The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug
Another hobbit movie. What can you say? Well, the escape down the river in barrels with orcs and elves on both banks was well-done. If you like that sort of slam-bang action. The giant spiders were pretty creepy. (I read somewhere that Peter Jackson is so arachnophobic that he can’t even look at footage like that. He has to have someone else edit those scenes.) The dragon was good, voiced by Benedict Cumberbatch, but it is so engineered that I’d never have known it without seeing the credits.
What I’m realizing, though, is that there is a fundamental weakness in this story. It is trying to be heroic fantasy, but unlike Frodo and Sam and the rest of the Fellowship of the Ring, who are on a mission to save the world, these little bearded bastards are on a purely economic (the vast amounts of gold in the mountain) and political (restoring Thorin Oakenshield to the throne of wherever-it-is) quest. The fact is that, aside from orcs, Tolkien’s dwarves are the least appealing of his Middle Earth races. Nasty little troglodytes who never met a rock they didn’t yearn to carve. What’s admirable about that?
Okay, we can already see that Thorin is fatally flawed, his greed and ambition being bound to bring him low, and there can be a good story in that. But the persistent feeling here is what we have a smallish novel that has been bloated to massive proportions, just to make a buck. I will see the third installment, but I’m not looking forward to it.