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24 of 68 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars Fine moments; dreadful quarter-hours, 16 Dec 2013
This review is from: The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug [Blu-ray 3D + Blu-ray + UV Copy] [2013] [Region Free] (Blu-ray)
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Rossini is supposed to have said of Wagner that he had some wonderful moments, but dreadful quarter-hours. You might say the same thing of Peter Jackson: there is something Bayreuthian about the excess of everything in his Hobbit saga. Still, he seems to have retained the confidence of the reviewing community: I wonder whether it will last another instalment.

In the months before Ray Harryhausen's recent passing, giants of cinema from James Cameron to Nick Park, including Peter Jackson, queued to salute the stop-motion king. It was Harryhausen who fired the imaginations of these young auteurs as they watched raging plasticene dinosaurs and rickety skeleton warriors duke it out with Sinbad, Jason, Raquel Welch and others across countless corny fantasies of a bygone era.

Harryhausen was a matinee genius but the films he worked on were technological rather than cinematic achievements. (Sample quote, from Seventh Voyage of Sinbad: "Classic Harryhausen. May not be heavy on plot, but who cares?")

George Lucas, another devotee, never pretended his Star Wars franchise was anything other than straight-up homage to the comic book serials of his youth. But Peter Jackson, for all his deference, is supposed to have aspired to greater things. With the second instalment of his interminable Hobbit saga we now know this not to be the case: it is pure, cornball Harryhausen for the 21st century, Pentium processors replacing plastic stegosauruses but every bit as cheesy and, in the leaden sequences between cave-girl-fancying monster tortoises, just as tedious as anything from One Million Years B.C.

No doubt bored of reverend Tolkien scholarship, Jackson has started making stuff up. He has oriented all the drama around what his inner Harryhausen likes best: scowling orcs, growling wargs, rutting beasts, fruity elves and improbable hand-to-hand combat between the lot of them.

As far as Tolkien was concerned there were hardly any orcs, no Sauron, few Elves and no Legolas in the Hobbit. However pleasing Evangeline Lilly's elven features may be, Tauriel doesn't feature in the appendices at all, and she certainly didn't flirt with any dwarves. Why Jackson felt the need to insert dreadful quarter-hours of these creatures hacking each other to bits is difficult to fathom. There are some inventive kills, but none of the action bears at all on the plot. But at least the orcs and fairies do dispose of one other: no-one can lay a finger on the dwarves, and good old Dildo lives a charmed life throughout.

Countless other secondary characters buzz the screenplay like so many horseflies. They too could also have used a morgul blade to the chops: Stephen Fry's walk-on is surplus to requirements, as is Legolas', and a shape-shifting bear man, some well-rendered but time-wasting spiders, a new orc 2.I.C. and the rabbit-wizard from the first instalment (this time minus his bunny sled) do nothing but slow the progress of our dogged little dwarves.

Finally they do reach their Lonely Mountain (sorry if this gives the game away) only to find a monologuing dragon who won't shut up for 45 minutes and who, while anticipating their every move, somehow cannot so much as singe a ginger beard. He lies on a treasure pile so large that he could, were he properly advised, defeat the dwarves, Shire People, Lake People, Orcs, Elves, Rohirrin and probably even Sauron himself simply by dumping his hoard of currency outside the mountain. There's not a dark force on Earth to rival the awesome power of hyperinflation.

Meantime we wonder whether we haven't been sold the most outrageous pup. The result of our three hours' toil is a series of scoreless draws: Dragon versus Dwarves; Orcs versus Elves; Elves versus Dwarves; Lake People versus Dwarves; Dwarves versus Dragon; Dragon versus Hobbit; Boatman versus Lake People; Dragon versus Boatman; Necromancer versus Wizard; and Bear-shape-shifter against himself. Jackson apologists will say it is all yet to kick off but, by gum, we shouldn't have had to wait this long for some resolution. Nine hours is not three but SIX standard-length feature films.

One ruthlessly edited feature film ought to have done the job, even if it meant Orlando Bloom and Stephen Fry missing a trip to the Land of the Long White Cloud.

Tchaikovsky said of Gotterdammerung that, after its last notes rang, he felt as though he had been let out of prison. As the feeling seeps back into your buttocks and you join the snaking queue for the loo at your local theatre, you may well know how he felt.

