I don’t often write movie reviews or comment on a lot of pop culture topics, but the latest installment of The Hobbit was so annoying and awful that I wanted to say a few things about it. I saw the movie after having already read several very negative reviews, but I tried to convince myself that it couldn’t possibly be as bad as the critics kept saying. In fact, the critics erred on the side of being too generous. The Desolation of Smaug is even worse than they let on. For those that want to see the movie for themselves, you should stop here, but I wouldn’t recommend it. Spoilers follow.
It is well-known that Peter Jackson has added a large amount of material to the story of The Hobbit in his quest to expand a short adventure story into a bloated would-be epic, but it is hard to appreciate just how silly and unnecessary these additions are until you see them. Thus we are treated to quite a few characters that never appear in the book, plotlines that have no relevance to the main story, villains that serve no purpose except to remind us of The Lord of the Rings, one pointless love story that functions at most as a lazy plot device, needless rewriting and mangling of key scenes, and frequent additions of battles that exist solely to fill up time in a movie that should never have been made. It is not completely ridiculous that Jackson adds in a few major elf characters, since wood elves do play a part in the original story, but the creation of an entire subplot around a love triangle involving Legolas, a made-up female elf character, and one of the dwarves is really inexcusable and painful to watch.
The weakness of Desolation of Smaug is underscored by the repeated and increasingly heavy-handed attempts by the director to make the audience recall similar scenes from the original LOTR movie trilogy. The most blatant and boring of these was to have Tauriel (Evangeline Lilly) play the part of the magical elven healer just as Arwen did in the movie version of Fellowship. These scenes usually exist solely to justify the added subplots that do nothing to advance the story, and they exist for no other reason than to extend the running time to a tedious 161 minutes. The various additions require so much screen time that it practically consumes the second half of the film, and when Jackson does get around to telling the original story he still somehow manages to wreck it. The movie contrives several confrontations between the dwarves and Smaug at the end that were never part of the original story. These add absolutely nothing except to give Richard Armitage, who plays Thorin, more opportunities to look grim and determined. Benedict Cumberbatch provides the voice of Smaug, and he delivers his lines very well, but like the rest of the cast he is not able to rescue the film with a solid performance. Perhaps if Jackson had settled for making just two Hobbit movies, he might have been able to pull it off without too much abuse, but as it is the second installment in this trilogy is a mockery of Tolkien’s story and insult to the audience.