Monday, December 16, 2013

Movie Review: Desolation of Smaug (Part II of the Hobbit trilogy)


Peter Jackson’s adaptations of JRR Tolkien’s beloved trilogy, The Lord of the Rings (LOTR by the fans) is well known. He was recently in the news for having started working on the adaptation of the precursor to the LOTR trilogy, ‘The Hobbit’. While the LOTR set of books are a trilogy in the true sense, the Hobbit is not. Yet, Mr. Jackson decided in his infinite wisdom that the story of ‘The Hobbit’ would be best told in three parts as well. I would not have complained; after more of a good thing is good, better or even the best thing.

Wrong.

I am complaining now. I saw the second instalment of the ‘The Hobbit’ in a theatre with 3D glasses on, this past Friday. And while I loved the first part, I am a bit fuming with regards the second. But before I go into specifics of the negatives, let me get the positives out of the way. The film is grand in its sweep, the cinematography is stunning and the special effects keep getting better. There are some fine moments of acting; especially notable as fantasy movies are not made for ‘actors’. I like the effort taken to connect some of the dots to events in the previous set of LOTR movies.

However, I think that in the process of connecting the dots, the film makers have introduced more dots themselves and connected them within this one. For example, where did this new elf lady come in from? And why does Kili (one of the dwarves) have to dream of a romantic liaison with her? Apparently, the explanations that I have read on the Internet specify the need to create a role for the budding female demographic and also to explain why Legolas is so pissed with dwarves in the first of the LOTR movies. Noble aims, but was this the best way to do it? For instance, instead of Legolas being brought it, there could have been a strong Elf warrior queen who whopped some serious Orc backsides. Legolas could have been her son and could have been pissed off with the Dwarves because they did drank up all her ale.

The other thing I could not make sense of was the way in which select parts of the original story were compressed, some lost, some modified beyond belief and new ones brought in. While the film maker definitely has the right to exercise his / her artistic license, some things took away the charm from the original:
  1. Bilbo’s mocking of the spiders as he went about rescuing his dwarf friends was done away with in the movie.
    The long treacherous walk through Mirkwood was compressed to a few minutes; the desperation of the party was hardly apparent.
  2. Radagast’s role was over-done and over the top; comic relief is good, but why the wizard with bad hygiene and a stupid voice?
  3. In the scene where Gandalf comes across the tomb of the Witch King, the camera pans downwards to show eight other tombs. If I am not mistaken, the Witch King was buried alone.
  4. No orc army marched from Dol Guldur. Azog rallied his folk from the Northern Mountains and while the dragon would have been a handy tool for Sauron to wield, the dragon would have hardly been willing to cooperate from the start.
  5. Smaug never spoke to Bilbo face to face; or rather face to visible face.
  6. Orcs never got to Laketown while pursuing the dwarves; in fact the hunt fizzled away after the incident at the gates.
  7. Thranduil was hardly the villainous, scheming elf he is made out to be in this film. For that matter, Elrond is hardly the sideshow that he was made out to be in the immediate predecessor to this film.
  8. The dwarves never managed to corner the dragon like they did towards the end of the movie

There is a sense of foreboding and dread that was built up over the course of the movie; maybe the final instalment will be fantastic. Benedict Cumberbatch (Smaug) has a good voice. A shape and purpose has been given to Sauron. Bilbo has been acted out much better than Frodo had been. Thorin has started showing the growing lust and greed that corrupts him before his final redemption. And as mentioned earlier, the cinematography is superb. But for heaven’s sake, stop messing with the story too much Mr. Jackson. And I am also sure that the last part is going to be a gore fest. A lot of stabbing and killing and fire. Bring it on.

1 comment:

Gouri Bhat said...

Thank goodness someone else agrees. Well haven't seen part 2 but going by part 1, which was effectively the first 1/3rd of the book, I have low expectations but no doubt will be dragged by a certain 7 yr old to watch it in 3D no less.