Wednesday, December 25, 2013


Peter Jackson, the wonderful maestro of the magical world of Middle Earth has now directed THE HOBBIT: THE DESOLATION OF SMAUG, the second in a trilogy based on J.R.R. Tolkien’s great novel The Hobbit, prequel to The Lord of The Rings, and it is another big budget film, and more importantly to the studios and its investors, a huge successful moneymaker. Looking at the closing credits took at least 15 minutes – filled with name upon name of all those involved in the making of this spectacular “much of the same” and for me alas a yawning bore of a cinema experience.

My problem with the film is that it felt like last year’s model, the territory including the mood and “light” is visually too familiar. The landscape and special effects are panoramic, both natural and artificial – products of the digital age we live in - filled with fierce, snarling animals, teeth bared accompanying equally vicious and savage creatures called Orcs, along with gigantic spiders weaving viscous entangling webs, and a rapacious fire-breathing flying dragon, Smaug – of the title - who resides in The Lonely Mountain protecting his copious bounty of purloined coins and jewels.

Despite the inclusion of many of the same actors such as Gandalf the Wizard (a bit more bedraggled Ian McKellan) who can still conjure up enchanted divinations, and the beautiful Orlando Bloom, heroic as ever as an Elvin Prince, I felt confused by the addition of characters that were never in the original book. I can accept a director creating composites in their screenplays that diverge from the book, but this time it was at the expense of the wonderful  Bilbo Baggins (delightfully played by an often bewildered Martin Freeman,) the brave Hobbit who reluctantly again leads a band of 13 dwarves on their urgent quest to reclaim their homeland, the dwarf Kingdom of Erebor from the overlord of Middle Earth, Smaug, the green-eyed, molten bellied monstrosity, at any moment primed to expectorate flames annihilating all those who step into his realm. Unfortunately, Bilbo’s humanity disappears in the CGI effects, and for much of this barely under three-hour movie, he is an ancillary personage in the plot. One inclusion I did respond to was that of a female Elfin warrior Tauriel (lovely Evangeline Lilly,) who is excellent at her craft and refreshingly human, inserted into this practically all-male cast to attract female audiences, creating a whisper of a possible “interspecies” romance.

The most intriguing part of THE HOBBIT: THE DESOLATION OF SMAUG addresses the age-old question of isolationism vs. interventionism in the face of dictatorial chieftains preparing to expand their territory. Absolute power vs. the exploited; tribal factions, self-interest, and ethnic purity with its accompanying disdain for the “other,” are still recognizable in our contemporary universe. The grab for world superiority aligned with the corrupting dominance of lucre is never-ending, and the fictional Middle Earth is no exception.

For some context - here is last year's review of the first of this Hobbit Trilogy:

THE HOBBIT 12/25/12

Very simply The Hobbit is a tale of a displaced people (in this case Dwarves) struggling to reclaim their Lonely Mountain Kingdom; in doing so wandering through the lands to reach that home. There are trials by fire and the "help of Wizards - one being Gandalf The Gray - subtly and merrily not-so-subtly played by the wonderful Ian McKellan and Galadriea the fairest and most powerful Maiden in Elve Land acted by the beautiful Cate Blanchett. I regretted not seeing more of her as she is such an aesthetic feast for my eyes.

That this adventure takes place in Middle Earth - prequel to The Lord of the Rings does not change a basic tale of mankind's journey and fight for their homeland. I found the early scenes in the Hobbitshire charmingly fairytale-ish and the dialogue between Bilbo Baggins ( a well-cast Martin Freeman) and Gandalf quite amusing and also touching on another universal theme - the quiet, unassuming home-body who goes on an adventure and steps out of his/her "ordinary" life and thereby changes him/herself and the "world."

I must admit to terrible boredom with fight scenes between goblins and various creatures on scary wolf-like animals and wait for those scenes to end-my only fascination with them is how they are choreographed.

The pivotal and most moving scene in the film is between the wonderful Andy Serkis as the schizophrenic Gollum (fighting between his dark and light side - evident by his eyes and facial expressions) and Bilbo who discovers more about his own character through this encounter.

This film also uses special effects, and all that CGI can do to make a small lovely book The Hobbit, into a 3 part movie - with all the money that it will rake in. 

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