Friday, 13 December 2013

Review of the new Hobbit movie - The Desolation of Smaug


There is no review of the second Hobbit movie - The Desolation of Smaug.

I'm sorry, but I just can't face it.

I'll take a look when it comes onto TV; and I can use fast-forward.



Samson J. said...

Hahahahaha, thank you for this, my friend - you know, I was literally just coming on to say that for the first time in my life I have very seriously considered not seeing a movie out of principle.

I have since decided that I probably will see it, because after all *parts* of it will probably be amusing... but... you know what... I'm not really excited about it. I don't even have a plan to see it beyond "I'll probably go sometime in the next couple of weeks."

Arakawa said...

I had heard disheartening things about the Hobbit movie, to the point that, before I clicked on the link here from Miscellany I was praying "oh God please let Bruce Charlton not have suffered too much".

Apparently that was a very easy prayer to grant....

Deniz Bevan said...

I wasn't able to hold back like you did. Posted my own review today on my blog... It's not a very favourable one :-)

Samson J. said...

Well, Brucie, I saw the movie tonight. I am here to tell you that I am glad you did not go see it, as I am not sure you would have been able to bear it.

I emerged from the theatre feeling like I didn't know what I had just seen. Was a weird melange of disjointed, invented scenes? Was it a psychedelic pastiche of unrelated storylines? Part of the problem with watching the PJ movies without having read the books in a while is that you begin to second-guess yourself: "Wait, was that really in the book? Yes...? No, wait, it wasn't, was it...?"

Here are some specific criticisms, with SPOILERS:

Tauriel was as bad as expected. She was absurd, and the romance with Kili was more absurd. I mean... we all know the modern Hollywood female warrior is absurd... we all know this ad nauseam etc. etc. etc., but... this really took the cake - you could SEE, visually, in this movie, just how absurd it was. 100-lb.-and-change elfess combating huge, thickly-built orc warriors... I found myself wondering who on earth is taken in by this.

Something I had read several times about the movie was that this one was better than the first because it was more "adult", leaving the childish wonder of the original behind. Well, count me out of agreeing with this opinion. It's The Hobbit, and child-like humour is part of its charm. The dishes sequence, in particular, is to me one of the joys of the book, and was one of my favourite parts of PJ's movie (it was done well), but sadly (to me) there was nothing similar here - which apparently some found to be a good thing. Not I.

I had also read great things about the barrel sequence. Well, also count me out of agreeing with this - it was nothing like I ever imagined it.

Beorn was nothing like I expected, imagined or wanted. Why did they need to make his bear form some kind of mutant, freak bear instead of just an actual bear? Why did they need to make his human form some kind of cartoon instead of just a big, strong, handsome man?

For the first time ever I found myself sympathizing with folks who perhaps said this about the previous films - I found myself bored and frustrated by the constant heavy-handed dialogue. Enough is enough, Gandalf - I found myself saying - not everything needs to be said as if it's the Most Important Thing Ever. It falls flat and becomes irritating in many places.

And even some of the visuals! For example, yes, I know Smaug is supposed to have a lot of treasure. But this was too much; there's impressive, and there's ridiculous. Nobody has that much treasure. There isn't that much treasure in all of Middle Earth. Basically all you've done, PJ - to play the economist for a moment - is to debase the value of the gold coin to the point where if there are this many in the world, they can't be worth all that much.

Agree with criticism that this was pretty much an action movie. No character development, no real suspense... no good.

The orcs were super-lame, and reminded me of villains from a third-rate superhero movie. No good.

There were a very few things in the movie that I enjoyed. The portrayal of the Necromancer when Gandalf goes to confront him was intriguing to me for some reason, although I would by sympathetic to someone who didn't like it (because of how much there was that *I* didn't like).

I was also very surprised and pleased to see that although Legolas was present in the film - a fact that I was initially prepared to despise - they succeeded, in a fashion that I never imagined possible, in making him more properly princely and less effete than he always came across before.

The bottom line is that, as with all of the films, but especially this one, what you're seeing here is Peter Jackson's Hobbit-Like Movie. It's not Tolkien's Hobbit.

Bruce Charlton said...

@DB and SJ - Thanks for your reviews.

I think these Hobbit movies fall into the Not Even Trying category - with respect to the spirit of the books.

The Jackson team use the original work as a quarry for images and ideas - rather like Walt Disney did in so many of their children’s cartoons of books - the difference being that Disney usually produced a decent movie (Jungle Book very good despite being a travesty, Sword in the Stone... okay-ish; The Black Cauldron... very bad...).

(One of the very best movies - Blade Runner - is almost unrelated to the book from which it was supposedly drawn - Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep by Philip K Dick. But importantly it has the same feel and is about the same big issue. Also, Blade Runner seemed to be a happy accident - there was no adequate reason why it should be so good, and many reasons why it should be bad - but... The exception that proves the rule.)

The big problem with this approach is that the *special* quality which made the original good is destroyed and something alien *and modern* is substituted - as is naturally the case when the work of past geniuses is quarried and travestied by modern hacks.

Samson J. said...

There's so much more that I could say. The best "professional" review that I read was the one which said that this movie is basically Hobbit Fan Fiction. That's what it is - the skeleton of the actual hobbit story encased in large volumes of third-rate fan fiction.

To repeat a point from earlier: why oh why does everything need to be about action?? Action this, action that. Forget about portraying the Mirkwood spider scene the way Tolkien wrote it, in which Bilbo charmingly acquits himself through cleverness against the evil, scheming spiders. Instead we get a seventh-rate yawner of an action sequence which, for frig's sake, doesn't even give any indication that the spiders are even intelligent, anything other than dumb beasts! I was flabbergasted, almost literally dumbfounded, when I realized that I had not gotten to hear Biblo utter the word "attercop", a moment I had been extremely looking forward to.

It could all have been done so well, given that Martin Freeman's Bilbo is still, as he was in the first one, one of the redeeming features of the film. But as other reviewers have noted, they barely used him.

Arakawa said...

Having seen it (family obligation...) I can provide an accurate one sentence review:

This was the pork pie movie.

(for the unfamiliar:

Bruce Charlton said...

@Samson, Arakawa and Deniz - I'm feeling pretty smug - and ten pounds richer than I would have been...

Bruce Charlton said...

@John C Wright... (ahem) did not much like the movie: