The Desolation of Smaug Movie Review – my initial reactions

Let us start this out with this: this is not The Hobbit, this is not Tolkien, and this is most certainly not Middle Earth. I am not even comparing this to the book, because at this point it is impossible. Just enjoy it as something entirely separate, a thing unto itself.

Now, for the review of Peter Jackson’s fanfic film Desolation of Smaug.

Thranduil.

OK. The snippy junior high lines. The mascara. The effeminate expressive movements (when he is talking to Thorin and kind of sliding around him).

This is Hugo Weaving gone delirious. Now it is the protective father of his son, not his daughter, and he is catty… which makes him completely unsympathizable.

On top of the snob factor, he has to be junior high catty snob….

I think Jackson might be hinting to us that perhaps, perhaps Thrandil is not a good guy.

It got to the point where I had to cross my eyes when he came on screen. It was too painful to watch.

What is it about Peter Jackson. He just can’t do complex villains. Denethor had to be a gluttonous slob only obsessed with his own bloodline— not the dysfunctional, proud, grief-stricken father, tormented by regret (e.g. over how he treated Faramir) and a proud honor.

But even his tomato face-stuffing Denethor and scowling Hugo Weaving…. sigh. Weren’t this annoying.

Thorin

Richard Armitage tries so hard. Proud and bitter, self-less and powerlust… He’s a brilliant actor. Some moments, its just painful to watch him attempting to wring some semblance of dignified complexity from such painfully awkward scriptwriting and loony-toon-worthy gymnastics. But about half the time he actually succeeds, and this is what makes the film worth watching at all. I won’t go much into here, because this is the part that shouldn’t be spoiled.

The Ninja She-Elf, Orlando Bloom, and Awww Dwarf Love Triangle

Yes. A dwarf and an elf romance. You didn’t read that wrong. By the end of the film, the ninja she-elf is holding hands with the dwarf as he asks her to be his girlfriend, while Orlando glares, sulks, and punches a few orcs to vent his anger.

The most ridiculous part: they have you rooting for it too. It’s an easy choice—on one side, Mr Pompous ex-Teen Heartthrob—and on the other side, Mr Little Guy, sweet and stupid and hopelessly in (puppy) love. I don’t even know how to start explaining it. Oh, and it is a tad Oedipal. But I keep laughing. It’s hilariously perfectly insane. Or as my little siblings would say, O My Word.

 

Smaug vs. Bilbo: Benedict Cumberpatch vs. Martin Freeman (or Sherlock gone crazy)

This actually works. The crazed megalomaniac, unpredictable and a little too dangerous. The side kick, trying to calm him down and trying to keep him from being set off. Except now Watson is way more adorable, and now Sherlock way more crazy (and more fiery and scaly). It really works. Brilliant casting.

SkyRim, Marvel’s Thor, and WWs

Mix Ian McKlellan, the Destroyer from Marvel’s Thor (nee Sauron), and Sky Rim mage power blasts. Let’s just have it all! What could inspire fear and adrenaline more than this? ACTION!! TONS OF ACTION!!!! ACTION!!!!!!

Beyond underwhelming. So the great foe of LOTR is….supposed to be…this. Its like when Darth Vader turned out to be….Anakin the snivelling insecure teenager. Though like Star Wars, I refuse to believe it. This just isn’t true.

Fairies and Goblins and the Good Little Kids

Bard’s kids cower in the thatch roof house, as Goblins and Elves fight it out. This is actually incredibly charming. Taps into some kiddie fairy tale thing. (all of quaint little lake town does)

Beorn…

…this is the most annoying part of the film. This (I suspect) reflects the shift in attitudes towards Native Americans (or Nature?) from the nineteenth century to the twenty-first. In the former, is an odd kind of respect mixed in with the racism, and in the latter, in an effort to make amends for it….a complete victimization, with no dignity left. There is nothing outside their person left except their victimhood. Gone is the dignity, the odd respect laced with cultural imcomprehension, the quirky awesomeness. Now, all twitching exploited victimized disturbedness….

Minor other things….

PJ can’t do subtlety (Bard’s melodramatic character, Bilbo attacking a giant crab for the precious…), and hence the humor in book is all removed. Having Richard Armitage, sulky and dignified, saying to the wood elves “we were starving” ten times would have been terribly funny, he could have pulled it off.

Tolkien’s The Hobbit had a very late nineteenth/early twentieth century feel. People (different species—e.g. nations) are all basically good, but too hung up on their species’ rights and dignities (i.e. nineteenth century nationalism) that causes unnecessary war and suffering. And there are all kinds of cultural misunderstandings/clashes that are hilarious (e.g. when the dwarves are running off the path to the lights—they feel lured on by magical wood elves….and the wood elves think the dwarves were crashing their party, though they kept trying to reconvene farther away). Or even Beorn, with his dignity and touchy etiquette. The Middle Earth in The Hobbit, like Jane Austen’s England, is, in part, a novel of manners.

But that whole Jane Austen/WWI feel of The Hobbit, in a world that is lyrical and sad, simultaneously wondrous and staid, is long gone.

And I suppose Peter Jackson figured that out.

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One thought on “The Desolation of Smaug Movie Review – my initial reactions

  1. *sigh* I couldn’t understand the love triangle at all…and the special effects were so overwhelming my friends who went with me thought I was going to go into a seizure….you’re right, this is not the hobbit as written by Tolkien at all…it’s an over-dramatic, over-romantic fanfic

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