Film Review: The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug

The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug is a mop. No, that’s not a typo, it’s a metaphor.

You see, mops just have loose ends everywhere- so too does the movie. And that is how a metaphor works. Clever, right?

While it has improved on some of the more rage-inducing elements of its predecessor, The Hobbit 2 (as I will furthermore call it) falls short on a couple of levels.

Yes, I’m referring to those loose ends again. The film is rife with subplots which are all illuminated to varying degrees. It feels like the writing team wanted to squash a whole season of HBO into one movie. There are rivalries and political shenanigans, boiler-plate angst, interracial love triangles and dramatic digressions. It’s like Game of Thrones without the sex. Many would wonder, therefore, what the point is? The point, dear frisky reader, is to get you to buy a ticket next year.

It’s one giant open-ended thread-fest to try and beat your apathy so you’ll watch the  next one to see how it ends. Instead of actually focusing on specific subplots, teasing out the complexity that could very well be there, the filmmakers seemed to think that merely telling us very blatantly that they exist is good enough. Not good enough, guys.

This leaves the characters seemingly without motivation for their actions, or at worst motivated by the broadest possible reasons, which is basically the same thing when it comes to making me care about the person on screen. But that’s not all. The ending itself might actually have rivalled that of The Matrix 2 if we didn’t all already know how it’s going to end.

The ending follows on another game of set piece one-up, much like in The Hobbit 1. Because the film is structured like a roller-coaster and not a real story, the filmmakers must keep ramping up the crazy until you have insane dwarven cat-and-mouse with a dragon (Ooh, spoiler, there’s a dragon) that escalates quicker than an internet debate about homosexuality. It keeps building up to insane heights and then ends suddenlt with zero catharsis at the end. I felt cheated.

All of this after us coming along for what felt like an eternity of running and killings stuff; getting caught; getting sprung; lathering; rinsing; repeating.

At least it was properly silly and super serial when it wanted to be. None of those completely innapropriate jokes of the first film. It’s a better film for kids and adults when it’s not trying to be both at the same time. And I mean, what’s better than taking your kid to a movie where there’s no blood at all? Oh no, actually, the one character bleeds a bit as a plot point. Another gets a light nosebleed after a throwdown with a huge orc. But it’s all kid-friendly. Now the fact that several orcs get gleefully, violently decapitated doesn’t change anything, because there’s basically no blood.

I saw the movie in 4k (thankfully no 3d or high frame rate though). Holy Crap. Wait, that was actually a typo. Should have said hokey crap. So much of the film is ridiculously pretty. The CG is wonderful (Smaug is so awesome that it’s almost worth watching just for that), the scenery, sets, and costumes are amazing. Except when they aren’t. Then every flaw stands up and does the macarena while I gibber in my seat. There are shots that look like cheap computer game cut scenes, Character animation that doesn’t even look like the people they cut back to. It’s everywhere. Just when you relax a bit something new and horrible jumps out at you.

On the whole, it’s a lot like a 20 minute guitar solo. Technically proficient (Mostly), good in some places, but essentially self-indulgent and boring. It’s a novel in need of a good editor. It’s a tree in need of pruning. It’s a writer that doesn’t know when to stop abusing metaphors.

It’s a vaguely enjoyable way to spend 160 minutes, as long as you don’t concentrate too hard. I’m just waiting for the supercut where they take all 3 movies and make a single 3-hour film. That would be worth it.