The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug has about thirty minutes of plot in a three-hour movie. Director Peter Jackson wanders on scenes in his new picture about Middle Earth, hoping the film eventually moves somewhere, but he finds no success. Jackson’s Lord of the Rings trilogy was never something I really enjoyed; the pictures for myself are overlong and lack emotional tension or a tight narrative throughout their lengthy runtimes. I admire the technical enhancements, but they pale vastly in comparison to an epic like Apocalypse Now or Metropolis, which add intimacy to even their largest scenes. The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey extends the flaws of The Lord of the Rings to a greater extent; hardly anything happened but a string of mindless fight scenes and cringe worthy comic relief supplied by singing dwarves. The Desolation of Smaug is an improvement over its predecessor, but there’s still no rhythmic flow or purpose to the movie, more of an excuse for Warner Brothers to wring more money out of a profitable franchise.
Continuing on his trek to the Lonely Mountains, Bilbo Baggins (Martin Freeman) travels with thirteen dwarves, led by Thorin Oakenshield (Richard Armitage) as well as Gandalf (Ian McKellen) to retake the dwarfish kingdom controlled by Smaug (Benedict Cumberbatch), a devious and deadly dragon. The gang meets Legolas (Orlando Bloom) and his team of wood elves, then they head to Lake-Town before departing to Smaug’s ruins. The story is layered with a countless number of subplots, either there to constantly remind audiences that this is a prequel to the Lord of the Rings or to act as filler. While the focus on Tauriel (Evangeline Lilly), an elf who takes a liking in one of the dwarves, works, other narrative shifts don’t and the film switches from different character perspective in hopes of finding a compelling story to latch on. However, by doing so, Jackson never manages to explore the real personas of the protagonists, a major aspect that hurt the Lord of the Rings trilogy. Almost all the dwarves have interchangeable personalities with the only way to tell them apart is by physical appearance and most of the other characters could one-word descriptions attached to them. The trip to Lake-Town offers a chance to shed some light on the poor settler’s ravished by Smaug’s fury but that receives little attention. The story isn’t helped by the visual effects, which make the film look like it has the imagery of a video game. Nothing looks or seems real and further distances the audience from J. R. R. Tolkien’s recreations.
There are upsides to the film. Martin Freeman provides a charismatic and charming performance as Bilbo, idealizing the cheerful and innocent personality of the character. Benedict Cumberbatch gives Smaug a lively and energetic voice, making the dragon a menacing and effective villain. But Bilbo disappears for half of The Hobbit and Smaug’s only in the last forty minutes, which ends with a cliffhanger that feels makes it feel that the producers cut off extended footage that had more resolution. The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug will please enthusiasts of Jackson’s previous trilogy, but for anyone not part of the fan-base such as myself, it’s a dull and largely self-indulgent picture, a big and noisy disaster.