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A Rough Sequel
on April 9, 2016
The second movie in the Hobbit series is quite a bit darker than the first one (which was very much darker than the book that Tolkien wrote). For me, it was a rough go watching it.
The movie begins with the group running from orcs and continues to follow them through Mirkwood and ends soon after Bilbo and the dwarves reach the Lonely Mountain. Along the way there is fairly non-stop mayhem, with a fair chunk of Azog's army being decapitated, speared through, or simply shot through in unusual ways. As usual, Peter Jackson's vision of locations in Middle Earth is pretty amazing and in places breath taking.
Unfortunately, very little actually happens in this movie. We are introduced to a few new characters - Beorn, Bard, Smaug, and Tauriel. A romance is kindled between a dwarf (Fili) and an Elf (Tauriel) which seems amazingly far fetched. As for plot otherwise, it is pretty thin -- mostly about how the company gets from here to there, while pursued by orcs.
I am disappointed in a few different things. First of all, I am very tired of the extended, video-game like montages of dwarves/elves killing orcs. The only reason to fear orcs, is that there are as many of them as Legolas has arrows. Other than Azog, they seem amazingly easy to kill and are really weak as antagonists. More than anything though, I would really like to have more plot and less action. It is hard to get to know characters when all they are doing is running from or killing orcs. Even the extended interaction with Smaug eventually feels silly. Many of the action sequences are very video-game like and do nothing for me.
The second thing that disappoints, is the high level of darkness that has crept into the franchise. I suppose that this sequel is to serve a sort "Empire Strikes Back" purpose before the launch of the final film, but the constant dark feeling -- basically without relenting -- is upsetting. Understanding Peter Jackson's desire to flesh out the back story, the addition of the battle between Gandalf and Sauron only serves to deepen the black mood which seems to underpin this movie. This movie has a darkness which is greater than anything I remember from the LOTR trilogy.
There is an amazing amount of time compression that goes on here. While I understand that this is to give urgency to the actions of the characters, it also makes it feel as though most of their actions are completely unplanned and random. For example, the dwarves are captured and almost immediately Bolg plans an attack on the halls of the wood elves and Bilbo rescues the dwarves. The dwarves arrive in Esgaroth and have to be at the Mountain within two days.
A final thing is that there is little done with character development. That is to say, most characters are fleshed out primarily with regard to their style with which they kill orcs. It is sad, but other than size and appearance, I have a hard time telling any of the dwarves from each other (except for Thorin and Balin).
There were a few things I really liked about the movie. Bard seemed to be an interesting character, with excellent acting by Luke Evans. He is one of the places where you actually feel like you do get to see a real person -- probably because he doesn't have to waste his time killing orcs and can spend time interacting with his kids and the dwarves. Smaug is the other excellent creation. He really does come alive in a real way and he is a far more worthwhile villain than Azog.
In the end, there never was enough material in the Hobbit for three movies. Maybe Peter Jackson just loves this world so much that he decided to make The Hobbit into three movies, but one has to think that money played a part as well. I still think the main themes of the book The Hobbit is missing here -- that small people can do great things, if they have a little luck and a lot of courage and that the most important things in life are not found in wealth, but in things that money can't buy.
Be that as it may, two hours of action set pieces and forty minutes of acting doesn't make for an interesting movie. I may watch it again, because I love Middle Earth, but I can't say that I was very impressed by it.