The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug

Movie Review #781: Remember when peter Jackson could actually direct a three-hour movie without boring us all to death?

By Alexander Diminiano

Adventure, Fantasy
Rated PG-13 (contains violence)
161 minutes

There’s a multiplex in my area that plays 16 movies. It’s the biggest and the most expensive, but by far the nicest movie theater in the area. Maybe one in five of my moviegoings happen at this specific venue, but I used to attend much more frequently. Ticket pricing aside, the one complaint I can give this cinema is that the people who attend can be very, very obnoxious. If purchasing tickets on arrival requires more than a three-minute wait, I’m guaranteed to hear somebody whine about how movies just aren’t good anymore to the person beside them.

Now there’s more than one reason I don’t like listening to these people. One of course is that I want to enjoy my time at the movies, and with my luck, these whiner 49ers are going to see the same movie as me, whence they will talk through the whole thing. The other reason is that if you interrupt their anti-Hollywood rant and ask their opinion of any random Hollywood movie, they’ll say either, “That’s a really good movie,” “That’s one of my favorites,” or “I’m dying to see that one.” It’s amazing how quickly they break character.

Why have I taken so long to make my point? Because I don’t like talking about movies that bore the living scheiße out of me. And what is my point? My point is, if one of these ranters said they loved Peter Jackson’s second “Hobbit” movie, I’d be rolling my eyes until I lost my vision. Why? “The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug” crumbles under its CGI reliance, its gloaty visuals, and its inability to entertain past the ninety-minute mark. Which, by the way, are all fodder for anti-Hollywood tirades.

The failure to entertain past the ninety-minute mark is really the key here. For those who weren’t aware, the movie is three hours long, and it’s like watching paint dry. There’s so much that happens in “Smaug” that after about ninety minutes, we just don’t care about what’s going on any more. I’m writing this review the day after watching this movie and there’s surprisingly little I can say about what actually happened in the movie. I remember the movie opening with a thunderstorm, because that’s when I was actually interested, and on top of that, my poor little dog was terrified at this point in the film, fearing what she was hearing was an actual thunderstorm.

I remember that Frodo–er, Bilbo (Martin Freeman) continues on some journey for god only knows what. He keeps looking really paranoid because he has this really cool ring that makes him invisible, and he doesn’t want anybody knowing he has it. I theorized that maybe, in a pre-“Hobbit” movie, he stole it from a jeweler; perhaps he got it before Mr. Pink, Mr. Orange, Mr. White, and Mr. Blonde could. Or, maybe “the precious” is supposed to represent heroin Bilbo smuggled all the way from Central America into New Zealand. After all, J.R.R. Tolkien wrote his entire Middle-earth universe while he was stoned. Who knows, but any theory is more interesting than the movie itself.

“The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug” was advertised as if it were entirely about Bilbo’s encounter with a dragon. That only comes in the last half an hour, and I assume Peter Jackson felt that this would have us anticipating the dragon’s appearance. The ultimate depressor about “Smaug” is that anticipation is so meager. By the time the dragon appears, we’re more focused on the clock.

Author’s Note: This is a severely low grade for a Jackson-Tolkien movie. I gave “The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey” a B-minus (two and a half stars) when I reviewed it early last year, and though I saw all three “Lord of the Rings” movies before I started reviewing, they’d all earn at least three stars. With that said, the final chapter in the Middle-earth saga comes out this December.  It’s called “The Hobbit: The Battle of the Five Armies”, and I hope at the very least that it’s more enjoyable than “The Desolation of Smaug”. ✴


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