The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug (Rated PG-13)
Peter Jackson is an amazing filmmaker and there are few who deny that. He's able to visualize sequences that make even the most jaded movie-goer scratch their head as to how it was pulled off. Every bit of his Lord of the Rings trilogy is spectacular and should be required viewing for anyone who fancies themselves a fan of movies. He based each movie off of one of the books by J.R.R. Tolkien and ended up getting showered with Oscars when they were all done. Each one of those books were about 400 pages each and the movies come out to about three hours a pop. The Hobbit, however, is shorter than all those books and is being told in three films that are almost three-hours-long EACH! Regardless of how good these Hobbit films are, I simply can't love them based on principle.
This second installment of The Hobbit story is far better than the first one, which was tedious, silly and vastly boring. This one has its moments of excitement and darkness. Gone are the ridiculous songs and countless montages of dwarves walking around New Zealand. The pace of The Desolation of Smaug is faster but still sluggish. That's the downside when you make a movie based on a hundred pages of literature. There's a reason why many films based on short stories aren't good and it's because they either drag stuff out or make stuff up. Since Tolkien's world is so rich, they didn't have to make anything up but boy, do they drag it out.
The same cast returns with the addition of Orlando Bloom, who reprises his role from the Lord of the Rings trilogy, Evangaline Lilly (ABC's Lost, The Hurt Locker), and Benedict Cumberbatch (The Fifth Estate, Star Trek: Into Darkness). All three add something to the film in ways it desperately needed but none more than Cumberbatch. He's the voice of Smaug, an evil dragon that lives in the mountain that used to be the former home of the dwarves. Smaug is one of the great villains from fantasy literature because he has as much personality as any character in the book; maybe even more so. Smaug is arrogant, jealous, greedy, cunning, vicious and we know all this because he not only talks but he talks a lot. It's a fantastic villain because you're drawn to him like you're drawn to Darth Vadar. You know he's evil but you kinda dig him.
Jackson has once again created a movie that looks utterly gorgeous. Every frame seems as if they were painted and could hang in a gallery. The task of creating Middle Earth is something that Jackson should be commended for for the rest of his life but it's also something he did in 2001 and we've seen if for five films now. I'm not gonna say that I'm bored seeing it but by the next/last film, I will be. He also has a way of making action sequences that blow you away. There are two major ones in this film and neither have the hundreds of characters battling like we've seen him pull off before but both are feasts for the eyes and pulse-pounding to say the least.
I don't like greed and The Hobbit trilogy was made purely for that. I don't blame Jackson entirely for splitting a 300 page book into 9 hours of film; I blame the studio. Ever since the last Harry Potter film, studios have realized that they can split books into different films under the lie that they're super-serving the fans but really they're super-serving their bank accounts. No matter how much we love a book, we can see too much of it. You can leave stuff out and fans will forgive you. What makes something exciting while reading may not translate in a film or even need to be shown at all. Books are meant to be enjoyed slowly and movies are not. Will The Hobbit trilogy by that jump-the-shark moment of book-splitting-movies where Hollywood says, "sure we made a lot of money but did we make good films?" I sure hope so.