Firebreathing drags on

“So nice of Scrooge McDuck to let me swim in his pool!”

“So nice of Scrooge McDuck to let me swim in his pool!”

Rated 1.0

This is a review of the High Frame Rate version ofThe Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug. Perhaps my review would’ve been less harsh had I watched it in 2-D, but no such luck. I plunked down the big bucks for HFR, and, man, do I hate technology sometimes.

Many more theaters are offering HFR this time around—only a small percentage had the technology for The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journeyso many of us now have the opportunity to see just how bad this looks with hobbits.

I am sure there are films in the future that will be a proper fit for the High Frame Rate presentation. Films that are primarily set outside, boast a leisurely pace, and not too much makeup, for instance.

As for Peter Jackson’s decision to shoot his latest Tolkien trilogy in High Frame Rate 3-D, it’s a tragic, disastrous choice. The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug, like its predecessor, An Unexpected Journey, is a task to watch. The look of the movie simply doesn’t jibe with the technology, resulting in a visual nightmare.

If The Hobbit were, say, a soap opera or reality show, this High Frame Rate thing might’ve worked. As it stands, it makes the movie unwatchable, even after your eyes “adjust” to the stunt. The whole thing looks like it is being presented on a TV that is overdoing it.

As a middle chapter in The Hobbit saga, The Desolation of Smaug is guilty of the same flaws that marred the first film. It’s overstuffed, the dwarves are severely uninteresting, and the action scenes lack any kind of urgency. It’s just a big, boring stunt film with people looking silly in their getups.

The film starts with a flashback where Gandalf (Ian McKellen) has his first meeting with moody dwarf Thorin (Richard Armitage). Actually, it really starts with a very obvious cameo by Jackson, who makes no Hitchcockian effort to blend in. We then pop ahead to the end of the first movie, and the continuation of Bilbo Baggins and company’s long, extremely tedious journey.

As Bilbo, Martin Freeman labors to make things interesting during action scenes that feel redundant. (Hey, it’s another giant icky spider attack!) He definitely stands out among a cast of bland actors playing bland dwarves. Oh Gimli, how you are missed!

Jackson finds a way to bring back Orlando Bloom as Legolas. Bloom’s scenes are a bunch of sorry minutes that could be cut from the film’s running time. Jackson has also created a new character in Tauriel (Evangeline Lilly), an elf warrior and the apple of Legolas’s eye. Let it be known that Legolas and Tauriel were not present in the original Tolkien novel, and movie viewers everywhere would be better off if such were the case in this film.

Too many scenes in this movie feel padded and bloated. With each passing minute, Jackson is doing further damage to his directing legacy. His original Lord of the Rings trilogy was a major triumph. These Hobbit films feel and look like parody.

From the moment the Warner Brothers logo comes up, things just look weird. Movies aren’t supposed to be this crisp. Granted, the shots of mountain ranges are breathtaking, but every close up of an actor’s overly made-up face destroys that feeling that you are at a movie.

Smaug the dragon (voiced by Benedict Cumberbatch) finally shows up, and he is easily the best thing in the Hobbit films thus far. He should’ve arrived in the second half of the first film, and the whole damned thing should’ve been over in three hours. One movie would’ve been sufficient to cover this story. I know you’ve heard critics bitch about this for the last couple of years now, and I am joining the fray. These Hobbit movies are an overblown, messed-up slog.

The movie ends abruptly with a big cliffhanger. Normally, that sort of thing might have me leaving the theater all huffy and disappointed. Not this time. I was happy when this movie was over.

I loved the Lord of the Rings films. They consistently made my year’s best lists, and I enjoy revisiting them from time to time. Conversely, The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug is going to go down as one of the year’s worst films as far as I’m concerned.