The Hobbit: the desolation of smaug —In the middle of the story
By Sergio Martinez
The special effects are great, the 3D format enhances the dramatic scenes, and most spectators will be satisfied with the many action moments, but there is one problem with this new installment of the story based on J.R. Tolkien saga: it is somehow annoying that the movie ends like that leaving everyone in suspense. Of course we all know that this is the second part of a trilogy thus one should expect that there will be a great deal of unsolved situations left to be resolved in the final installment. However a movie—unlike the serials of yesteryear where the cliffhanger was the norm—is expected to be at least to some extent a self-contained story as well, that is, some of the dramatic conflicts are supposed to be resolved during the more than two hours the film lasts. That doesn’t happen, and despite all the brilliance of the narrative, the well developed plot, and the great effects already mentioned, the impression left by this film directed by Peter Jackson is, “O.K. see you next December for the final installment of the plot.” And somehow that is not fair—moreover, it is a sort of abuse of the filmgoers’ loyalty to a particular franchise like The Hobbit, which is basically a good and interesting narration.
To sum up, this impression of being left in the middle of a story that seems to be great is somehow annoying and not even necessary: the Hobbit theme has already enough following as to not being in need of these subterfuges.
The story starts with a flashback where Gandalf (Ian McKellen) is talking to Thorin Oakenshield (Richard Armitage) who seems somehow doubtful about taking back his land, the Kingdom of Erebor which has fallen under the power of Smaug, the dragon. The journey is reinitiated, but not before having to deal with the recurring threat of the orcs, some giant spiders who would try to eat the dwarf warriors, and the ambivalence of the wood-elves. Once they manage to get to the mountain Bilbo (Martin Freeman) would be given the difficult task of stealing a precious arc which is guarded by the terrifying dragon. Bilbo who by now has discovered his courage (together with the ring that gives him the power of invisibility as we saw in the first installment) would even engage in a rather funny dialogue with Smaug ((Benedict Cumberbatch) at the most dramatic time, when he has managed to enter the dragon’s fortress.
Together with this epic search for the recovery of the usurped land of Erebor, there are some subplots: the confrontation of Gandalf with the dark personification of evil; the assistance the dwarves would get from Bard the Bowman (Luke Evans) whose ancestor failed to kill the dragon and is seen with suspicion by the authorities in his town; and the attraction between the beautiful she-elf Tauriel (Evangeline Lilly) and one of the warriors, all of them as well as the main plot to be resolved in the final installment of the saga.
While one may show some disappointment at the manner in which the viewer is left after seeing the movie in a way that is too obvious the producers want us to see the next installment of the story, one has to admit the success of the story and its theme, this sort of neo-fantastic genre which for Umberto Eco (see his essay “The Gods of the Underground” in his book Travels in Hyperreality) is part of a general interest with some kind of religious imagery. Eco points that this is reflected in the interest for works like Tolkien’s: “sociological science-fiction no more, but new Arthurian cycles” he wrote, in reference to this interest in a fantastic world, placed in a medieval-like period but with some strong references to contemporary concerns: the fight with evil forces, the loss of freedom, the struggle for justice. All of that however, set in an atmosphere of nebulous mysticism. And perhaps that’s the key to the Hobbit franchise’s success, because after all is a movie worth seeing.
Length: 161 min.