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Article by Teddy Durgin

The Hobbit: There and Back Again and Again and Again...

Thank God I actually know the story of "The Hobbit!" Because if I didn't, at this point, I would be wondering, "Uh, I've now spent close to six freakin' hours with this story and I am only at THIS point?!" The latest installment of Peter Jackson's expanded version of J.R.R. Tolkien's classic 1937 book - one book folks, maybe 300 pages - is certainly an improvement on last year's off-tune first part. There's more action, it's way less cutesy and ponderous, and there is spectacle galore. But the problem of bloat is still evident. There's just no way this story should be getting the nearly nine-hour treatment. Now, if you are a Tolkien uber-fan and will sit through any length film set in this world, I concede that you will greatly enjoy "The Desolation of Smaug." It is at times wondrous cinema, especially in its first hour when Bilbo Baggins (Martin Freeman) and Co. survive a swarm of giant spiders, get captured by some isolationist elves, and escape down some raging rapids in a bunch of wine barrels as orcs and elves do battle all around them. Unfortunately, it's in the middle act where the film loses its momentum. The narrative becomes fractured as Gandalf goes off in one direction; the returning Legolas (Orlando Bloom) and newly created character Tauriel (Evangeline Lilly) trail behind the main action; and there is endless talk from all concerned of a vague, ancient "evil" gaining strength in the shadows of the deep places of Middle Earth. That evil, of course, is Sauron who's fiery eye puts in a wink-wink apperance here. Then, we finally get to Bilbo trying to swipe the Arkenstone from the sleeping dragon Smaug (voiced by Benedict Cumberbatch), who wakes up and is a force to be reckoned with. But here and back again is Jackson's problem. The sequence with Smaug is way too long. He practically becomes the cliche of the talking killer who brags and brags about how evil he is and quite chatty about what he is going to do to his prey... when he should just shut his flap and roast the Hobbit. When a half-dozen dwarves join in, Puff has multiple targets to spew Michael Bay fireballs at - fireballs that come close, but never hit their targets. If he does this once, he does this 20 TIMES! The action throughout "The Desolation of Smaug" is similarly big and grand, yet sadly repetitive and ultimately uninvolving. There must be two dozen times at least that characters jump from a cliff, a building, a mountain and there is always a rope, a chain or a vine they can latch onto just before plummeting to certain death. There must be two dozen times at least when some evil creature has one of the good guys perfectly lined up and is about to kill him with a spear or an arrow only to be skewered before he can deliver the certain death blow. And there must be two dozen times at least where some gigantic statue or crate or stone wall crumbles and is about to crush one of the good-guy dwarves, elves or Hobbits, only to have the character in jeopardy just barely run, jump and/or slide out of the way at the last possible instant. After a while, I just stopped believing that anything at all was going to physically harm these characters, and I disconnected from the film on a fundamental level. But, rest assured, as the rumblings of a third bloated adventure stir in the distant land of New Zealand, your fearless reviewer will slog through one more trial next December to write one more review. One review to rule them all, one review to find them. One review to bring them all and in the darkness bind them!

"The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug" is rated PG-13 for extended sequences of intense fantasy action violence and frightening images.


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