Title: The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug
What Have You Got Against Tolkien? Nothing at all. Directors given free rein to make a ten hour trilogy out of a 300-page children's book, on the other hand...
Rating Using Random Objects Relevant To The Film: One Dirk the Daring out of five.
Brief Plot Synopsis: The road goes ever on. And on. And on.
Tagline: "Beyond darkness... beyond desolation... lies the greatest danger of all."
Better Tagline: "Short people got no reason to live."
Not So Brief Plot Synopsis: [STALE JOKE ALERT] The whole Hobbit trilogy should be in the dictionary under "not so brief."[/STALE JOKE ALERT]. After fleeing orcs and discovering/stealing a magic ring, hobbit Bilbo Baggins (Martin Freeman), wizard Gandalf (Ian McKellan), and sundry dwarves find themselves menaced by spiders, elves, Necromancers, sleazy humans, and -- finally -- the dragon Smaug, who has taken residence in the dwarves' ancestral home of Erebor ("The Lonely Mountain"). THRILL as Thorin Oakenshield (Richard Armitage) attempts to reclaim the title of "King Under the Mountain!" CHILL as Bilbo tries to steal the fabled Arkenstone from Smaug's hoard!" FILL your 44 oz soda cup with urine to relieve the pressure on your bladder brought on by nearly three hours of CGI fantasy mayhem!
"Critical" Analysis: As I mentioned in my review of the first installment, it's hard to look forward to Peter Jackson's Hobbit movies in the conventional sense. Even from the previews, you know there will be a glut of overlong action sequences, material that was relegated to appendices and asides isn't so much fleshed out as it is bloated to ridiculous extent. Plus, Gandalf slamming his staff into something (mercy!). For an added bonus, The Desolation of Smaug also features one major character created entirely out of thin air.
The elf Tauriel (Evangeline Lilly), captain of the guard of the elven kingdom of Mirkwood, was created by writers Fran Walsh, Philippa Boyens, and Peter Jackson to bring "feminine energy" to the story. Well, that, and to act as a romantic foil for both Kili (Aidan Turner, AKA The Cute Dwarf) and Legolas (Orlando Bloom). Legolas' inclusion makes sense, for even though he wasn't in the book, he's the son of Elvenking Thranduil (Lee Pace). Also, Ladies Love Cool Legolas. And while there's nothing theoretically wrong with the character of Tauriel, she's just another symptom of Jackson's inability to restrain himself.
Even non-book readers will grow tired of the way the most perfunctory of encounters turn into epic throwdowns. The exhaustion you feel doesn't just come from the length of these films, but from the way every battle is presented as if the fate of Middle Earth is in the balance. There's precious (heh) little down time, just momentary pauses between the next melee encounter. Now roll THAC0.
And if you *are* a fan of Tolkien's novel, prepare to nurse that rising urge to kill. Radagast and his Amazing Earth-Tone Dreamcoat are back, and the pointless inclusion of the vengeful Azog (the "Defiler" - bet he doesn't get invited to too many baptisms) continues as well. It also appears there's some sinister conspiracy afoot to have Thorin assassinated. I hope his potential murder doesn't lead to the formation of a [puts on sunglasses] "Thorin Commission."
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The introduction of Bard of Lake-town (Luke Evans, no doubt picked because he satisfied the "looks like Karl Urban" requirement for secondary human characters), the smuggler/family man with a heart of gold and a giant hidden arrow, finally gives us a compelling (and sympathetic) human character. Never mind that the whole sequence mirrors Edoras from The Two Towers. Only this time the corrupt Master (Stephen Fry) isn't so much created by his worm tongues adviser as he is mildly encouraged by him.
And then there's Smaug (and then there's Smaug!). WETA has once again outdone itself in creating Middle Earth's last dragon, but what should have been a singularly terrifying experience unfortunately becomes just another glorified video game sequence (to be fair, Legolas would be great at Dragon's Lair) in a movie that already feels like the latest World of Warcraft installment. And when your movie feels more like a high definition PS3 walkthrough than an actual film, clearly there are some issues to be dealt with.
The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug is in theaters today. Try not to scream "PWNED N00BS" too many times when you see it.