New in Theaters: ‘The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug’

Finally, the Lonely Mountain

Finally, the Lonely Mountain

For anybody who had just about given up on Peter Jackson’s ever-longer-seeming series of J.R.R. Tolkien films, there comes the improbably named The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug. Who knows how next year’s final installment will come off, but the second Hobbit film mostly chucks aside everything that was wrong with An Unexpected Journey and relocates the joy of storytelling. Plus: Benedict Cumberbatch as Smaug.

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The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug opens everywhere this Friday. My full review is at Film Journal International:

The elements click smartly together in The Desolation of Smaug like they haven’t since The Fellowship of the Ring. This is partly due to Jackson having better material to work with. With its characters fresh out of the Misty Mountains, the film hurls them from one danger to the next. In short order they’ve been taken in by a shape-shifting man-bear friend of Gandalf’s, sent into the inky-black vastness of the perfectly named Mirkwood, fought off giant hissing spiders, and imprisoned in the Escher-like underground palace of the wood-elf king Thranduil (Lee Pace). Looming in the distance is the treasure-filled Lonely Mountain, with its dragon guardian Smaug, and the unspoken worry that this tiny band of homeless dwarves and their unlikely burglar Bilbo (Martin Freeman) will be utterly outmatched once they arrive…

Tauriel (Evangeline Lilly) aims at Legolas' heart

Tauriel (Evangeline Lilly) aims at Legolas’ heart

Here’s the trailer:

New in Theaters: ‘The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey’

TheHobbit-posterJust in time for holiday gathering bickering over what movies to see, the first installment of the new Hobbit film trilogy opened everywhere late at night on Thursday, so strap on your Gandalf beard:

For Peter Jackson’s take on The Hobbit, his freedom to sprawl the narrative over three films also gives him the freedom to indulge in the same tricks and tics that gummed up the works so direly in Return of the King. Meaning: a whole server farm’s worth of animated orcs to keep goosing the action along whenever it threatens to flag, and a script too often shorn of the source material grandeur or playfulness. The unfortunate thing is that Tolkien’s book didn’t need any goosing along. He knocked out that brisk, rollicking read as a bedtime tale to read to his children; only later did it become the genesis of his entire Middle-earth mythos…

The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey is playing everywhere right now in a multitude of formats. It’s advisable to skip theaters showing it at the 48 fps (frames per second) speed, as it makes too much of the action look sped-up and cartoonish.

My full review is at Short Ends & Leader.

You can see the trailer here: