The Hobbit: The Desolation of My Patience
December 23, 2013
The short review: Oh, dear. On the other hand, I would like to nominate Lee Pace for the part of Elric of Melnibone.
The longer review: (SPOILERS AHOY, BUT YOU KNEW THAT, DIDN’T YOU?)
The bloat from the first Hobbit movie came from other bits of Tolkien. It felt like other bits of Tolkien, so I was willing to go with it and quite enjoyed a bunch of it. The bloat in this one was pointless. The one that really pushed me around the corner into aggravation rather than just annoyance: My favorite, favorite bit of the film was Bilbo creeping into the treasure horde and talking to Smaug. This is one of the most celebrated scenes in all of fantasy literature, and I was enthralled. The massiveness of the treasure horde, the moment when the coins cascade down to reveal the great scaled eye, the glimpse of coins shifting all the way on the other side of the room because as huge as that room is, Smaug fills it. It was wonderful!
And then we cut away to some bullshit subplot about politics in Laketown and the sequence my friends have taken to calling Elf Hospital. The best part of the movie, and the pacing and atmosphere were chopped into pieces for no good reason at all.
And that’s not even the worst of it, because we all know what happens next, because like I said, this is one of the most iconic scenes in all of fantasy literature: Bilbo steals a bit of the horde, Smaug — even surrounded by all that gold — senses the theft, and in a fit of rage bursts from the mountain, attacks Laketown, and is killed by Bard’s perfectly place arrow. So there I am, waiting for Smaug to finally burst out of the mountain in a fit of rage. And it doesn’t happen, because instead we get forty minutes of the Dwarves playing Mazes and Monsters and rigging up some ridiculous Rube Goldberg scheme to kill Smaug — which we absolutely know isn’t going to work because Bard kills Smaug with an arrow, which we know is going to happen because they so carefully set that up back in Laketown. That whole forty minutes might be clever and technically interesting, but the entire time I know it isn’t going to work. In terms of building suspense, it fails, and is pointless.
Two more things: 1) So that bit when Bard and his son take the spear and run off, and Bard says, “You distract them and I’ll go load the ballista,” and then they don’t actually split up and a minute later Bard says, “You take the spear and guard it with your life, and I’m going to go get myself arrested so we can have another contrived obstacle that will hopefully force the audience to feel some kind of tension?” That right there is what we call bad writing.
2) Sometimes a token female character is worse than no female character at all. I have a prediction: Tauriel will die, probably saving Kili, and Legolas will blame all Dwarves forever, which explains why he’s so mean to Gimli in Lord of the Rings, because apparently “Elves and Dwarves don’t get along” wasn’t a good enough reason. I sure hope I’m wrong about that. (Wait a sec — is Kili one of the ones who dies in the Battle of the Five Armies? Wiki says yes. I got nuthin’.)
There’s a reason I’m only talking about the last hour or so of the film: I don’t remember enough of the first two hours to talk about them. Oh, the herd of pinto draft horses was really pretty.
As frustrated as I am with this movie, I’m going to go see the third one when it comes out. It feels like a pilgrimage where the path is wide and easy, so there’s no real danger in continuing on. But there’s a cold drizzle raining the entire way that is sucking all the joy out of the experience.