The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug

justin perich hobbitThe Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug – The best thing that can be said about Peter Jackson’s second stab at Bilbo’s tale, and fifth stab at Middle Earth, is that it has more in common with what The Lord of the Rings did right than it has in common with what An Unexpected Journey did wrong. Pretty much everyone agrees that the first Hobbit movie was too long, too bloated, and too slow–we watched with dropped jaws as the dwarves washed dishes for fifteen minutes–and this second installment at least does not seem to suffer as much from Peter Jackson’s overly abundant love for his source material. This film charges forward from the very start with all the drive and purpose it’s predecessor lacked, and it finds almost enough pure popcorny, blockbustery charm, wonder, and suspense to justify its near three-hour length. In the film, Bilbo (played by the always impeccable Martin Freeman), Gandalf (Ian McKellen obviously, what hobbit hole have you been living under if you don’t know that?), and thirteen dwarves make their way into the Kingdom of Erebor, past Orcs and Giant Spiders to eventually battle the terrifically CGI-ed Smaug (Freeman’s Sherlock co-star and notable sea otter Benedict Cumberbatch), and there’s plenty of subplots involving Elves, Wizards, and bear-men. As always, Jackson proves capable at creating more and more worlds within Middle Earth, each more aesthetically pleasing and/or terrifying than the last. But when it comes right down to it, he’s still taking nine hours to tell a story J.R.R. Tolkien told in less than 300 pages. It’s still butter scraped over too much bread. In order to pad the material, Jackson makes every event important, and if everything’s important then nothing’s important. And he still hasn’t got a handle on his biggest flaw as a filmmaker and story teller–too much action divorced from character. 3/5 stars.