I’m not a J.R.R. Tolkien fan, and after the epically too-long nothing-fest that was The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey, I wasn’t looking forward to Desolation of Smaug either. In fact, I was all geared up to see Saving Mr. Banks this week until I found out we weren’t going to get it here. So here I am, talking about the second of three movies that should have been one.
A raiding party of dwarves travel to a deserted mountain kingdom to steal a special gem from the dragon who displaced them many years ago.
The most I was really hoping for from Desolation of Smaug was that it be bearable. And it looked like it was going to be – in the beginning it was fun and lively and interesting. But then it went on and on and on and on and on and finally ended with no payoff for any of the plots they were developing, so in the end I wasn’t impressed.
I went to see it with my brother, who hadn’t seen the first one, which was fine, because nothing happened in it anyway. If you also haven’t seen it, let me recap. Wizard Gandalf (Ian McKellen) came to see hobbit Bilbo (Martin Freeman) to invite him to go on a quest to help 13 dwarves led by Thorin (Richard Armitage) take their mountain kingdom back from a dragon. They walked a lot, got attacked by some things, Bilbo found a ring that turns him invisible, and in the end they barely got within sight of the mountain. And now you’re all caught up.
On a related note, who sits on the Middle Earth bridge-building committee
and what do they have against railings?
In this movie, we start with Bilbo, Gandalf, and the interchangeable dwarves being hunted by some ugly things. They escape the ugly things by hiding in the home of Beorn, a man who turns into a bear (Mikael Persbrandt). The bear man doesn’t really like dwarves, but it doesn’t matter because soon they’re off again into a dark forest filled with gross giant spiders and xenophobic elves.
Gandalf, of course, doesn’t go with them, because with his magic and giant flying eagles, he’d make things way too easy. So the filmmakers send Gandalf off on a totally unnecessary and irrelevant side quest with Radagast (Sylvester McCoy), the poo-haired wizard from the last movie. They investigate the rise of a mysteriously evil being whose identity will be painfully obvious to anyone who’s even heard of The Lord of the Rings.
Voldemort, my old nemesis!
Bilbo and the dwarves are saved from the giant spiders by the xenophobic elves, one of whom is Legolas (Orlando Bloom) from The Lord of the Rings. The dwarves are promptly thrown in jail by Legolas’ douchebag daddy King Thranduil (Lee Pace). In jail, the filmmakers decide to make one of the dwarves not as interchangeable anymore. Kili (Aidan Turner) falls for Legolas’ not-girlfriend Tauriel (Evangeline Lilly), which begins what is possibly the only subplot in the movie that held any interest for me.
LEGOLAS: So you’re hot for a dwarf? How do you even tell them apart?
Their escape from the elves is my favorite part of the movie. Instead of running/walking/hiking like usual, they stuff themselves in barrels and float down the river while being chased by both elves and the ugly things (orcs?) in a totally awesome dwarf teamwork axe-tossing sequence which also involves Legolas bouncing down the river using dwarf heads as stepping stones.
KILI: Hey hot elf lady, you can step on MY head anytime!
The hilarious barrel thing lasts until their new friend Bard (Luke Evans) sneaks them into his neato-river town, which is just a stone’s throw away from the destination mountain. While the dwarves argue with the townspeople over whether it’s a good idea to go up there and wake the dragon, there’s another irrelevant payoff-less subplot involving Bard’s family and a big spear.
BARD: Quick son! Take this pointy thing to the top of the big tower!
BARD: Because I said so, dammit!
At this point the movie is feeling like it’s been going on long enough, but it’s far from done. We’ve still got to get the dwarves up the mountain so they can get in there and steal the stone, or rather, so Bilbo can. In fact, Bilbo seems to be the only one who does anything, which makes me wonder what all the dwarves are even there for. They can’t even find the damn keyhole on their own back door! To be fair, though, who designs a back door that can only be opened once a year?
Damn, we locked ourselves out! Better go wait by the back door for six months.
Once they’re in the mountain it’s time to wake Smaug the dragon (Benedict Cumberbatch) and tangle with him, in a sequence that is way way way too long. Seriously, it feels like it goes on forever. And at one point, when the dwarves were pulling chains, Thorin was testing the melting point of wheelbarrow, and Bilbo was running for the world’s least accessible lever, I thought: this seems like a level from one of those LEGO games.
On the other hand, LEGO Smaug would be pretty cool.
And then, finally, finally, it’s over, with no payoff on any of the plots, meaning that none of what they set out to do in this movie actually gets done – even those things that could safely be subsidiary goals and still leave the dragon defeating for the last movie.
What do you mean, we don’t get ANY of the things we want?
I should have been expecting it to be too long, too padded, too irrelevant, and to have no payoff – it’s what they did in the first one – but it still pissed me off. Fans will love it of course, because it takes lots of detours to show off Middle Earthly things that are not even relevant to the plot, but normal non-fans should probably skip it. I almost wish I had.