|The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug|
|Stretching the book until the spine breaks|
|Radagast and Treebeard both warned against technology...|
For over seventy five years, The Hobbit has been one of the most beloved books of children’s literature, a quest across a fantastical land populated by trolls, goblins, dwarves, elves, wizards, shape shifting men and a fire breathing dragon who sleeps inside the caverns of a mountain atop a mound of gold and jewels. Revised following the publication of sequel trilogy The Lord of the Rings to reduce discrepancies between the two, the novel was caught up in complicated rights issues which delayed production of the adaptation with the first part released a full nine years after the multi-Oscar winning Return of the King.
While all three parts of The Lord of the Rings were greeted with critical acclaim, audience adoration and enormous financial success, the decision to split the proposed two films into a trilogy in their own right causing concern that additional scenes filmed to bridge the gaps would be padding, an accusation which seemed justified when An Unexpected Journey was released featuring an opening chapter tea party which lasted almost a full hour followed by interminable scenes of interchangeable characters trudging through countryside with only a single glimpse of the supposed destination in the final scene.
Now beyond the Misty Mountains, we are once again in the company of the thirteen dwarfs, one wizard and the hobbit they have appointed as their burglar, Bilbo Baggins, who in order to ensure that they reach the Lonely Mountain before the end of Durin’s Day are forced to travel through dark and mysterious forest of Mirkwood. Disoriented, they are captured by spiders and find themselves on the borders of the kingdom of wood elves where the dwarves find themselves subjected to the anger of the Elvenking Thranduil. Elsewhere, things are not going well in the Middle-Earth, as the ancient enemy is waking up from his three thousand year slumber and soon the fires of war will roll through the unsuspecting lands.
In this second part, Peter Jackson repeats the mistakes of An Unexpected Journey and as befits the nature of a quest, takes them even further. The Desolation of Smaug cost $225 million, a treasure which even Smaug the Magnificent would be proud of and that vast sum is clearly visible onscreen but doesn't make this in any way a better film than could have been crafted with less resources and creative restraint, instead allowing Peter Jackson to inflate the story and special effects to their limits but losing the essence and beauty of Tolkien’s story.
Filming the three films of The Lord of the Rings back to back without assurance of success, Jackson focused on the storytelling, moving the characters to their destinations in the most expedient fashion and hinting at the greater realms and histories without drowning the viewer in superfluous detail, but following the global achievement of those he now has the opportunity to indulge himself unfettered in the same manner which resulted in his justly derided remake of King Kong, which everybody but the director felt should have had a full third of its running time cut.
Rather than learning from that mistake and behaving as the more experienced and mature filmmaker he should have become, he continues to take egregious liberty with the source material to make it his own, almost becoming a parody of himself as he channels the worst aspects of a fan writer, squeezing in every conceivable diversion regardless of relevance or importance.