As any of you who might follow me on Twitter might know based on the three am message, I went to see The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug at midnight. I just couldn’t wait to see it; this is one I’ve been looking forward to for so long. And I’m going to say right now: I adored it.
Now, before I get into this, there might be some mild spoilers, but probably only if you don’t already know the story. Just be forewarned.
Now, I’m not exactly a purist when it comes to the adaptations of Tolkien’s works. Of course I would love a moment by moment, absolutely everything included, nothing left out and nothing added epic, I understand why that’s not what we’re going to get. Adjustments to the story, as long as they don’t change the story, really don’t kill me. That includes some of the adding of small things and side stories taken from either other places or inferred from the mythology that is the world Tolkien created. There isn’t much of it, but what there is, I can handle. Now, to the movie itself.
The movie is, of course, gorgeous. It is, after all, made by the same people that did the Lord of the Rings trilogy and the first Hobbit. I expected to continue to adore the casting, which I did, and even loved it more. Each dwarf shows even more personality in this one, they become more of their own characters instead of all one mass character of “the dwarves”. Martin Freeman is, of course, fantastic as always as Bilbo. Without any actual lines dedicated to it, you can start to see the effects of the ring on him. It’s subtle, but definitely there. Richard Armitage, especially, I feel shines in the role of Thorin. He really does a fabulous job with that character that could, easily, be seen or played as one dimensional and, to be honest, boring. He brings life and depth to the would be king (seriously, what was it with Tolkien and “would be” kings?)
Now, the movie has its scarier moments. There are chases and fights (that, for the actor in me, were AWESOME) of course, and there are some pretty seriously scary moments along the way (especially in the woods) that might be a bit much for younger children, but the moments are done well and they work and are, actually, pretty necessary.
As anyone who knows the book is aware, a good portion of The Hobbit is dedicated to the journey itself, meaning that there are times that those of us who selfishly want to see Smaug might feel it’s taking too long to get there. This is the selfish fangirl in me, I know.
But let me tell you, that wait? Is totally and completely worth it. The first full sight of Smaug, fully up and in all his glory? Absolutely bloody gorgeous. They did an amazingly fantastic job on Smaug and it absolutely lived up to every (extremely high) expectation I had. I. Loved. Him.
There were moments I could see what are probably Benedict Cumberbatch influences on facial expression (did you know that dragons can have facial expressions? They totally can. It’s glorious.) and movements. The way Smaug moves, the way he talks, I don’t think he could be better. They got it right (though, to be honest, I expect that from Peter Jackson. I don’t see him allowing them to destroy something).
The story leaves off in a good place for the conclusion and I was well satisfied by what I saw. I can’t wait til the next one.
There were a few things that bothered me and I think it all boils down to one thing, something that plagues any franchise that attempts this move: The movie is, technically and in all reality, a prequel to the Lord of the Rings series. I know, shocker, right? This story came first, in the same world, with some of the same characters and, therein, lies the problem.
All franchises that attempt prequels run into this problem – where there are characters in the prequel that we know, recognize, and love from the original movies, you really lose any ability to create much suspense with those characters. Why? Because we know, good and well, that they get through this movie just fine, because we’ve seen them before in the other movies, much older, wiser, and living and breathing just fine. So Gandalf? Bilbo? We’re never really worried about their safety, no matter what situation they’re put in, because we know good and well they can’t die.
The movie does a good job at trying to create and maintain some suspense and sense of danger anyway but, somewhere in the back of your head, you know its false, because you know, good and well, that Bilbo will be fine. And nothing’s going to kill Gandalf.
But it doesn’t ruin the movie.
The thing that bothered me that I didn’t like was the inclusion of Legolas. Now, I’ve heard some people say that, while he’s never directly mentioned in the books, he could easily (and likely) have been among the guard, as his father is the King. I get that, and don’t disagree. I don’t dislike the placement of Legolas in the story. I don’t dislike why or how he appears or feel that it was forced. I even understand Peter Jackson’s reasoning for bringing Legolas back instead of bringing in a random other elf we don’t know (if nothing else to tie to the other movies and, also, to give fans, who, as a whole, mostly adored Orlando Bloom’s Legolas, a bone with the character).
I don’t, however, like what they did with him. Beyond the problem we have with there never really being any concern about him, the character itself feels so totally and completely different and wrong, somehow. The character feels like some other character entirely, with a completely different personality and existence, who just happened to have the name “Legolas” slapped on him. He doesn’t act or sound like Legolas, to me, at all, except that he’s amazingly proficient with the bow. But the entire rest of his characterization is nothing at all like the character we know and love. I wish they would have just let the character be another elf we don’t know. It feels more, with his character, like this movie is the sequel, taking place many years after Return of the King, with a much older and wiser Legolas.
Which brings me to my other problem, which some people might jump down my throat for (and I’m prepared for it!). The character of Legolas did not age well. Don’t get me wrong: Orlando Bloom has aged beautifully. He’s still just as gorgeous as he was 15 years ago, if not more so. But it’s been ten years since Return of the King came out, twelve since Fellowship of the Rings came out and probably like thirteen or fourteen since the filming of those movies started. Orlando Bloom is not as young as he was.
And, somehow, it shows through the make-up and character of Legolas. He looks older, not younger, and, to be honest, it’s a bit distracting. The make-up for the elf apparently does not age well at all. I’d have to watch again to see what exactly it is about it that feels so wrong, other than just “it doesn’t look right and looks too old”.
All that being said, I loved the movie. None of the small things that bothered me took away at all from how much I enjoyed the movie. And seeing Smaug, those amazing scenes, are more than worth any irritations from other things.
The movie is fantastic and everyone should go see it.