Once a year or so, I go to the cinema to see a film just to remind myself why I don’t go to cinemas to see films. On this occasion, the pick was the two and a half hour CGI spectacle The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug.
Even before I saw the first part, it was obvious that, in order to make three very long films out of Tolkien’s thin children’s book, certain… liberties would have to be taken with the story. Then I saw the first part, and while I cringed at some of those liberties taken with it, such as the three trolls scene and the spectacular fight in Goblintown (which looked like a Monty Python sketch of the Fellowship’s stay in Moria from the LOTRO film, only stupid). But after seeing that film, I didn’t feel like I had wasted two and a half hours.
The second one, however… I’m not quite sure where to start. The Orcs chasing Thorin? Legolas (whose eyes will apparently change colour some time between the events of The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings) chasing the Orcs? The socio-economic analysis of Laketown? The joining of the elf and the dwarf being added to the two ‘canon’ joinings of the races of elves and men? By the time Bilbo found the keyhole for the secret door into Erebor, I was already bored. But one more thing was to come. After a faithful reproduction of the kids’ story dialogue between Bilbo and Smaug, we were treated to the action sequence of the dwarves running around trying to… Drown in gold? Burn with molten gold? Do something to the dragon with liquid gold, anyway, I don’t think even the writers were sure what.
Has Peter Jackson managed to create the world’s most spectacular and extravagant piece of fan fiction? Yup. And it’s, like most fan fiction, bad. Another thing is also bad: I’ll have to go see the last film when it comes out. At least, the Battle of Five Armies might fill enough space so that no more love triangles need to be added, and that might make the film, well, not worth actively avoiding.
A note on technology here. I saw the film in 4DX. Which means I spent two and a half hours being shaken like a sack of potatoes in a very uncomfortable chair (it would’ve made sense if I was watching something from the first person perspective, but why did I have to feel every branch a dead spider hit on its way down from the top of the tree?) and having water and smells that only vaguely resembled something reminiscent of what the scene I was watching would smell like being sprayed at me through nozzles whose hiss was audible even over the loudest sound effects. The gentle waving of the seats with the movement of the camera and the blowing of the air conditioning in the sweeping open air scenes were nice, but for the next year’s visit to the cinema, 3D is as far as I’ll, technologically, be going.