The Movie Waffler New Release Review - The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug | The Movie Waffler

New Release Review - The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug

Middle chapter of Peter Jackson's 'Hobbit' trilogy.

Directed by: Peter Jackson
Starring: Martin Freeman, Ian McKellen, Richard Armitage, Ken Stott, James Nesbitt, Orlando Bloom, Evangeline Lilly, Cate Blanchett, Benedict Cumberbatch

Following on from the events of last year's opening installment, An Unexpected Journey, Bilbo Baggins (Freeman) and company set off for the Lonely Mountain, home of the dragon Smaug (voiced by Freeman's Sherlock co-star Cumberbatch). On the way, they run into trouble in the forest of Mirkwood, where they are captured by a group of elves, including Legolas (Bloom) and Tauriel (Lilly).
As a nine-year-old, I once badgered my old man into taking me to a triple bill screening of the original Star Wars trilogy. Some seven plus hours after we entered the cinema we emerged into the smoggy Dublin night. I was filled with adrenalin and mimicked fighting invisible stormtroopers all the way to the car park. My Dad, however, was a broken man. For him it was a torturous experience. I couldn't understand how he didn't enjoy such an event. Now, having sat through five plus hours of Peter Jackson's overblown Hobbit trilogy, I know exactly how he felt.
Watching Jackson's saga is an experience akin to attending a sporting event, one whose rules you don't understand. You can appreciate the odd moment of euphoria; a home run, a 147 or a well rendered set piece, but it's all out of context and the long stretches in between are mind numbing.
On the evidence of these first two installments, by the conclusion of this trilogy we'll have an eight hour saga (probably a few hours longer when the extended DVD cuts drop) that will feature about an hour of technically impressive but uninvolving set pieces and seven hours of talking beards. With said set pieces, Jackson shows what a talented and inventive director he is (the introduction of Smaug is a moment Spielberg would be proud of) but the scriptwriters are unable to keep things interesting in between these moments. There's simply far too much reliance on dialogue in this series and for huge swaths of the saga you feel like you should be watching this at home on HBO rather than in an IMAX screen in 48 frames per second 3D.
Jackson's 48fps experiment continues to be problematic. While it makes CG look far more impressive (a PIXAR movie could be something really special using this technique), human actors look like wax figures and quick camera movement can resemble a skipping DVD. There are moments when characters run that make you think you're watching one of those climactic chase scenes from Benny Hill.
The few positives include the incredible production design (I particularly liked Lake-Town, which reminded me of Robert Altman's Popeye) and the introduction of Evangeline Lilly, finally bringing a much needed element of sexual tension to Jackson's previously asexual Middle Earth.
It seems odd that a movie series of such a grand scale can be described as mediocre. The Hobbit is undoubtedly a spectacle but it's a boring spectacle, and a spectacular bore.

Eric Hillis