ABBOTSFORD (CUP) — From the first frame, something has felt different about the Middle Earth of the Hobbit series. The story feels dragged out, stuffed with material made up along the way, and the characters don’t seem as fleshed out as they were in the Lord of the Rings series. Those same issues continue in Desolation of Smaug.
Right off the bat, Desolation of Smaug empties out a store of action scenes, unlike its predecessor. With chilling encounters with spiders, constant excitement while riding barrels through water rapids, and a childish game of hide-and-seek with a massive dragon,Desolation of Smaug does its best to keep the audience entertained despite its narrative stalling.
It is evident after the first hour that Unexpected Journey, not Desolation of Smaug, was made with character development. Other than Bilbo slowly beginning to see the effect the ring is taking on him, there is little other change in the 13 dwarves that accompany him.Desolation of Smaug concludes that if you weren’t able to remember all of the dwarves’ names and faces in the last film, it won’t help to try and spend more film time on the issue. It does, however, introduce new characters like Bard and Tauriel, as well as reintroducing Legolas.
Some could say that his excessive use of CGI has Peter Jackson resembling George Lucas. Much like in the previous film, actual actors in orc costume are increasingly rare. Unlike Lucas, whose CGI use stretches out endlessly, Jackson uses it to help mould the world he is bringing to life in ways that would either be too dangerous or impossible in live action. It certainly builds the excitement when Legolas cuts down orcs, standing on top of two dwarves while they hide in their barrels floating down water rapids. Much like his use of it in King Kong, Jackson keeps it under control — which is not to say that he doesn’t overdo it from time to time.
While it can be said that the film moves at a quicker pace than Unexpected Journey, there are some scenes that are definitely drawn out. Some are acceptable while others are just out of hand. The outlandish barrel sequence is long but very exciting and humorous. The confrontation with Smaug, however, drags on.
When Bilbo encounters Smaug, the scene is very intense at first, as the massive dragon rises from within a den of gold and bellows in Benedict Cumberbatch’s deepened voice, all fear and malevolence. But what follows afterwards resembles a chase scene fromScooby-Doo. The dwarves run throughout the mountain with Smaug in pursuit, foiling him repeatedly. While the Hobbit novel was meant for young children, it certainly didn’t have something so foolish in it. This confrontation, the movie’s climax, is mostly just filler and it doesn’t solidify the film’s ending.
Whether Warner Brothers wanted to split The Hobbit into three or Peter Jackson truly believed he could repeat what he did with The Lord of the Rings, the (watered down) magic is still there, and that’s about it.
While it may not envelop as it once did, Desolation of Smaug is certainly the more entertaining of the two films so far. It builds up intensity for the third and final film, but also brings up the question of what Jackson will do with only six chapters left of the book to use.