While Unexpected Journey was no cinematic masterpiece, I found it entertaining and genuinely engaging. Desolation of Smaug, however, did not have the same energy, mainly due to being the middle film, unnecessary screentime slowing down the plot, and Smaug not actually being destroyed. Say it with me: COP-OUT. One quip to get out of the way: Thranduil's characterization. Tolkein had him as a complex, nuanced character beloved by his people in a Both Sides Have a Point conflict with Thorin. Jackson has him as an outright greedy, "ill-tempered" snob. While Jackson's portrayal of Thranduil is not without decency, it viewed as though amplifying Thranduil's flaws while decreasing Thorin's, thus simplifying Thranduil to a villain to pander to the Lowest Common Denominator. The main issue with this movie is Tauriel, solely included to give women representation in the films. Irresponsible, unprofessional, and completely unbelievable as the captain of the guard, her character was a huge disappointment. Jackson's fanfic-like execution of Tauriel gives reason to believe women would be better off remaining invisible in Middle-Earth if Tauriel was supposed to be the ideal female. As the lone main female character of the films and not created by Tolkein, Tauriel will obviously be under much scrutiny by viewersand held to different standards than the male characters. The writers seemed to realize this, and tried to make her extremely talented in various fields as an example of Positive Discrimination; unfortunately, Tauriel instead just comes across as a generic female character whose bland personality was generated by a checklist of traits that allowed her to succeed at everything she tried. To be honest, I think would have been refreshing if Tauriel could exist as a female and be seen as just another warrior/ally by the male characters rather than an object of lust and conflict. However, the true problem isn't so much with her depiction as much as the time alloted to her. Tauriel and her various overblown romances dominate the screen to the point that Bilbo feels Out of Focus in his own movie. That's not to say there is nothing to like about this film; Luke Evans as Bard in particular gives a great performance. But the consistent shoehorning in of movie subplots at the expense of the actual books plots can be very irritating.
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