Entertaining ‘Hobbit’ misses spark of original trilogy

The much-anticipated second installment of Peter Jackson’s “The Hobbit” trilogy, “The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug,” premiered December 13, 2013, roughly a year after its predecessor. The second installment shares many of the same downfalls.

Depending on how much of an impact the previous “Lord of the Rings” trilogy made in your life is going to determine how well you’ll receive the second installation of Peter Jackson’s “The Hobbit” trilogy.

The story continues where the first movie left off, following the Middle-earth group as they attempt to recapture the once great dwarven city of Erebor and take back the dwarven gem the Arkenstone from the fire-breathing dragon Smaug. Thorin Oakenshield, the rightful dwarf king, leads the group.

In “The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey,” the first movie, Thorin enlisted the help of the wizard Gandalf (Sir Ian McKellen), eleven other dwarves, and the much-needed burglar Bilbo Baggins (Martin Freeman).

“Desolation of Smaug” consists of three hours of the group running through Middle-earth slaying spiders, escaping giant wolves and outsmarting elves. While it is all exciting, the whole process is very drawn out; however, there are many highlights.

Seeing as “The Hobbit” was a children’s book, the “Hobbit” trilogy seems to be much more light-hearted than the Lord of the Rings trilogy. An example of this, as well as a highlight from the movie, is when the group narrowly escapes the elves by stuffing themselves into barrels and riding their way down a rapids-filled river all while staving off the group of orcs following them.

It is quite humorous to see the twelve bumbling dwarves fighting their way to freedom all while being jostled around in barrels riding down a river. Now, does this happen in the book? Slightly.

Much of the movie strays from the book and even unnecessarily so. The decision to make Tolkien’s 300 page children’s book into a trilogy is the main reason for this. While it does make sense for Peter Jackson to capitalize on the popularity of LOTR right now, he sacrificed the opportunity to make Tolkien’s “Hobbit” and instead made it into Jackson’s “Hobbit.”

An example of this is that one of the plots in “The Desolation of Smaug” largely revolves around Legolas. While I am not one to complain about copious amounts of Orlando Bloom screentime, Legolas is not mentioned once in Tolkien’s “Hobbit.” The storyline between him and his she-elf counterpart, Tauriel, is completely made up.

Plots like this are necessary, however, for Jackson to make the story of “The Hobbit” into three three-hour movies. There is simply not enough material in Tolkien’s “The Hobbit” to create three, or even two, original movies.

Much of Jackson’s additions were bearable, but some were so far-fetched to a point that it made me angry. I’m not trying to point fingers or call anyone a sell-out but when Jackson decides to add a “will they/won’t they” relationship between Tauriel and one of the twelve dwarves, which I am sure will be more developed in the third movie, it crosses the line of straying too far from the story.

Another point of contention is the extreme overuse of CGI effects and the extreme lack of original makeup and prosthetics. The reason why the LOTR trilogy was so captivating was because Peter Jackson made the decision to go all out and make everything look as realistic as possible–three years were spent making chainmail just for the trilogy.

There isn’t the same sense of dedication to the trilogy in “The Hobbit.” Many of the orcs are CGI’d and the main orc, Azog, looks completely out of place. There is a big difference looking between the main orc in the Lord of the Rings trilogy who was an actual actor to whom they applied extensive prosthetics and makeup, and the completely computer animated Azog of “The Hobbit.” It doesn’t give the movies the same feel.

However, props must be given for the computer animation of Smaug the dragon. A very extensive portion of the movie involves Bilbo and the dwarves in Smaug’s lair running through treasure-filled halls. The animation of this sequence really is spectacular. Smaug, voiced by Benedict Cumberbatch, is definitely one of the highlights of the movie.

The cast of actors was remarkable as usual, including returning original Lord of the Rings actors such as Sir Ian McKellen and Orlando Bloom. Martin Freeman plays a remarkable Bilbo and while it is hard to keep the twelve dwarves distinctly separate in your mind, they all play their roles well.

Overall, “The Desolation of Smaug” was a captivating and entertaining movie but for those die-hard LOTR fans it will come as quite a disappointment.

This article draws information from the Huffington Post.