So.....I did not like this movie. There. I said it. Now I'm going to try to illustrate why I don't like this movie. Well....first, let me talk about what I liked. First of all, Smaug. He was amazing. Yes I have a thing for Benedict Cumberbatch, voice of Smaug. He did the facial animation as well. They did a phenomenal job here, like they did with Gollum in the first one, giving Smaug some great lines and making him truly terrifying. Best dragon in a movie ever? Well seeing as they make him terrifying and gave him a voice and personality, he doesn't have much to compete against. Toothless might have something to say there but whatever. It's not important. Another thing I liked was the cinematography. As always, Peter Jackson and Andrew Lesnie do a phenomenal job filming these fight scenes and capturing the beauty of New Zeala-I MEAN Middle Earth. There's a great singe one-shot while our party is being chased by orcs, on a river, and in barrels with Legolas and Tauriel (played by Evangeline Lilly....we'll get to her in a bit) jumping all around them and on them as they take down hordes of orcs. It's a 45-second or minute long one-shot that was definitely the coolest point of the movie. It most certainly took my breath away.
The problem with what I just mentioned was that it was a minute. Out of a COMPLETELY UNNECESSARY 161 minute film. Ya we are to the negatives now. So this whole series is a cash-grab. We know this right? I mean they are taking a 300-page book and turning it into 8-9 hours of cinema. And three movies. So are we just ok with the fact that it's a cash-grab? With An Unexpected Journey I was at least glad to be back in Middle Earth. Plus I liked the initial exchange between Bilbo and Frodo. And the exchange between Bilbo and Gollum talking in riddles was really cool as well. Something the first one had that this one is sorely lacking is that while it was clear that they were adding a lot to the initial story, which is Bilbo and the party heading to The Lonely Mountain to reclaim the dwarven kingdom that was once there, it never felt convoluted and bogged down. Yes it was slow but it never really felt all that unnecessary. In this one, you probably could've cut about 90-120 minutes of it and not lost anything in terms of the initial story. What does this mean? This movie is way too big for its own good. See Jackson at least recognizes that these are cash-grabs, so he's making these movies too big as opposed to too small. I'll give him that. But there are three full story lines in this one guys. And two of them are unnecessary. 100% unnecessary. Gandalf discovering that Sauron is a thing (which doesn't make much sense anyway because at the start of Fellowship he is dumbfounded by the ring and where it came from) and the whole Legolas-Tauriel-Kili love triangle are just completely unnecessary. I didn't care. I know Sauron is a thing from LOTR, so SPOILER! SAURON EXISTS! and Tauriel isn't even a real character in the J.R.R Tolkien universe! Oh let's talk about her. Yes she brings some emotion to the elves, and feelings and all, but she had WAY too big of an impact on the overall story. And I love me some Evangeline Lilly. She's a great actress. But this character did nothing to me but harm the story. Even if it's just the J.R.R. Tolkien extra-material stuff, SHE'S NOT A REAL CHARACTER IN THE UNIVERSE! She can be a badass and get Legolas to have some feelings, but that's it in my opinion.
I am definitely sounding like a Tolkien purist right now. And you know what? I'm ok with this. I read The Hobbit back in the day. I have been unable to read the LOTR books, but I do watch the extended editions of the movies every six months or so and love every second of it. Oh and Return of the King is my single favorite movie of all time. Yep. My number 1 favorite movie period. So I go into these Hobbit movies wanting and trying so hard to love them, but they are just so unnecessary! Like I could get maybe two movies here. Heck, I might even be ok with that! But three? No. NO! It's just too much extra and unnecessary content. Oh, and THEN there's the fucking ending! I HATED THE ENDING. I won't spoil, but think back to all of the endings of the previous four movies. Sure three of them leave the story unresolved, but have any of them left the story with an actual cliffhanger? No? NO THEY HAVE NOT. Really Peter? You're really gonna leave us with a cliffhanger? What a cheap trick to try to fill the seats and make as much money as possible for the finale. Wow.
In short, if you love LOTR, you will not enjoy this. If you don't, I'm not gonna recommend it either. I'm telling you guys, stay away. Hopefully the third one will be the best like Return of the King was, but this is without a doubt my biggest disappointment of this year. (Mark my words guys, it'll be number one when I draw up that list)
The Critique: over-long and unenjoyable, this cash-grab definitely has some great action scenes and interlude with Smaug, but about 100 minutes of unnecessary content keep this movie from being....well....enjoyable.
The Recommendation: the worst part about this cash-grab is that there's nothing that we can do. We are all going to see it. And it's going to make shit-tons of money, but I will say AVOID LIKE THE PLAGUE
The Verdict: 4/10 Below Average
Oscar Talk: Cinematography. I wanna put Martin Freeman up there for best actor, but the actual hobbit gets so much less screen time this time around, I would be shocked to see him get nominated.