I’m reviewing this now as i for some reason can’t help but think about all of the things that bothered me about The Desolation of Smaug. I just started thinking about the film and suddenly i was just compelled to write my thoughts down.
I usually always start with writing out what i find good about a movie, as i think that is the best way for me to be as fair to a film/book as i can possibly be, as i freely admit to not even attempting to be objective in my reviews as i believe that would be an exercise in lying to myself and i’m not going to waste my time doing that (i think i’m going to write an essay on my thoughts of objectivity i will be sure to post it here if i do).
So with that being said i do apologise if while reading this someone might think that i’m trying to find reasons to “go against the grain” by focusing almost completely about why i didn’t like this film. That is by the way complete garbage.
i’m sure by now anyone who is interested in seeing this film has done so. So i’m not going to bother with a synopsis.
After waiting the better part of 5 hours (i include the first movie into this) to see Smaug, the wait is most certainly paid off, Weta coupled with the deep, refined, and masculine voice of Benedict Cumberbatch create a dragon that is both intimidating and sophisticated. His presence alone breathes some much-needed life into a film that threatens to collapse under its weight of time.
Howard Shore managed with his work in the original trilogy to present an absolute tapestry of artistic and thematic brilliance that rivals Tolkien’s original work (if you are even remotely a fan i highly suggest you pick up the annotated score as it is truly an eye opener). But here, in the The Desolation of Smaug he turns out a score that is extremely flat in comparison. The biggest culprit is the five or so note theme that occurs whenever the Dwarves think, talk, and resolve themselves to win back their home, and they do this a lot during the course of the film. As a result you will hear that theme repeated with predictable and almost comic regularity throughout the entire film. I can just about compare it with the Friday the 13th theme, as their usage is the same:
Jason is stalking yet another victim: ch ch ch
the dwarves are talking/thinking of their home: Dah Dah Da Daaa Duh
Worst of all nothing other than this really sticks in my mind, and i was really really listening to the score, as it is one of the primary reasons i even go to a Lord of the Rings film.
There is also the persistent problem that there are far too many Dwarves present and i can’t remember what any of their names are, this presents a serious problem when the movie tries to form a romantic subplot between one of them and a newly introduced Elven lady. It renders the whole affair perfunctory, as any attempt to replicate the Arwen/Aragorn subplot falls flat on its face as the dwarf doesn’t have the charisma or strength of material that Viggo Mortensen had, and neither of the pair share the same fairy tale chemistry that Liv and Viggo shared.
The most troubling thing of this entry into the series lies with the ending. This is the first entry that leaves us with a total cliff hanger; all the other films in the series (including An Unexpected Journey) ended its individual major plot threads and while not being a “complete” story could as a result be seen and judged as a separate entity within the continuity of the series as a whole. But here, that isn’t so, almost nothing is concluded, and everything will have to wait until the next movie in the series in order to be. While cliffhanger endings are not in themselves a bad thing, with The Desolation of Smaug the abrupt ending serves to make this entry feel out-of-place when viewed in context with the entire Lord of the Rings series.
Most disturbing of all is the question the film’s ending poses to me. I don’t mean (spoilers): “will they be able to kill Smaug?” as that is a rhetorical question. No, what i mean is: “what was the point of this story?”
I think all of the narrative padding, the superfluous action scenes, and the perfunctory romantic subplot are just there to stall out the entire movie until it reaches its non-ending, so that i as an audience member will be reeled into watching the third movie (and yes i will indeed). My biggest problem then is that i believe if a story has no ending it really has no meaning. Without an ending no moral is related, no consequences shown, no meaningful character arcs completed, in other words there is no story. I can (and with a great deal of difficulty in doing so) conclude that sole point of The Desolation of Smaug in its entirety, is to make money.
There is nothing wrong with making that in and of itself, after all the original trilogy made something like 3 billion dollars altogether, and people make a living out of making films. But here with the fact that this prequel series was meant to be told in two movies instead of three, and the fact that now having seen the middle one and it being so boring and uninvolving only emphasises that the story told in the Hobbit films wasn’t split apart for our benefit, but for the studio to ensure it wrings all the cash it can out of a safe investment, and it is this that i have a problem with as it hurts the Hobbit series as a whole.
Lastly, i can’t help but shake a growing feeling of phoniness to this whole endeavour. It seemed painfully obvious to me as i watched this film that i was watching a group of adults playing pretend in front of a video camera. The costumes felt like costumes, and sets felt fake, and all of the dialogue seemed so delivered for a lack of a better term. I can’t explain why this is so, it might be because the film was so uninvolving that it left me noticing all of this.
This is by far the weakest entry into The Lord of The Rings franchise, it is overlong and sadly it is a pointless endeavour, and it is this pointlessness that seeps into the writing and saps the passion from the score. That being said i for some reason didn’t dislike the film (i can usually tell this when i come out of a film angry or annoyed) despite these serious flaws, however reading my review and seeing how much the bad out weighs the good that very well may change with a second viewing.
All i can say is based upon my single viewing it was just, meh.
** 1/2 OUT OF FIVE