The Hobbit Part II— Roll Out the Barrel, Watch out for the Smog of Smaug

I went to see the Hobbit Part Two with some fear and trepidation. I was pretty disappointed with the first installment last year, which involved too much running and fighting and fighting and running underground etc. I had reconciled myself to the fact that Jackson having done the LOTR trilogy first was going to retroject some of that back into this story to create a seamless whole. A children’s tale it would not be. I was even o.k. with using bits from the Silmarillion saga, though why in the world Tom Bombadil got left out (I would cast Robin Williams in his role) is beyond me. Still, despite my disappointment, I had some hope for Part II as the reviews were better. And indeed, I am happy to report it was a good deal better than Part One.

I saw the film on the giant IMAX screen in Bellingham Washington last evening complete with my 3D glasses. I can tell you it takes a big screen to accommodate that super-sized dragon in this movie. He is a whopper. On the whole though, the 3D did not add a lot to the film, and notice it is not available in that super fast frames per second mode we got in the first installment.

What are the pluses of The Desolation of Smaug? Firstly, even at 2 hours and 41 minutes it has no dead spots and maintains one’s interest throughout. Secondly there are some enjoyable scenes of comic relief and good humor, as the relationship between Bilbo and the Dwarfs develops. Thirdly, the barreling down the river scene is a big highlight, as is the visit to the city on the lake and the elf fortress in Mirkwood.

But what should we think of the new, and non-Tolkien character Tauriel, played by the star of Lost, Evangeline Lilly? Certainly she adds some romantic interest to the story, which softens it a bit, which is nice, but one wonders what Tolkien would think? After all, its not like there aren’t positive female characters in LOTR. Still, Lilly is excellent in her role, and steals quite a few scenes. Peter Jackson noted that only 5% of the female portion of the acting guild could have played the athletic parts Tauriel plays in this movie. He’s probably right.

And this brings us to Ole Dragon Breath—- Smaug the greedy. He makes King Croesus look like a poor man. Benedict Cumberbatch does a fine job of breathing life (and fire) into ye old dragon, and I found the encounter between Bilbo and the dragon really quite well done. Though Bilbo (still brilliantly played by Martin Freeman) is austensibly after the arkenstone, this is nearly forgotten in the attempts to mess with the dragon, who by the way, will be reappearing in Part Three next summer.

In this installment we finally have almost the full range of characters in play– wizards, elves, dwarves, humans, hobbits, and of course the forces of darkness, orcs, Sauron etc. Missing in action however is Gollum. I expect to see him in again in Part Three. In the meantime, raise a glass to Peter Jackson. It was no small task to get this story on the screen in a way that was both fresh, entertaining and still retained the essential integrity of the story. Mission Accomplished. This one will leave you wanting more, not less.

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  • lakewood

    This film wasn’t the insult to Tolkien i thought the first installment is, but I totally agree with one reviewer who said Jackson should be forthright and admit his movies are ‘based on stories by J R R Tolkien. I went not expecting fidelity to the book, so was able to enjoy the movie as a well made action flick; still there was too much cg, too much over the top action (a lot of which was, I guess, cg enhanced) and not enough character development. I’m sure I’ll go see the third installment; but I can’t imagine ever wanting a permanent copy of this series in my video collection. Jackson, in my view, has either never understood Tolkien, or simply doesn’t care. I don’t deny that what he has done is impressive.

  • connorhus

    This movie was a travesty. Oh and BTW Bombadil was in “The Fellowship of the Ring” not “The Hobbit”. The fact that you do not know the story explains how you could sit through this farce of perversion Jackson and crew has dumped into a theater near you.

    About the only similarities between Tolkien’s great work and this movie were the names of the characters and the places and of course even the characters didn’t line up.

    They should have left Legolas out of it because let’s face it Elves don’t age and Orlando has lost his Bloom. The Elf chick to satisfy the Feminist was classic rot creeping in and the Love triangle to spread a little fantasy Multi-Cult religious beliefs just makes the puss run like water.

    Truly the most terrible movie ever made.

  • BenW3

    Tom Bombadil was first in a short story collection by Tolkien called Leaf by Niggle in the 30s, not in LOTR, something you apparently are ignorant of. I was hoping since some of the Sllmarilion is in these Hobbit movies that Tom might be as well, since he did not appear in Jackson’s LOTR, The fact that the children of Tolkien thought this adaptation was o.k. should tell you something. Perhaps Jackson should have had the credits say ‘based on a story by Tolkien…’ because of course no movie is ever just a literal adaptation of a book, and it needs to be judged on its own merits. But calling it the worst movie ever made is more than just a gross exaggeration, its really unfair to some of the merits of the film. BW3

  • connorhus

    The children of Tolkien in fact are not OK with this adaptation or at least Christopher certainly was not as of 2012 and if he had issues after part 1 I think it’s pretty much a given he will have them in spades now.