Um… wasn’t there supposed to be a hobbit in this movie, or something? Apart from his conversation with Smaug (which was definitely the highpoint of the film), I can’t even remember our pint-sized protagonist Bilbo Baggins appearing in that much of the film. I suppose I caught glimpses of him in the background, but there was certainly no attempt to develop him as a character, or look at the way he was being shaped or effected by this journey.
I mean, the charm of the original novel came from experiencing the dangers and wonders of this world from the sheltered perspective of a timid (but curious) hobbit. Unfortunately, director Peter Jackson (who delivered us the amazing Lord of the Rings trilogy) seems far more interested in tracing the convoluted politics of Dale and the Woodland Realm; or Thorin’s family legacy; or Gandalf’s investigation of Dol Guldur (which admittedly, could have been pretty awesome, if it weren’t so poorly handled).
The film is so obsessed with wringing out every morsel of world-building from the fringes of its source material, that it’s central narrative (Bilbo’s journey) has lost all focus or momentum. Jackson (or New Line) keeps trying to turn this into Lord of the Rings, but it’s not. It’s The Hobbit. It’s not about Sauron’s return to power, or Thorin reclaiming his throne, or Legolas and Gili’s love-life. Yes, those things might exist in some appendix somewhere, but this story is meant to be about a hobbit named Bilbo. Also, CGI orcs suck.
I’m sorry if I’m coming off as overly mean, because I know how it feels when people run down films I like. I actually didn’t mind the first Hobbit movie (despite it’s meandering first act), and there was definitely some enjoyable stuff in this film. The design and voice of Smaug was fantastically menacing. And the whole barrel sequence was very fun and inventive. I think most of my criticisms stem simply from the fact that they chose to make 3 films where 1 would have served. Perhaps some day, a few years from now, a savvy editor will shave the entire trilogy down into a lean, fast-paced 3-hour cut.
P.S. They shoulda called it The Procrastination of Smaug 😛 (sorry, I’m going now)