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Often visually stunning but overlong and overblown, bridging instalment of J R Tolkien’s novella; it is largely bereft of the visual pizzazz of the previous films in the ‘Middle Earth’ saga.
The film makers take the usual liberties in over-extruding a small segment of Tolkien’s 300 page short story into a ridiculously protracted three hour long movie. It even opens with a preliminary — and mostly redundant — flashback in which terminally solemn Thorin converses with the legendary Gandalf with regards to retrieving a priceless jewel that could hold the key reclaiming the lost Dwarf Kingdom of ‘Erebor’.
Then it’s on with the plot, picking up from where the first instalment left off, in which Bilbo (played by Martin Freeman) and company continue on with their much encumbered quest to Lonely Mountain. But Gandalf’s mind is elsewhere—thanks to his identification of some very familiar markings—and so his role is largely fleeting and transitory in all the action that ensues. However there is one ‘accoutrement’ that Bilbo has failed to share with Gandalf before his departure…..
Considering the massive finance that he is working with, Peter Jackson has no problems in frequently stunning his audiences with sustained sequences of thrilling action: An arrow happy Battle Royale with Elves, Orcs and Dwarfs; A disturbing segment involving massive spiders that plays like a retread of ‘Shelob’s layer’ from ‘Return Of The King’; The movie’s climatic dragon fight that is impressive despite its drawn out nature.
However as stunning and immaculately edited as these sequences are, none of them match the dramatic momentum that the franchise achieved with its earlier installments. For instance, the prolonged climax pales in comparison to Gandalf’s self-sacrifice at the Bridge of Khazad Dum that we saw in the ‘Fellowship of the Ring’. The fight alongside the River never quite reaches the sophisticated mixture of suspense and sound editing that we saw in the Battle Of Helm’s Deep in the ‘The Two Towers’ or the Battle of the Pelennor Fields seen in the ‘Return Of King’.
The over extruded finale also suffers for Jackson totally mistakes visual effects for dramatic impetus—repeatedly overplaying the special effects rather than exploring the dynamics between Smaug and Bilbo. Benedict Cumberbatch’s vocal artistry compensates somewhat for the one dimensional nature of Smaug but hardly anyone will notice his efforts, for the CGI brings him to life in such a magnificent creation.
Hence Jackson is directing by the numbers here — giving more but not necessarily being fresh or innovative. His idea of ‘The Hobbit’ is basically ‘Lord Of The Rings’ lite with more of the same but without the dramatic heights or technical achievements.
Much of the problem is in the slightness of the plotting and Jackson’s extraordinarily ill-advised attempt to phenomenally pad out the slight chapters into a feature length movie. In this respect, ‘The Desolation of Smaug’ is an improvement over its predecessor, for much of the plot has been horseshoed into what can fit a reasonable two hours, although not without some judicious editing needed. However at the same time Jackson lacks the visual artistry that he brought to his pallet in the ‘Unexpected Journey’.
In general congenial terms, LOTR franchise has never been rich in humour and romance so it is refreshing to see that time has been taken to invest both light comedy and natural attraction into the cluttered plotting. LOTR fans will be pleased to know that Jackson has brought in additional characters to substitute missed legends Aragorn and Arwen, as well as the welcomed return of Legolas.
Evageline Lily as ‘She-Elf’, Tamreeil, adds a touch of femininity to the largely male orientated novella in the same way Arwen did in the original trilogy. Her love triangle with Legolas (an ageless Orlando Bloom) and Kili (a romance not present in the book) is often the crux of cross gender appeal in the film. Often the interplay between the protagonists is hilarious: ‘Aren’t you going to search me? I could have anything down my trousers,’ says the dwarf, to which she smugly replies ‘Or Nothing’.
Meanwhile Aragorn’s counterpart is another lone ranger called ‘Bard the Bowman’ who helps smuggle the dwarfs through the city of Esgaroth/Lake Town. But he is saddled with a laughably pseudo tragic back-story that is merely hinted at, rather than being fully developed.
With so much going on, everyone is bound to forgive the slightness in the plotting and modest achievements in visual finesse. But Peter Jackson is not guilty of spreading the material thin once, but multiple times over. The irony can be viewed from a quote from the ‘Fellowship of the Ring’: “I feel thin, sort of stretched, like butter scraped over too much bread.”
The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug is a 2013 epic fantasy adventure film directed by Peter Jackson. It is the second installment of a three-part film adaptation based on the 1937 novel The Hobbit by J. R. R. Tolkien. It was preceded by An Unexpected Journey and will conclude with There and Back Again, and together they will act as a prequel to Jackson’s The Lord of the Rings film trilogy.