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The Definition of “Slog” – The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug

December 13, 2013

smaug

It’s hard to believe that, by the end of The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug, we’re only two-thirds of the way through Peter Jackson’s return to Middle-Earth. It’s even harder to believe that there’s actually going to be another one of these damn things. Because what’s left? After Bilbo finally confronts the titular gold-hoarding dragon in this film, and after we get the big battle out of the way at some point in the next, isn’t the rest of the original skeleton of J.R.R. Tolkien’s classic just falling action, a retracing of a journey’s steps and a return to Bag End? Is Jackson really gong to drape a whole movie’s worth of fat over that sturdy — but Hobbit-sized — skeleton? Is the last film in this improbable trilogy going to be a feature-length version of the fifteen bladder-torturing endings in The Return of the King?

God help us all.

It’s so difficult to judge Smaug on its own merits because of all this mishegas. Yet try we must. And the verdict?  

It’s more of the same, in some ways better than the first, in some ways worse — and still an exercise in overindulgence. This viewer was less than enthused with An Unexpected Journey, and that’s being charitable. Smaug has its moments, moments where the action far surpasses that of its predecessor, but they’re few and far between. The rest of the runtime we’re all slouched down in our seats, watching this mess unspool before our eyes at 48 fps, reflecting on how THERE’S A WHOLE OTHER MOVIE WE HAVE TO SEE TO PUT THIS THING TO BED.

Mildly spoilerish points and a final rating on the next page.

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11 Comments leave one →
  1. mlpost permalink
    December 13, 2013 10:23 pm

    Well, I haven’t seen the new movie, but, if I remember the book, there’s still a big-ass, vicious, bloody, rip roaring battle between the humans, elves, dwarves and goblins coming up. Or, as we call it in my family, get-togethers.

  2. theartisticpackrat permalink
    December 14, 2013 2:16 am

    There’s also the fighting over the gold between Thorin and the people of Laketown. I think there’s a lot more left to do in the story than you’re thinking/letting on.

    • December 14, 2013 3:35 am

      Yes, audiences can’t wait for Thorin and the people of Laketown fighting over gold. Maybe Jackson and co. can stretch that out for another 45 minutes. And maybe we get to see more of poor Stephen Fry’s one-dimensional Master character along the way. Wonderful! More sawdust in the meatloaf!

      • theartisticpackrat permalink
        December 14, 2013 12:41 pm

        I’m not saying that’s ALL they’ll be focusing on in the last movie. My point was that there’s more to do than you’re letting on. For one, you also have to build up more character moments for some of the characters who die in the last movie.

  3. December 14, 2013 2:01 pm

    Could have used more Bilbo, but it was fine for what it was. Even if I still feel like this is an obvious and manipulative cash-grab. Good review Jared.

  4. Volker permalink
    December 17, 2013 4:07 pm

    I’ve avoided Jackson’s HOBBIT for exactly this reason. In fact, I’m not watching any of it until after the release of part 3, when somebody has made a fanedit that follows the script and pace of the Rankin-Bass animated feature. 77 minutes are plenty (I’ll allow 80).

    Peter Jackson has become the Erich von Stroheim of the 21st century.

    • December 18, 2013 7:45 pm

      No lie, Greed popped into my head when watching this thing. The entire trilogy, though not yet complete, already cries out for a Phantom Edit.

  5. Volker permalink
    December 18, 2013 9:24 pm

    I saw a leaked copy of the script for Part 3. PJ has scoured the works of JRRT for clues, and will fill in the gaps between HOBBIT and LOTR. This includes:

    –Bilbo’s failed, childless marriage and how his wife finds out why he is called “Bilblow Teabaggins”
    –He hits rock bottom when he holds up an Elven-Eleven, gets sent to prison and contracts Hobbititis C from a homemade tatoo
    –His career comeback, that starts with a heartfelt confessional interview on the Ogreh Show
    –He is able to retire comfortably selling foot toupees on QVC

  6. Tangent permalink
    December 23, 2013 10:56 am

    Sighs? No. Whimpers, yes.

    It was quite delightful to hear people realize they were going to have to WAIT to see Smaug incinerate Lake Town.

    And it could have been far far worse. I timed Mirkwood. They were through there in record time.

    Personally? I rather enjoyed the movie. And I thought it a better movie easily than the first (which did need an antagonist such as Azog to drive the dwarves forward). Likewise, having the backstory of what was going on with the Necromancer helped fill story that the audience would have wanted to know (that and having the goblins and orcs marching because of Sauron rather than greed helped explain that story).

    But what I disagree with you is your claim Smaug puts Vermithrax Pejorative to shame. There were homages to Vermithrax Pejorative in Smaug’s design (notice that unlike so many drawings of Smaug, his forearms were incorporated into his wings much like Vermithrax Pejorative and the dragons of Skyrim). And Smaug’s grace and litheness was due to technological innovations in the three decades between the two films. (Not to mention Vermithrax Pejorative was a much older dragon who was stiff with age, while Smaug was at the height of his power. And even then it took a wizard snuffing his own life to kill her, while Smaug is taken out with a simple ballista.)

    Both Smaug and Vermithrax Pejorative are absolutely fantastic dragons and their depictions on the screen are fantastic. Contrasting the two, however, is a fools game. Neither is better than the other.

    • December 24, 2013 4:57 pm

      I feel like I just sat through the movie again. (Kidding. Merry Christmas to all.)

  7. January 22, 2014 2:55 pm

    Cool review. Check out mine if you like at http://printplayparticipate.wordpress.com/

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