by Christian Ohnimus Wednesday, February 26
I’m not exactly what you would call a fan of The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug. While the movie is a technological marvel, bringing to life the scenes of my favorite children’s story in unprecedented CGI glory, I found it wanting. In fact, I was nearly as disappointed with the second Hobbit film as I was with The Last Airbender in 2010, a movie so terrible that even the stones cry out against it.
The second Hobbit movie departs drastically from the book upon which it is based. Such liberties could be justified except that they made the story worse, not better. As a result, the movie fails even to stand on its own even when not compared to Tolkien’s original fairy tale. Despite big names, big money, and big special effects the movie was just . . . bad. I won’t bother analyzing every scene but for a more in-depth look at the sheer stupidity plaguing this movie, John C. Wright offers a more thorough and comedic review (though still far from comprehensive, trust me).
Perhaps The Hobbit’s greatest failure was its disregard for the characters whom the movie was supposedly about. Instead, this movie was not about the characters involved but about cool action scenes and pretty CGI light shows. The characters were filler. This was made very clear by the fact that the characters did not behave like unique individuals with personal motivations, weaknesses, histories, or personalities. Instead their actions were erratic, nonsensical and sometimes even blatantly undermining of their own goals. These actions were meant to advance the plot. Instead of using the challenges presented in the story to develop the characters, the characters were used to develop outlandishly over the top action scenes.
Almost any character from the book (and many not from the book) can be used as an example. The elf king Thranduil kills a cooperative hostage after promising him freedom. Gandalf the wise mentor enters Dol Guldur, alone, despite knowing beforehand that its a trap. Thorin gives up on his quest moments after sunset despite having spent his entire life trying to reach this point. The dragon Smaug , despite being able to massacre an entire dwarf army with tremendous ease, fails to harm even a single dwarf in a lengthy chase through the mountain; then, after he has been sufficiently harassed he learns an important lesson about sharing and decides to spare the burglar and his entourage.
And then there’s Legolas. I couldn’t help but feel especially disappointed in his character because, unlike the dwarves, Bilbo, or even Gandalf himself, Legolas is depicted as a superhero who fails at nothing. The dwarves get the crap beaten out of them, Bilbo is scared as heck and Gandalf gets overpowered by the Necromancer. Legolas, however, is of such impossible skill and precision as to put his future Lord of the Rings self to shame. Maybe the immortal elf just lost his edge in his old age.
Legolas sees a lot of action, sniping orcs with machine gun speeds while simultaneously doing gymnastics on dwarves’ heads as they careen down white rapids. I am not embellishing. In fact, if you’ve seen the movie then you know that, if anything, I understate the scene in question. There is no doubt about it, Legolas is a badass.
Which only serves to make his actions later on all the more baffling. In Laketown, Legolas and Kate from Lost save Kili, Fili, and Bofur from assassin orcs after they had been left behind by Thorin (don’t ask). After an intense close combat scene between Legolas and Bolg, the orc lieutenant, Bolg flees. The only escape route is a long, exposed boardwalk over the lake to the shore. Legolas, the legendary elvish archer, measures the shot and, with the precision of a sniper, shoots him down with ease. Just kidding, he does nothing. After previously establishing that Legolas is Hawkeye except awesome, we now learn that apparently the reason Legolas never misses is because he never takes a shot he thinks he might not make. The sad truth is that Jackson’s Legolas is a sissy. He doesn’t even try to shoot his new orc nemesis despite already establishing himself earlier in the film as an archery god. He would rather give up than try and fail. Which is unfortunate because characters who don’t fail are boring – but characters who possess superpowers and don’t use them because the prospect of failure makes them pee their pants are downright pathetic.
Of course, no review of The Desolation of Smaug would be complete without mentioning my wife’s favorite scene in which Thorin body surfs a molten river of gold in a wheelbarrow. He is not incinerated by flash burns from the molten metal, his cart does not sink, melt or even get uncomfortably warm and he doesn’t even seem to break a sweat. I take no issue with suspension of belief but some things are too much to bear. The Desolation of Smaug offers slop dressed with expensive eye candy when I would have settled for meat and potatoes. Now excuse me while I go re-watch The Hobbit, and I mean the good one.
Christian Ohnimus is a husband and registered nurse in Grand Rapids, Michigan. He holds a Bachelors of Science in Nursing from Franciscan University. He hopes to raise a holy family with the help of his better and more beautiful other half.