Against my better judgement and drawn in by an almost irresistible sense of here-we-go-yet-again I sat down and spent three hours of my life last night watching The Hobbit: The Desolation Of Smaug, eventually emerging confused, baffled and rather irritated by what I saw as part-computer game, part-predictable tosh, all shambles. For the life of me, I still cannot work out what on earth what was meant to be going on in the last hour of the film, with the smelters, the melting statues and so on. Maybe it is because I have not read the book, but, when it comes to rings, reforged swords, dragons, dwarves and so on, I’ll stick with the various Edda stories, the Saga Of The Volsungs and Wagner, and let Lucas and Jackson fight over which bits they would like to adapt.
I have long since given up on enjoying Jackson’s overlong indulgent epics, watching them only through a crushing feeling of duty, all the while knowing that I am strapped into what is possibly the slowest, least realistic and most underwhelming rollercoaster there is, the longest too. I have also given up on pretending that the omnipresent CGI is even pretending to mimic reality (yes, I know Middle Earth isn’t real), and now tell myself that I am merely watching cut scenes from some computer game or other whenever an orc appears and growls yet again, causing my heart rate to – well – remain the same.
It almost goes without saying that, big hitters apart, the acting is often terrible. Almost everybody with an equity card is in it at some point, also many unknowns, and quite why directors still insist on casting actors with no previous experience is entirely beyond me. For every Natalie Portman there are a thousand (and I can barely write his name) Hayden Christensens, and I wish people would stop throwing mud around in the hopes of finding gold.
Mind you, it is not as if the script gives them much to work with, and I lost count of the number of times somebody (usually an elf) gazed intently into the distance and then squinted. We get it, we get it, you think you’ve seen something on the horizon – next time just write it on a flag and fly it from the rooftops and it might be more subtle.
As you can probably tell, I have been left scarred by the whole experience, scared too that there are three hours yet to come, and, by the time I get to see it, I will have forgotten once more the whole story to that point. But in go the families and out comes the money, so I am clearly in the wrong business and most likely over the hill when it comes to filmic taste, but, even so, action films can be intelligent and thrilling rather than trite and predictable. And let’s not start on the love story, shoehorned in for the purposes of what? Telling dwarves that they can attract elves as long as they make some joke about what is in their trousers, perhaps? I don’t know.
Never mind. I will console myself with the idea that Benedict Cumberbatch at least managed to get away with only lending his voice to Peter Jackson and did not have to go through the rigmarole of putting on hobbit feet, elf ears, dwarf hair or a wizard beard. A wise man.