Thursday, 13 February 2014

A Game Of Hobbits [Review: The Desolation Of Smaug]

If only The Hobbit had been written by that other fantasy writer with the initials R.R.

Just as with An Unexpected Journey the expansion from short young adult novel to blockbuster trilogy leads to pacing problems, particularly action sequences that continue for much too long, even though beautifully shot and choreographed with plenty of humour – the barrel ride is so good the length is almost forgiveable. It doesn’t help that no-one important is in real peril, we know the main characters will all survive at least until the next film, a criticism that doesn’t tend to get levelled at the work of the other R.R. quite so often.

Another problem for R.R. but not for R.R. is gender balance: I commented on the absence of female roles in An Unexpected Journey and it seems Peter Jackson heard my cries of pain.

A romantic side-plot has been pulled from thin air in order to give an interesting role to Evangeline Lilly as warrior elf Tauriel. This jars with my memories of the novel but I am thankful: there is such a thing as being too faithful to the source.

Even if it drags in places, The Desolation Of Smaug is more enjoyable than An Unexpected Journey. Both films feature outstanding performances from the all-star cast which now includes Evangeline Lilly, Benedict Cumberbatch as a distinctly Sherlock-like dragon, and a bizarre but highly amusing cameo by Stephen Fry.

Incidentally I should stress that I saw The Desolation Of Smaug in 3D/24FPS so I cannot comment on the additional frames included in the HFR version which could well take the film in a whole different direction.


Alex J. Cavanaugh said...

Nice to read that someone else really liked it. I also thought it was a little better than the first installment.

Janene said...

I liked it better than the first, too, and that HD-HFR was crazy cool. So realistic! I really felt like I was there. Unfortunately, sometimes feeling I was "there" meant feeling I was on the soundstage with them. I also like the infusion of a female character. Don't thing J.R.R. would have minded. In LOTR there were some great female characters. Kind of odd that he didn't have one in The Hobbit.

Maurice Mitchell said...

It sounds like Peter Jackson managed to make a sequel better than the original which is rare.

Sci-Fi Gene said...

Yes - all in all I'm looking forward to part 3. Tolkien was famously averse to any cinematic versions of his books, I doubt this would have changed his mind but you never know...

Christie said...

Love your blog, I am such a sci-fi junkie so it's always good to find others like me too :)

I really loved this film, but I can't work out whether it's because it's so nostalgic for me because I loved the book so much while growing up.

So far The Hobbit films have not captured the adventure, or excitement as the LOTR trilogy but I do think this second film was better so hopefully it's going in the right direction!


Sci-Fi Gene said...

Hi Christie! I think you're right, nostalgia counts for a lot in these book adaptations. Can work in more than one way - whole extra dimension of nostalgia brought on by seeing Sylvester McCoy back on screen.

I will forgive the link-dropping just this once as I love your blog too ;) tell me more about the unofficial Bill Murray fan club - how do I sign up?