This movie is too long. It’s 161 minutes of climbing, running, and sitting in jail cells. The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug is the second film in The Hobbit trilogy, and it continues along with a company of fourteen (twelve dwarves, one wizard, a hobbit, and a partridge in a pear tree) as they seek to reclaim the dwarves’ Lonely Mountain from Smaug the dragon. What makes this film different from the first installment is the actual presence of the dragon (voiced by Benedict Cumberbatch) and a company of elves, including the ageless Legolas (Orlando Bloom) and his lady-friend Tauriel (Evangeline Lilly).
Tauriel was a nice surprise. Even though the orcs keep referring to her as “she-elf”, and you get the feeling she’s only in the film to boost female viewership, she is, in the end, a total badass and a welcome addition to the Middle Earth family. I can already hear the sewing machines of many a cosplayer whirring away. Her character does seem to get a little lost in the big brown eyes of Kili (Aiden Turner), a very strange and uneasy almost-romance, but for the most part Evangeline Lilly plays the character with fire and strength. Legolas, meanwhile, speaks more with weapons than he does with words. He takes part in multiple exciting fight scenes – at least, I think he does. The action is so quick and some of the shots are so close up that it’s hard to really enjoy the stabbings and beheadings of orcs. Being an elf, however, Legolas is notoriously light on his feet, and during one particularly shaky barrel-down-the-river scene I can only describe him as a ballerina assassin.
This barrel scene is one of the highlights of the film. It’s fun, fast, and frightfully exciting. It would make a very popular ride in a Middle Earth theme park, right between The Prancing Pony Pinup Show and the Mount Doom Bungee Jump Experience. It was one of the few moments in the film where our heroes weren’t standing around looking dismal or sitting in a dungeon… looking dismal.
As for CGI, I have the same feelings that I did for The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey: use less. Special effects are awesome: they can take a man in green spandex and turn him into an eight-foot fuchsia sasquatch. But when CGI is used unnecessarily it just makes the studio look lazy. The orc leader, Azog (Manu Bennett), is a big white guy with scars. A little face-paint, some colour contacts, and bam, he’s an orc. No CGI necessary. The Lord of the Rings trilogy made history with their makeup techniques. Why throw that away for pixels? The dragon – neat. The orcs – lazy. Man up and get messy with the blush and the eye-shadow.
I still think this trilogy could be condensed into one film. There’s just too much information. Tolkien was smart enough to edit his novel, so why argue with The Creator? The acting is pretty good, the sets are phenomenal, but the CGI is hit-or-miss. With such mixed feelings I have to rate The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug at 5.5/10.
PS. It’s the “Desolation of Smaug” as in “Sm-ow-g”, not “smog”. You’re welcome.