This Hobbit's hobbled
THE HOBBIT: THE DESOLATION OF SMAUG directed by Peter Jackson, written by Jackson , Fran Walsh, Philippa Boyens and Guillermo del Toro from the book by J.R.R. Tolkien, with Martin Freeman, Ian McKellen, Orlando Bloom, Evangeline Lilly and Benedict Cumberbatch. A Warner Bros release. 161 minutes. Some subtitles. Opens Friday (December 13). For venues and times, see listings. Rating: NN
The Hobbit movies put me in a bit of a quandary. I’m inordinately fond of the people who make them, and I want to see them happy and successful.
Peter Jackson, Fran Walsh, Guillermo del Toro (who spent a couple of years developing the project before stepping out so Jackson could step back in), Martin Freeman and Ian McKellen are, to a one, swell people who deserve to have all the money in the world. The GNP of New Zealand is clearly benefiting from the production of three more epic J.R.R. Tolkien movies in this decade. A third of the country is probably employed making the costumes alone.
But after another two hours and 40 minutes of The Hobbit: The Desolation Of Smaug – after Freeman’s Bilbo Baggins and his dwarf allies encounter giant spiders and orcs and elves and more orcs (or possibly the same orcs again) and a soupçon of political treachery on the way to the mountain where the dragon Smaug lies sleeping in his plundered gold… well, I keep asking myself why this isn’t the end of it.
There’s not enough story for three Hobbit movies, so Jackson has had to invent new characters and new subplots. Key to The Desolation Of Smaug is the relationship between Kili the dwarf (Aidan Turner, from the UK version of Being Human) and an elf named Tauriel (Lost’s Evangeline Lilly), who flirt a little bit when the dwarves are captured by the elves and then flirt a little bit more when she tends to him after he’s injured by a poison arrow. It adds about 20 minutes to the film and is entirely irrelevant to the story.
Most of The Desolation Of Smaug is like that, fan service to Tolkien diehards who need to actually see the rise of Sauron (also irrelevant to the story of The Hobbit), or to Jackson himself, whose swooping camera movements and elaborate single-take action sequences are starting to feel a little creaky and self-indulgent. Of course, making a nine-hour movie out of a short novel is pretty self-indulgent in itself.
Incidentally, I saw The Desolation Of Smaug in conventional 3D rather than the 48fps High Frame Rate format in which I experienced An Unexpected Journey. This time the film looked more like a movie and less like improperly calibrated HDTV, though the extra darkness imposed by the 3D process made the night scenes that much murkier.
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