Sunday, December 22, 2013

In which there are far too many orcs...

I went to see the Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug today. Why? Why do I do this to myself? When the first movie (of a trilogy!?) was one of the most boring movies I've ever sat through at the movie theatre. Well, the reviews I saw claimed that this movie was an improvement over part one. And so it was. But was it an improvement over the 1977 cartoon? That 77 minute rush-through-the-story-as-best-we-can-with-cheesy-songs? I mean, it's 2013. This is an epic Big Movie with a Big Budget and Modern Effects and Stars and New Zealand and other Cool Stuff. Surely this could be awesome...

...

No.

No no no no no.

WTF is wrong with these people!?

Is it that they have no sense of restraint?

Is it now a contractual obligation that they have an extended amusement-park-ride-battle-through-vast-underground-complexes in every single movie? Did the union of orc actors make demands for a certain percentage of screen time? (Plus, the orcs didn't even sing in this movie. Bah, humbug! The orcs always had the best musical numbers in the cartoon versions.) Did they really have to drain every last ounce of charm and whimsy out of what was originally a children's book? One of the things I was looking forward to in this movie was Beorn. A pity they turned him into an overlong CGI fest.

"A little bit goes a long way." I wish they understood that better. The CGI effects look worse the longer they're shoved up in our faces. Something that should be awesome and exciting just gets... dull, from over-exposure. This is also true of the action sequences.

The underground scenes seem even more overlit than ever. The bit with Bilbo sneaking (and why was he so noisy in this movie? I thought hobbits were supposed to be soft-footed little critters) would have been much creepier and scarier if it had actually been dark. Darkness is DARK! This wasn't.

What's the deal with the wizards-vs-Dol Goldur plotline? That pretty much went nowhere this movie. I don't object to them including it (in a... 9 hour saga!?) to fill out the trilogy (since they insist on it being a trilogy), but it just didn't do anything here. Pointless.

It's a pity we've lost the hobbit's eye perspective. The movie is still called "The Hobbit", isn't it? Not "The Kickass Ninja Elves" or "Orcs!" or "The Wizards' Holiday" or "Social Unrest and Revolution in Laketown".

Really, there were things I liked about this movie:

Thorin sending Bilbo in to get the Arkenstone, in order for Thorin to be able to use it to prove his legitimacy as ruler of the dwarves, and then using that to raise an army to defeat Smaug, made sense. More sense than what seemed to happen in the book. (Did they expect Bilbo to extract the hoard one handful at a time? What were they going to do about the dragon?) And the dwarves in the movie did come up with ideas to kill the dragon. Sure, it didn't work, but they did try. I just wish they had not gone so overboard with the underground chase sequences. They should all have been dead a dozen times over. It was more cartoonish than the cartoon! It had the perverse effect of making it all seem LESS threatening to the characters. They might as well have been bouncing around in a pinball machine.

They made a credible attempt with the various languages! Nice touch. (But their accents were all over the place when speaking English. What is the deal with that? They had that problem in the cartoons, too.)

Laketown looked cool. I liked Bard. I don't think the orc attack on Laketown was necessary, but otherwise I liked that bit of the movie.

Not too many horrible changes to the central characters. (Better than the first movie in that respect.) You could quibble about Thorin and Bilbo at Erebor, but eh. Or maybe I'm just numb. The worst moment was when all the dwarves just gave up and started going home, as far as I could tell. Also, they added that whole Kili elf-loving thing. Shades of Gimli. Whatever! I keep seeing the actor as the vampire from Being Human, so it all just made me laugh. Kili never had any characterization in the book, anyhow. (All I remember is him being one of the "young dwarves".)

So yeah. Just when I think I'm over the whole Tolkien-fanatic thing, some movie comes out and I can't help going off to see it... even if it's just to complain about it. Ha ha ha!

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