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The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug
Well, that was a bit better, mainly because there was no singing and no fart jokes, and even Radagast seemed a bit less stupid - though not by much. The dwarves, save for Thorin (brooding), Kili (pretty) and Balin (sensible) -- not to forget Bombur (fat) - remain pretty much indistinguishable.

Bloom's Legolas seemed to have lost all his personality from LotR (maybe he had a transplant between these movies and FotR) though an occasional Leggy-moment (TM) enlivened some of the fight sequences. But everyone seemed very one-note and Bilbo's transformation from tongue-tied klutz (particularly in the scenes at Bag End, where he should have been most confident) to silver-tongued burglar seemed just a bit sudden, and most of it seemed to take place between movies. Thranduil is just plain nasty, with not a hint of any redeeming feature, Beorn isn't in it enough to make any impression, Bard is, again, fairly one-note (though very pretty) and Fry is dreadful as the Master of Laketown.

I can see why they added Tauriel, but female Captains of the Guard (or even female guards) are not very Tolkien, even in LotR, let alone The Hobbit and I just cannot buy the 'romance' with Kili or even Legolas. I get the impression that Jackson and the writers didn't quite know how to deal with the elves in 'The Hobbit' who have no connection with the elves in LotR save the name.

Many of the other problems with An Unexpected Journey are still here. The tone is all over the place. For pity's sake, Mr Jackson, make up your mind whether you are making funny kid's movie or a prequel to an epic!

The CGI (and the make-up!) is occasionally very, very obvious (I think because this is the highest of high definitions) and there are occasional moments (and not just Leggy moments) where the movement is sick making (God knows what it was like in 3D). I really think this must be an occasional result of the transfer from the higher frame-rate. And the action sequences went on and on and on until it became almost impossible to suspend disbelief. (Ina, interjecting, "Almost????") The 'barrel' sequence, in particular, had exactly the same problems as the fight in the goblin caves in that it was video-gamish, with no sense of peril. (One began to wonder if the dwarves were prototype Ultrons.)

Which is not true of the Bilbo's encounter with Smaug (though it is exceedingly true the moment the dwarves enter the halls.) The conversation between the pair of them and the FX that accompanies it are, to put it simply, brilliant - clever, funny and exciting, with a real sense of peril. (None of this is true of Smaug's pursuit of the dwarves which is so OTT that even Legolas might boggle.) Cumberbatch is plainly enjoying his voice over, and does a splendid job, and this time Bilbo is note-perfect. Of course, a lot of this sequence is mainly Tolkien, which helps. And it has been pointed out that there isn't as much gold in the world (even adding that in the Earth's crust) as Smaug has collected.

I am trying not to speak of Gandalf's trip to Dol Guldur. There is so much in this movie that looks like a cheap version of something in LotR, and this is one of those scenes. All the magic of places and people in LotR is missing - there is nothing, nothing to compare with the first sights of Rivendell, Moria, Lorien, Edoras or Minas Tirith. Dol Guldur has nothing of the menace of either Mordor or Isengard. The complexity of a Boromir, a Theoden or Denethor is totally missing.

Glad I've seen this, because of that scene with Smaug. Other than that, a pleasant enough time filler, but the lack of imagination on the part of the writers and director is all too apparent.

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(Deleted comment)
What? You didn't like the Smaug scenes? [grin]

The Beorn scenes in the extended edition are an improvement.

I am sure they are, but there's too much that would still be there.

Question: There was a sequence filmed of Gandalf's meeting with Dain (in which Dain was played by Tony Sher - "This isn't character acting - it's just make-up.") Was that on the extended edition? Not really wanting to see it, but was interested in that it crept in to Sher's book on playing Falstaff at the RSC.

Yup. The scenes at Dol Guldur had Dain in them.

Oh, and yes. Too much in the film. There's a good four hour film in the trilogy somewhere. Hopefully someone will produce that cut at some point!

My reaction to that movie was that it just over-inflated everything. I loved the meeting with Beorn in the book; Peter Jackson decided that it didn't have enough action sequences. Likewise for every other scene: more action sequences, more orcs, less charm.

The barrel escape is a special problem. It couldn't have worked in Tolkien's version; the barrels had to be airtight, and the dwarves should have suffocated by the time they got out. Peter Jackson changed them to open barrels, which went against the whole point of escaping unseen, and they should have just filled with water and sunk. You lose either way.

Everything is overblown. Somehow, between LotR and The Hobbit they lost their way in being true to the spirit if not the letter of the book, possibly because the books are so vastly different, and financial pressures demanded they be more compatible.

It was strange that he actually left bits of the book out when there is so little of it and so much of the film.

Peter Jackson is another of those directors who find it very hard to kill their babies...

Edited at 2015-05-09 04:42 pm (UTC)

I have a feeling that Peter O'Donnell may have had the same objection as there is a sequence in one of the Modesty Blaise strips where Modesty and Willie escape in a barrel - upside down like a diving bell. Pity Peter Jackson didn't use that option.

This was the one I "saw" in 3D in the States, and which confirmed I was never going to be able to actually SEE a 3D movie, as my eyes simply don't adjust fast enough to get past the 'layers on glass' effect. I had to close my eyes and keep them shut several times, the barrel bit being the worst offender. I honestly lost track of what was happening several times in other action sequences.

I really need to see the movie again not in 3D to have a real opinion, but I was cautiously optimistic for the third (which we never got around to seeing in the cinema in the end, we just didn't have time).

Cumberbatch's voice suited Smaug very well.

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