January 5, 2014


“The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug” is, of course, Part Two in a three-part cinematic extravaganza of Tolkien’s beloved book: “The Hobbit.” How did Peter Jackson and Co. get three movies out of it? By drawing on “The Silmarillion” and other background information. Perhaps some Tolkien purists are not happy with this amalgam, but for the rest of us Tolkien schleppers, we’re just happy to get more, more, more!

“The Desolation of Smaug is a bit different from the first filmic Hobbit installment. It is not as cohesive, “talkie,” and some of the editing/cuts are just horribly jerky and unprofessional. I saw it in 3-D, and as scenes move between indoor (very dark, dreary and colorless) and outdoor (not much better), the resolution is so extreme and raw that it often looks like some strange telenovela. ALL the actors are exquisite as in Part One, but the whole texture of the thing (and poor editing) often makes them look ridiculous (e.g., holding grim, melodramatic stares for far too long).

It’s obvious that the bulk of the time, work and attention in the film was given to the lengthy, often comical “Bilbo and the Dwarves Ride the Rapids in Barrels While Pursued by The Ugliest Orcs in Middle Earth History,” to much good effect. This action-packed, eye-popping caper alone is well worth the price of a movie ticket. Lithe Elves get into the act and show that brute strength (and fearsome ugliness) and massive Iron Age weapons aren’t everything.


How is the estrogen count in Part Two? Galadriel puts in a fleeting cameo as she telepaths with Gandalf. Turiel (a general in the royal Elvish guard, played quite marvelously by a glowing Evangeline Lilly) has a large role defending the Elvish kingdom/territories. Not only that, she is sweet on a particular dwarf (and therefore sets out to save his life), as well as risks everything to fight against evil rather than passively remain safe and do nothing, as her liege lord commands her to do.


The dialogue is minimal and stilted—even though there were two women and two men screenwriters! (Did you know that screenwriters in the 20’s and 30’s were primarily women because we’re so good at dialogue? Yup.) Smaug has all the best lines. (Remember to pronounce it like the British--with at least ten syllables: S-S-M-A-A-O-O-W-W-U-U-U-A-U-G-H-G. The “H” is silent.)

Speaking of Smaug: bringing to screenlife that despicable reptile is another feat of today’s Visual Effects wizardry. Hope the Academy is paying attention. Too bad his scales were so dull. Even the coins and gems piled up inside his mountain lair were drab. Sigh. Digital. And what a chatty dragon! I thought that—like the other animals in “The Hobbit”--he would be, well, silent (but remember, in Tolkien’s world, mountains and trees might burst into life at any moment).


But who MAKES the film (as usual)? The great Gandalf the Grey (a masterful Ian McKellan that no amount of bad editing and/or lighting could ever vex, harry or perturb). Can’t we just have a “Gandalf” film? All Gandalf all the time? The elderly wizard is the one who seems to see the biggest picture, have the broadest vision, is most aware of what is coming and what is truly going beneath the surface. And yet—and this seems to me to be the whole message of Tolkien’s tales—he, too, is weak in the face of tremendous, vociferous evil. But it is the weak who win the day. The Elves even find the greatest grandeur not in the Sun or lightning (or fireball-breathing-dragons) but in fragile starlight.

It’s a paradox that those who live by no other code than “might makes right” and “the triumph of the will”; who are not held back by any mercy or ethical considerations, are actually the weakest. The wicked may flourish for a time, but the kind of persistent gentle Goodness that caused Herod to fear a baby and murder babies is what endures.

While the other denizens of Middle Earth go about their more or less important chores and quests, Gandalf is busy weighing how evil operates and organizes itself in order to sweep over the land and cause woe to untold numbers (the influence of World War I on Tolkien, no doubt).

I would be remiss if I didn’t mention the quite stellar addition of Luke Evans as Bard.

This film is more gory and violent than the first one: gratuitous and “humorous” violence (e.g., the way Orcs’ heads get chopped off, etc.) doesn’t make ME laugh.

“The Hobbit” is also a study in greed and what can drive men to utter blindness and destruction of friends, loved ones, the future and everything around them (the Ring, the Arkenstone). Smaug portrays the larger, supernatural (spiritual warfare), demonic greed at work in the world.

This film is definitely about the nature of evil. And the nature of what conquers evil.


--Did I mention how frightfully ugly the Orcs are? Frightfully. They're like great white sharks. On land.

--May I say a word about Turiel and her ilk? I’m getting a LITTLE tired of hunter-warrior chicks. Women were the farmer-gatherers. ONE of the many reasons the Neanderthals didn't make it is because there was no division of labor. Very pregnant women went on the hunt, as well as those with newborns. Think about it.

--Awesome use of the adjective “fell,” meaning evil, malevolent, baneful. http://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/fell

--I love how Smaug keeps calling Bilbo “barrel rider” and “thief in the shadows.”

--Do not see this film if you have arachnophobia. I repeat. Do NOT see this film.

--Orlando Bloom has filled out a bit. Looks older, better.

--“In our blindness, the enemy has returned.”

--"When did WE LET evil get stronger than us?" --Turiel

--Evil hides.

--Everyone talking like “BatDad” makes me wanna giggle after a while. J

--New Zealand has amazing terrain.

--Fun fact: the oh-so-Britishly-handsome Richard Crispin Armitage (named after King Richard III by his parents) who plays dwarf-heir-to-the-throne Thorin Oakenshield is actually 6’2”.

--The Elves and their starlight made me think of my main men Magi.

--THE Stephen Colbert has a bit part as a Lake-town spy! Ha! (I didn’t notice, but check out the full cast at www.imdb.com )

--I have been told that Fulton Sheen’s book: “Virtue and Vice” is about how the 7 Last Words of Christ overcome the 7 Capital Sins! Sweeeeeeeeet! Do all 7 Capital Sins operate in Satan? Or is it just “envy”? “It was through the envy of the devil that death entered the world” (Wisdom 2:24). Guess which words of Christ overcome “lust”? “Behold your mother, woman behold your son!” Sweeeeeet!

--"Love is the weapon of the future." --Yehuda Berg


  1. Thanks for your review Sister Helena! We loved the movie so much, and of course had issues with it, but it was great.

  2. I spent the whole movie wondering, "Is that REALLY Orlando Bloom? It looks like him, but it can't be…" and then read it to be true in the credits. And wow, that is fun about Stephen Colbert!