There are some who have dismissed the Hobbit series as “Lord of the Rings Lite” and in many ways this gets right to the heart of what is both brilliant and predictable about the second Hobbit movie. It is just more Lord of the Rings. But on the other hand, it’s more Lord of the Rings!
Compared to the long drawn out sections of the first film, henceforth known as The Hobbit: An Unexpectedly Long Title, The Desolation of Smaug feels like a much more confident and established film. Much like The Two Towers, all the strands have already been well established, and we are left with some breathtaking action scenes alongside themes of morality and identity.
When we meet Bilbo at the start of the film, he has just got his hands on the ring, but has yet to tell his co-travellers. They are keen to move on and get on with the mission of getting their homeland and treasure back from Smaug the dragon. However, many dangers lie between them and even reaching the fearsome dragon.
In many ways The Hobbit would have been better suited to a mini series told over ten episodes where viewers might not feel so lethargic about such a short story being told over such a long running time. It is of course Jackson’s style, but even though what he is shooting is certainly cinematic, this method of storytelling doesn’t quite fit in with what we expect from cinema.
The beauty of film is that we can go through that roller coaster of emotions over a two hour period and come out at the other side with a resolution, or at the very least an ending. Jackson therefore seems to be cheating, and while we were prepared to turn a blind eye for the epic tale of Lord of the Rings it is a little harder to do so here.
Perhaps I am being too rigid in my definition of cinema and there is room for these types of tales told over the space of three years. However, I would love to see what Jackson could do with his own ten-part mini series where we are given this type of story in weekly one hour chunks. Given directors like David Fincher and Frank Darabont have recently dabbled with the small screen, I wonder how long it is before Jackson follows suit?
All of this is a very long way of saying it’s actually quite difficult to review The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug because it feels very much like a (admittedly pretty epic) episode of a television series. All the great moments, characters and themes in it we have seen before in the previous four in the series. Basically it’s not going to win over any new fans to the world of Middle Earth, but neither will you be left especially disappointed if you are an admirer of Jackson’s previous Tolkien adaptations.
Maybe I’ll review the whole Hobbit series properly when the final film arrives, but until then here’s a picture of a dragon (voiced by Benedict Cumberbatch):