have an entire movie with nothing buy boy elves, and boy hobbits, and boy dwarves, and boy wizards, and boy humans. I did like Thranduil. He was a right bastard, and the actor portraying him looks really unearthly and inhuman. Legolas clearly was pining for the hot girl elf between The Hobbit and the trilogy because he lost a lot of weight. One can’t blame Orlando Bloom. He was 22 when he did the trilogy and now he’s a man of 37. Bodies change with each decade (don’t I know it).
The writers wisely compressed the time that elapses so the dwarves and Bilbo aren’t lost in the Mirkwood and captured by Thranduil for weeks. The escape from the elves and the attack of the orcs was another amusement park ride which for me make it more silly than tense.
I can’t say I blame the elf girl for falling for Kili, he’s really cute, but it felt sexist that Tauriel is just there to fall in love, and be loved by the unattainable prince. She’s obviously a very fine warrior, but she is defined by the men around her from Thranduil to Legolas to Kili.
When I heard they were going to do The Hobbit I figured they would actually dramatize the attack on Dol Guldur, and the faked retreat of Sauron. I would have made the same choice, but I don’t think it needed 3 movies. I think 2 would have been just fine. I did very much like the visual in the abandoned fortress where the figure of the man is encompassed in the eye, and it just keeps going. That was nice.
The other great visual is, or course, Smaug. I think this might be the best dragon ever seen on film, and Cumberbatch does an excellent job voicing the creature. I also saw what they did making the Arkenstone echo the One Ring in it’s power to corrupt and lure, but it felt like they were undercutting the awesome and terrifying power of the One Ring by making a big jewel have the same effect. The fight with Smaug beneath the mountain frankly bored the hell out of me. It was another amusement park ride, and it again seemed to miss the point of the books. Bilbo is clever. He uses his wits and words to deal with Smaug, and ultimately it’s words that send Smaug to Laketown and Bilbo, realizing his mistake, suffers guilt for that slip.
As I look back over this scattered post I realize that it’s a rather perfect metaphor for this movie. It felt like a whole lot of unrelated scenes and events strung together. It was a lovely piece of fanfic, an homage to a world that has captivated and entranced generations of readers, but the movie doesn’t know what it’s about. Just like the Lord of the Rings is about the powerless finding courage and strength, and accomplishing what cannot be accomplished by forced of arms, The Hobbit was also about an ordinary man doing extraordinary things. Not because he’s a king or a great warrior or a powerful wizard but because he is ethical and decent and clever. I sometimes feel that Jackson loses sight of that in his love of spectacle. Bottom line — I could do with fewer CGI action sequences and would rather have more moments of interaction between characters. Moments that tell me more about these characters in particular and the human condition and the human heart in particular.