Thursday, 9 January 2014

The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug Review

After a brief scene where Gandalf is seen meeting Thorin, The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug ‘continues’ as the company of Dwarves, Hobbit and Gandalf continue to try and evade Azog and make there way to the Lonely Mountain. The first Hobbit film (An Unexpected Journey) had numerous issues, many of which this film also carries. The little doubt I had after viewing An Unexpected Journey that their was simply not enough material to create a three part film series on The Hobbit has completely evaporated as it has become abundantly clear that their simply isn't enough material.

The first most obvious issue is exhibits itself at the start of the film with the Dwarves, Hobbit and Gandalf continuing to try and evade Azog, which seemingly ignores the ending of An Unexpected Journey. At the end of An Unexpected Journey the Dwarves, Hobbit and Gandalf where saved from Azog by Gwaihir (essentially very large Eagles) and flown what seemed to be quite some distance away from Azog. Yet at the beginning of The Desolation of Smaug, Azog is seen to close to the point that they are hiding in sight from him. They also seemed to be rather close to the Lonely Mountain yet somehow seemed to have moved further away from the mountain in the Desolation of Smaug. This last point is admittedly nitpicking at best, but as the film as a whole is once again unnecessarily bloated it remains noteworthy and the apparent changed distance from the Lonely Mountain does underline one of the major flaws present and that is the film. The Desolation of Smaug is simply far to bloated and far to little seems to be happening in far to long of a time. Their are far to many scenes and characters that are not only unnecessary but slow the film down to the point that I struggle to think of a film that had as much action as this film, yet manages to be as slowly paced. The action itself is admittedly mostly well staged but there is simply far too much action present and as a result that action scenes like the film as a whole begin to drag on.

More problematic then the bloated nature of The Desolation of Smaug is the lack of any sense of danger for the main characters. The Dwarves and company are put into numerous situations that should elicit a sense of danger. But as they are continuously unscathed as they are thrown around, poisoned and even essentially surf melted gold with nothing more then a wheelbarrow it is hard to care for anything that is happening on screen as their is nothing at stake. This further makes the already overwhelming amount of action to not only drag on, but to be a chore to sit through. The one exception to this is the introduction of Smaug which is simply superb. Although much like the rest of the film the scenes with Smaug soon begin to drag on as Smaug fails to hunt down the Dwarves and Hobbit for what was far to long of a time.

Characterisation is also almost completely absent from The Desolation of Smaug, and much like how the start of The Desolation of Smaug seemingly ignores the ending of the first Hobbit film it also ignores the little character development that was present in An Unexpected Journey. This is most notable for Thorin in An Unexpected Journey and how his views on Bilbo had changed. Such issues combined with the amount of unnecessary scenes and bloated run time only further solidify that The Hobbit should never have been made into a three part film.

The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug is an overly bloated film full of far too much action and far too little characterisation. This along with a lack of any sense of danger results in a film that is uninteresting to watch that does not come recommended.

Note: Whilst more a comment on the technical side I fell compelled to mention the films use of HFR. This is especially the case as The Desolation of Smaug and An Unexpected Journey are the only films with a wide release to be shoot and be viewable in such a way. HFR simply stands for high frame rate and as was the case with An Unexpected Journey, The Desolation of Smaug has been filmed in HFR at 48fps as apposed to the usual 24fps (meaning the number of images a displayed every second is doubled when compared to more or less every other film that has ever been release [there are some exceptions of course, most notably with older silent films before 24fps became the used ‘standard’]). I simply cannot say enough good things about the use of HFR, it provides for a very surreal presentation with everything appearing extremely smooth and lifelike. Likewise the use of 3d especially when combined with the films use of HFR is equally impressive and well worth the extra cost of admission for those who simply must see this film. The only down side to HFR is it can make the at times less then stellar production values extremely evident. This is of particular note as The Desolation of Smaug is extremely inconsistent with it use of cgi. Most scene do look spectacular but on occasion the use of cgi is overly evident and looks more like what one may expect from a film released well over a decade ago.

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