The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug is nonstop action and special effects. It reminds me of a 1950s cartoon made into an epic in keeping with 21st century technology. The movie is fantasy but simple, which is part of its offense to some film reviewers: it doesn’t seek to explore the criminal mind; it just exposes the plain dichotomy of uncomplicated good and evil. Evil is dark and ugly, whereas good is light and beautiful—even comedic at times.
Major film reviewers are divided on whether to give the film a higher or lower grade. A list of national reviews is available at mrqe.com. Those opting for the lower grade, point out its lack of character development—meaning drama with emotions that viewers connect with. It’s also 161 minutes, with scenes that go on extended effect after effect, more like a video game than a film with real people. The film doesn’t get much into the angst and temptations of those drawn to the dark side or conversely those drawn from the dark side to light. Evil is clearly enslavement to a dark lord, and good is freedom with bravery and radiant valor. Reviewers point out that the script is about half Tolkien and half director Peter Jackson’s imaginative insertions.
The film could not be more different from the modern crime drama genre where detectives track down criminals and then interrogate them to learn the psychology behind evil. In Hobbit, confrontations are short and quickly set a person with the flow of what is going on. Part of this is that the film is basically one, long escape scene with several evil pursuers coming in at different times. There’s little time to stop and reflect; decisions are made fast because crisis is at hand constantly.
There are lots of themes popping into play: ambition, secret powers, loyalty, romantic tensions, fight or flight, humor, horror (giant spiders), a town locked down under the dragon, and man’s basic battle against what he can’t figure out or win against on his own without divine empowerment.
The screen is big and filled with sensational 3D imagery and color the whole way through. It’s a panorama of art. There’s not the cheap, distasteful, or disrespectful in it; it’s a rush of good guy, bad guy entertainment without need of catharsis (at least yet since this is part two in the three film series).
The viewer goes away entertained or disappointed based on expectations going in. If you take the film for what it is, you‘re more likely to relax; you’ll experience the entertaining ride. It’s apparent early that there’s no need to worry about being led into the grotesque or gory side of evil. The movie is fantasy in high gear and peak pleasure.