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To be honest; I don't even remember all that much about the first movie "The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey" but I do remember liking it better than expected. I went in with low expectations, as I did for this movie as well again. However this time around, I wasn't as pleasantly surprised by the end product.

Reason why I always go in with low expectations, when watching any Hobbit movie, is actually because of a couple of reasons. One; it's a well known fact that compared the 'The Lord of the Rings' novels the story of 'The Hobbit' isn't as rich and neither are its characters. Sure, it's still set in Middle-earth, at all of the familiar places and it's also still featuring some the same familiar characters but in essence, you are just watching a lesser version of the 'The Lord of the Rings' movies. Another reason is that it's basically impossible to top the original 'The Lord of the Rings' trilogy. It raised the bar for every modern adventure movie and it just seems impossible to capture the same magic and atmosphere as the original trilogy, when everything that was done was still fresh, surprising and original. And the final reason; it's a well documented fact that things had to be finished up in a bit of a hurry, after Guillermo del Toro had left the project and Peter Jackson stepped up to directed. Not saying that that wasn't a good thing to happen but it most certainly wasn't an ideal situation for anyone involved. In any case, there is no reason to expect that this movie would surpass any of the 'The Lord of the Rings' movies in quality, as in fact is also yet to happen.

One of the foremost problems with the first "The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey" was that it felt too stretched out at times and had some needless sequences and characters in it. To some extent that's also true for this movie except for the fact that there are no stretched out moments in it. Quite the opposite; there is too much going on in this movie. It's as if someone said; we need Elf action, we need Dwarf action, we need Hobbit actor and we need human and we need a fair and equal amount of all of it. But instead of feeling fair and balanced, things distract too much from each other. It never really feels like one whole movie. It feels like Legolas is in his own movie, it feels like Gandalf is in his own movie, it feels like Bilbo is in his own movie, etcetera, etcetera. Story-lines don't always come together- or blend in together too well.

Due to its approach, it doesn't only feels like an unbalanced movie but also as a mostly unfocused one. It doesn't seem to be sure on what character to follow and who's story is more important and relevant to the movie. The result is that none of the story lines are given the proper attention to turn them into any engaging and effective enough ones.

I also feel that the movie could have used a stronger main villain, that would have been present throughout the entire movie. Sure, there is Smaug but he doesn't form a treat or danger for any of our heroes, until at the end of the movie. But before that point, there was always a new, smaller and less significant villain and treat, every other 15 minutes or so. You can say this adds to the adventurous aspects of the movie but in this case the movie really overdoes it.

And talking about Smaug...Sure, he's a great looking dragon and villain but my problem with him was that he didn't ever come across as all that powerful or threatening. He keeps messing around with one little Hobbit for 20 minutes or so and he does a lot of talking about how powerful and dangerous he is and all but he shows too little of it. All barking and no bite. He was like a James Bond villain, explaining what he was going to do and how evil and powerful he is before actually trying to do something evil. And that probably was my biggest problem with Smaug; He did too much talking. Something totally non-threatening about seeing a giant dragon doing nothing but talking, for the longest time. It took away a lot from the character for me.

Another thing that bothered me about the movie was how it kept trying to tie itself in to the original 'Lord of the Rings' trilogy. 'Subtle' hints about certain characters and places that however were anything but subtle to watch really. It often caused too much of a distraction and it took me out of the movie at times. And really, none of it was necessary. It should have been enough that the movie was simply taking place in the same universe.

But don't worry, I'm not completely insane or blind. Of course this movie is still being a whole lot better than just the average genre attempt. Even though the movie feels a bit rushed at times and is therefor looking less polished and far from perfect, with for instance its CGI, it still is a great looking movie, that really takes you to place far, far off and a time long, long ago. The action is also pretty enjoyable to watch and I'm actually one of the persons that enjoyed the 'barrel scene'. no matter how ridicules and over-the-top it gets to watch. It actually was the highlight of the movie for me.

And in some ways this movie actually does feel like an improvement over the first movie. The characters for instance; The dwarves are a whole lot better developed and suddenly I'm able to tell them apart from each other, even though I still can't remember any of their names. But they all have more of a different personality in this movie and it's also definitely more fun and better to follow them around throughout this movie.

I'm also totally confident that the third movie is most likely going to be a whole lot better again, since all of the different story lines should finally come together and it probably is going to be more action-packed and exciting to watch all. Perhaps it's also true that this movie was suffering a bit too much from the 'middle-part-or-a-trilogy-syndrom'. It doesn't have a real ending and basically all that it's doing is building up towards the third and final movie.

But before this review turns into something longer than the actual 'The Hobbit' novel and to wrap things up; this by no means is a terrible movie and it of course still provides plenty of entertainment but it's just that you would expect something more and better from a Peter Jackson Hobbit movie, with a $225 million budget, set in the same universe as all of the "The Lord of the Rings' movies and one that we had to wait for for a whole year, after the previous installment. This definitely is so far my least favorite of all of the "The Lord of the Rings' and 'The Hobbit' movies.

7/10

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About Frank Veenstra

Watches movies...writes about them...and that's it for now.
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