Olly Buxton
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Comments

Tracked by 2 customers

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Showing 1-10 of 10 posts in this discussion
Initial post: 18 Dec 2013 01:49:54 GMT
The reviewer does make some valid points. Jackson may have added much added much but, to be fair, Beorn the 'shape shifting bear man' is hardly surplus. He does appear in the book and if anything should have been given a bit more than a walk on part in the film. If left out, it would have been Tom Bombadil all over again!

In reply to an earlier post on 18 Dec 2013 08:16:23 GMT
Last edited by the author on 18 Dec 2013 11:47:14 GMT
Olly Buxton says:
Fair enough, but in the context of *this film*, Beorn is nothing but a dreadful quarter hour. I can't help it that the screenwriter has elected to postpone Beorn's big moment until another picture. But since he has, the director is obliged to contrive some present justification for a twenty minute detour in an already grossly overlong film.

In reply to an earlier post on 18 Dec 2013 09:11:01 GMT
Agreed ... a lot less of dwarves lighting superfluous furnaces and a bit more meaningful character development for Beorn would not have gone amiss.

Posted on 18 Dec 2013 11:41:35 GMT
sookypaw says:
Olly you are spot on just back from cinema num bum syndrome I think they meaning new line cinema are trying to morph the hobbit into prequel LOR. Too much which is not included in the book surplus to requirements,keeping it plain and simple (if that's the right word ) would have made it a sharper movie keeping in line with the book.

In reply to an earlier post on 18 Dec 2013 11:46:09 GMT
Last edited by the author on 18 Dec 2013 13:24:56 GMT
Olly Buxton says:
Thanks - still, nonetheless I'm batting 0 from 15 here! I wonder whether New Line have sent a squadron of orcs in to nobble me - Lord only knows I've written some crap reviews in my time, but I don't think this one is THAT bad!

Posted on 19 Dec 2013 11:49:40 GMT
Last edited by the author on 20 Dec 2013 11:07:46 GMT
Davywavy2 says:
Got a tick from me. My arse had long since gone to sleep by the time the dwarves decided to battle a dragon by making a gigantic Lindt Chocolate Santa.

Nice to see we both considered the economic effects of the hoard in our reviews. A sure sign of boredom.

In reply to an earlier post on 19 Dec 2013 13:44:12 GMT
Olly Buxton says:
And might i say how mightily I enjoyed your review too. The time machine piece was inspired. And you are so right about Fatty Bloom.

Posted on 19 Dec 2013 22:29:46 GMT
Last edited by the author on 19 Dec 2013 22:30:58 GMT
Great review agree with every word. The plummy, camp dragon was a major pain in the butt and was all talk and no action - or rather action but crap aim. The dwarves are all so annoying I was praying he managed to fry at least one or two of them but nope. Only Evangeline Lilly kept my interest in this film probably because she is amazing looking. At the other end of the spectrum nearly choked on my coke when Orlando waddled into shot. Has he been downing pints to get over breaking up with that Kerr bird as he was looking decidedly puffy in the face? And you are right about the fights - scoreless draws all over the place - and SO many of them. Boring, boring, boring.

In reply to an earlier post on 28 Dec 2013 18:27:03 GMT
Mr. J. Birch says:
Totally with you and your review. However, in your list of superfluous characters you did miss out the Seventh Doctor (I forget what he was calling himself, but this was clearly nothing bit the 7th incarnation of Doctor Who sans Tardis). I mean, Gandalf finds him, spends ages talking to him, drags him out on his quest and the moment - the very moment - it becomes "interesting" sends him away. How the heck did that remotely advance any sort of plot. At all?

Posted on 31 Dec 2013 13:07:33 GMT
S. Haddow says:
I first zoned out during the improbably fight scene on barrels - and continued to marvel at how easily the orcs could be killed with a single arrow or balletic knife slice. The gravitas of LOTR movies seems to have evaporated and what's left behind is overlong. A lot was made of Smaug as a highlight, but I couldn't help comparingcumberbatch to Tim Curry's voice in Legend, and thinking that Curry had the edge. My son - who's 11 - gave it 10 out of 10 though - and he's probably (and sadly) more the target audience that an old dude like myself..
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