“The second in a trilogy of films adapting the enduringly popular masterpiece The Hobbit, by J.R.R. Tolkien, The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug continues the adventure of the title character Bilbo Baggins as he journeys with the Wizard Gandalf and thirteen Dwarves, led by Thorin Oakenshield on an epic quest to reclaim the lost Dwarf Kingdom of Erebor.” (c) WB
I don’t know about the use of “enduringly.” Is that even a word? If it is, I don’t think you can say that about these Hobbit films to be quite frank.
Let’s start with a bit of disclaimer. I’m a big fan of Peter Jackson’s Lord of the Rings film trilogy. Sure, he wasn’t faithful to the letter, but he followed the material. He gave the characters new life. So when The Hobbit films were announced, I was ecstatic. Getting to revisit Middle Earth is a trip anyone would be happy to make again and again.
And then I watched the first film.
The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey was an unexpected disappointment. The material was stretched too thin even though the film already incorporated stories from other Tolkien stories. Still, I liked it enough. Liked it enough that I was willing to watch the sequel. But, this time, with cautious optimism.
From the trailers, the second film looked to be more exciting and more engaging. And it was… exciting. Not so much on the engaging. Why?
Well Bilbo Baggins barely gets any character development. He already did, back in the first film, so in this film, he’s just plodding through the plot while the other characters try to catch up. He is no longer the hero of The Desolation of Smaug, he is just the plot pusher.
In the source material, this is the time we meet Bard the Bowman, the other protagonist of the story. And we meet him here in the film too. Except, before we do, we’ve already had to go through a series of adventures where no one develops. I mean, Bilbo does, but that development won’t actually be complete until the beginning of The Fellowship of the Ring.
Unless, of course, they want to end The Hobbit films with Bilbo’s descent into madness.
Going back to Bard, and Lake Town; we finally find a new protagonist to root for when we meet Bard. But because it’s already too late in the film, we get a rushed job at his introduction, his fall from grace, and his redemption. Instead, we get the smug Thorin Oakenshield who is being marketed as a leading character, but really isn’t.
No one was lead in this film. Bard was, but he’s not part of the bigger storyline yet.
And to make it worse, we get a forced love story between Kili and Tauriel–which, while a nice effort to give the film something else to make it less stretched, was still a bad idea. There wouldn’t have been a need to stretch the film had the producers (and Peter Jackson) stuck with just having two films.
The Hobbit is not a lengthy novel. It’s shorter than The Fellowship of the Rings, for crying out loud. This trilogy business was a bad idea that should have never been approved.
Heck, for lack of material, Gandalf gets imprisoned again. For a powerful wizard, he sure gets captured a lot. And don’t even get me started on Legolas. Let me just say: did we really need him? Couldn’t that have been some other elf? I know he’s Thranduil’s son and all, but come on, he did not need to have all those scenes that took away from the main story. You know, the one involving the titular character?
Oh, but then there’s Smaug.
For some reason, he seemed more clever in the books. In the film, he just looks like a petulant reptile who won’t stop talking. I’m sure, if I check the book again, he’ll just be as talkative–but couldn’t have Jackson trimmed this part better?
When I started writing this, I was going to say that this was better than An Unexpected Journey. Having written all this down now though, I think I’ll go with the more boring An Unexpected Journey, than this mess of a sequel.