December 14, 2013 at 4:36 am #2849
So, The Hobbit part two, yeah.
Here’s my main beef.
Jackson removed all of the whimsical and fun elements of the book for this movie, something he took care to leave in the first part.
Jackson also seems to have made it a goal to prove wrong my assertion that an action scene can never be too long.
First the absent whimsy. The escape from the orcs and the introduction of Beorn is rushed. While I get that this part of the book is very similar to the first chapter in which Gandalf introduces Bilbo to the dwarves, it wasn’t necessary to remove those scenes. I would argue that entering the second movie on the same note that the first began with would have been an excellent way to draw the viewer in. It would have offered a sense of the familiar and served as a memory cue for the events of the first film. Repetition isn’t always a bad thing. The character of Beorn also acts as a kind of glimpse into what Bilbo would have been like had he never set out on his little adventure. These events in the book act as a sort of resting and reflecting point. The movie treats them similarly, but with an indifference to tone that I found grating as Jackson seemed to want to be building up danger and also seemed to be in a hurry to move on from here.
After their departure from Beorn’s the party has to cross the aptly named Mirkwood forest. Here there be spiders. Instead of the somewhat playful manner in which Bilbo comes into his own and rescues the Dwarves in the book, here we are treated to an angrier, stabbier Bilbo. I get what Jackson is doing here. He’s trying to show that Bilbo’s recounting of the events that go on to make this book aren’t entirely accurate and that there are aspects of his actions (as controlled by his lust for the ring) which were not all together wholesome. Yet this is still a stark change from the character of the book and more importantly the tone set by the first movie. I was delighted that Jackson kept some of the songs in the first movie and never veered too sharply into 80’s grim and grit. Here we are firmly ensconced in grit.
These events lead into an encounter with elves and the first overly long action sequence. We get it, Legolas has excellent balance, never gets tired, and is really good at archery. Orcs are bad and here are some clever/implausible ways to kill them. Dwarves in barrels, isn’t that something? Frankly, Jackson could have just gone the route of the book and used this as a means to fast-travel our heroes to their next destination. We could have also skipped over the entire love triangle thing, something totally egregious that I won’t even go into because the long and short answer to why this exists at all is, Hollywood.
Yada yada yada, dragon time. Well, actually, wyvern time. Fantasy taxonomy is still taxonomy and lopping off a pair of Smaug’s legs goes against Tolkien’s express requirement that Smaug be a dragon. I will give them credit for getting his character as near to right as I can imagine. There was just one problem with it, this was another action sequence that went on for far too long. More egregious still is that it felt even longer and tended to drag more than the barrel sequence. I guess Jackson felt Smaug’s original motivation for leaving the mountain wasn’t strong enough without an impromptu ass kicking from dwarves that never happened. Also, molten gold would be little deterrent to a dragon (though it may be to a wyvern, who can say). Their breath is about as hot as the inside of a volcano (geek points if you know why this statement is true and canon to Tolkien’s world) which can get several times higher in temperature than the ~1000 C. needed to melt gold. Also also, bonus geek points to anyone who watches this scene and thinks to themselves, “Ghidora?”.
It’s not all bad though. The set designs for Lake Town and the wood elves home are pretty great. Stephen Fry as the master of Lake Town was surprisingly fun. Evangeline Lilly was pretty badass in spite of being shoe horned in and being cast as “female trope #1″. Martin Freeman continued to bring odd little quirks and movements that gave Bilbo life and personality. Poor Gandalf being perennially bad at wizard battles. And though he overstayed his welcome and switched species, Benedict Cumberbatch as Smaug is a treat.
This movie was overly long and seemed to pad out areas of the story which didn’t need it. This was a particularly puzzling move since there are areas of the story which Jackson chose to gloss over which he could have developed more and still maintained the same overall run time had he stuck more to the source material.
The CGI looked unpolished in a number of scenes with a few choices that were just puzzling. I’m hoping this will be corrected for the DVD/Bluray release.
Speaking of the DVD/Bluray release, I’m kind of dreading the inevitable extended cut of this, “Twelve more exciting minutes of dwarves in barrels!”.
We’ll see what the final movie has to offer, there isn’t much left to tell at this point though. Half the movie may be one long, vainglorious CGI battle sequence. Only time will tell.
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