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smaug

I was able to get the chance to screen this movie a little early, which was great, so I thought I’d share my thoughts on this with you. I’ll try not to spoil anything that’s not in the book or trailers, but if you haven’t read the book, read on at your own caution.

Overall, I enjoyed the movie. It’s fun returning to Middle Earth, although not quite the same as in the original trilogy (now it’s starting to sound like Star Wars…) The biggest flaw of the film, along with the first part, is that it feels so padded that it’s bloating. The Hobbit, the book, is about half as long as one of The Lord of the Rings books. That means the movie should be about two hours. And only one movie, not three. Now, granted, in the Lord of the Rings, the page count is bigger because Tolkien spends more time elaborating on things, while The Hobbit, supposedly a children’s book, has denser action. So maybe two movies would have been fine. But this one book, one sixth the length of The Lord of the Rings, should not get equal screen time as those movies. There are characters added needlessly, and the middle third of the film drags on. Not quite three hours, but felt longer. And not in a good way.

There are some great action scenes, though. Going in barrels in the river was especially entertaining, although equally implausible. There is a bit of humor, and it deserves some props for trying to connect to Lord of the Rings. Tying it to Lord of the Rings and the rise of Sauron was both good and bad. It makes it feel more cohesive, and gives Gandalf a reason to leave, instead of his unexplained absence in the book, but also takes away from the simplicity that the book held, that was part of its charm. The original book was about a lowly hobbit getting the chance to go on an adventure, fight a dragon, and get treasure. Nothing so dramatic as saving the world, but the movie tries to be. In doing so, it gets a darker tone and loses focus of the titular character: Bilbo. Except for a bit when he’s with Smaug, he doesn’t really do much, and even then gets passed up by the antics of the dwarfs when they come. There is little characterization, although Bard, whose role in the book made me mad, is more fleshed out in the movie, which is one good thing. We get Legolas, who doesn’t do much aside from killing orcs, and a lady elf who didn’t exist in the books (the only females in this trilogy seem to be elves), and a few other characters, but they don’t add a whole lot to the story.

The dragon, Smaug, was done well and his act ended the movie at a faster pace and kept things interesting, although I do have a complaint about one part of his design: he has no forelegs. The dragons I know all had four legs and two wings, but lately, especially in movies, they’re reduced to walking using their wings. What makes this especially grievous is that in the first film, there was a part that definitely implied the four feet, but was changed in the extended version. “Oh, but no animal on earth has four legs and two wings,” you say. “It’s more anatomically correct.” Really? This dragon is bigger than any dinosaur, shakes off falls that would break the bones of an elephant, flies despite the impossibility of something so big doing so, and breathes fire. I prefer my dragons with four legs, they look more menacing and intelligent. But aside from that, and the battle scenes with Smaug going on a bit too long, it was fun seeing the dragon, definitely the highlight of the movie.

It’s just hard to take the dwarfs’ quest to get money and a kingdom seriously when Frodo has already saved the world, and treating the movie in the same way was a big mistake. It should have been a bit lighter and shorter and not taken itself so seriously.

I liked this one better than the first part, but it still doesn’t measure up to any of the Lord of the Rings movies. Somewhere along the way, it traded it’s magical wonder for moneymaking.

Maybe Peter Jackson and company suffer from the same malady as Thorin and Smaug: greed for gold.

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One Comment

  1. Good review. Could have used more Bilbo, but it was fine for what it was. Even if I still feel like this is an obvious and manipulative cash-grab.


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