I don’t think Peter Jackson realizes that the Hobbit does not need to be The Lord of the Rings, so I am absolutely dumbfounded by why he is so set on making “The Hobbit” trilogy the epic it is not. People have been scratching their heads ever since the announcement that the adaptation of Tolkien’s book would be a trilogy. Now the first two parts have been released, and both films, having a running time of over 160 minutes each, assure the viewer that this is no experiment in brevity. I was willing to defend the first part of this trilogy, and I did, mostly because I was caught up in the nostalgia of being back in Middle Earth, but now the the fan service isn’t enough to elevate “The Hobbit: Desolation of Smaug”.
Our journey begins where the last one left off, with our gang of dwarves and our hobbit thief Bilbo Baggins working their way to reclaim Erebor, the dwarven land held hostage by the dragon Smaug. On the way to Erebor the crew encounters smugglers, spiders, elves, orcs, and all the fantastical people that populate Middle Earth. All build up to a climax battle with Smaug that almost makes the entire movie pointless because nothing is accomplished. Of course it’s building up the the epic finale, but I really couldn’t help to notice how much screen time is spent is spent needlessly extending every possible scene to be as longer than needed and how slowly things advance. These extensions were certainly entertaining in the moment, but I found myself wondering why it was stretched out to be so long.
So many of the production decisions for this film confused me, and I wish they would have spent longer than a year working on a project of this scale because things did seem a little rushed. Characters interacted weirdly with the environment, which is attributed to the excessive use of green screen and CGI. Everything just seems so inauthentic when it feels like the sets aren’t real. It was like the entire film was designed to be a theme park one day, complete with a barrel ride down a river: yes, that actually happens, and while incredibly ridiculous, it was probably the most fun scene in the film, and really allowed for the comedic nature of some of the Dwarves to shine. Perhaps since The Hobbit is supposed to be a retelling of the story by Bilbo, the inauthenticity of everything is just due to his exaggerated storytelling.
Jackson has taken some obvious liberties with the source material, and without even reading the book I felt like I could pinpoint the characters that were shoehorned-in to make the story more interesting, e.g Tamriel and Legolas, both of which are elves and the latter of which was put in because Peter Jackson still thinks that Orlando Bloom is the heartthrob he was a decade ago. Tamriel on the other hand, while an interesting character, is completely reduced to the point of a love triangle between her, Legolas, and one of the Dwarves whose names at this point are irrelevant because the intention of having so many is that you’re supposed to mix them up, but I digress.
The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug is a nice popcorn flick that is certainly a cut above most action movies of its genre, but the flaws of this trilogy are becoming so distractingly large that I ran out of excuses for Jackson. I understand this isn’t supposed to be Lord of the Rings Part 2 but it so obvious that Jackson is trying to some extent to relive the glory days of his filmmaking with this trilogy. A stellar third part could make this trilogy another classic honestly, but Jackson needs to realize that “The Hobbit” is only one book, and doesn’t require seven hours of screentime.