Ah, The Hobbit – the Desolation of Smaug: a timeless love story of an Elf Prince chafing under his father’s autocratic rule, who secretly loves a beautiful soldier under his command, and the tension that arises when a roguish dwarf suddenly appears in their threatens to steal her affections. In particular, I appreciated the thoughtful way director Peter Jackson has lovingly and faithfully recreated the most beloved moments from J.R.R. Tolkien’s classic work of literature, such as the one when Elven beauty Tauriel heals the Dwarf Kili of the Orc poison coursing through his veins….
All right, obviously I’m being facetious. Tolkien purists will have a lot to complain about from this movie. Fortunately for my enjoyment, I’m not one of them (having never even read The Lord of the Rings!) But I even know there weren’t any scenes in The Hobbit in which Legolas rode astride two barrels flowing down a river while fighting Orcs. But from a pure action film point of view, I guess I didn’t mind that. The presence of the pursuing Orcs all the way through the Hobbit films series means that we get a lot more action scenes than the book would have presented otherwise, which are generally a fair amount of fun.
But at the same time it does get a little tedious. My thought is that it may be fine to stretch out The Hobbit over three films, but maybe they didn’t need to make each film so long. So there are extended scenes of the Orcs chasing the Dwarves on the road, then another extended scene of them attacking the Wood Elves, and then yet another extended scene of them attacking Lake-Town. In most of these scenes, there is lots of business of Legolas and original creation Tauriel fighting the Orcs like they are…uh, well, like nothing I can think of. Because I have never seen anyone fight hand to hand in a movie like Legolas and Tauriel. They display such blazing skill and wacky agility that these two should be the new standard for comparison for any future cinematic hand-to-hand combatants.
The movie is jam packed with a nerdjoy-inducing cast: Martin Freeman (Sherlock) as Bilbo. Benedict Cumberbatch (also Sherlock, as well as Star Trek Into Darkness). Evangeline Lilly (Lost) as Tauriel. Stephen Fry (Black-Adder, and so much more) as the obstinate master of Lake-Town. Sylvester McCoy (Doctor Who) as Radagast. James Nesbitt (Jekyll) as Bofur. And of course, Orlando Bloom (The Pirates of the Caribbean) returning as Legolas, and Sir Ian McKellan (Magneto from The X-Men) once again playing Gandalf.
In spite of its overlength, absurd liberties, and over-the-top stunts (not quite Shia LaBeouf swinging along with the monkeys, but getting there), I did enjoy this installment of The Hobbit, just a fun fantasy adventure movie. The effects are all typically great, the giant spiders are predictably horrifying, and Smaug the dragon is a sight to behold. His knock-down drag-out battle with the dwarves, who attempt to kill him using molten gold, is a fitting climax to the film. Although, Smaug does seem to be pretty incompetent at dragon-ing, as he can’t even successfully squish even one of those pesky dwarves who keep running around.
And then there’s that most memorable of bits, the one out of all of them that prompted my wife to turn to me to ask the question mentioned in the post title, when Tauriel and the good people of Lake-Town care for the dying Kili by lying him on a table with a pillow made of walnuts. Because, presumably, things are really bad in Lake-Town.
I guess they are about to get a lot worse when the next film comes out.