'The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug' suffers from its own desolation

Gary Wolcott, atomictown.comDecember 12, 2013 

Question: The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug. It's supposed to be the second part of the tale of a hobbit helping dwarves reclaim their homeland and a treasure, and defeat an evil dragon. Right? At least that's how most remember J.R.R. Tolkien's classic fantasy.

Those with knowledge of the book aren't going to recognize big chunks of part two of Peter Jackson's Hobbit trilogy. Viewers not so familiar will find the effects-laden 3D or traditional 2D adventure lots of fun in spots, tedious in others.

Though he has important plot functions, The Desolation of Smaug pushes Martin Freeman's Bilbo Baggins into the background and makes him just one of the characters. Equal footing is given to elves that didn't appear in the book and to the dwarf king.

Part two of Jackson's trilogy picks up the story of dwarf king Thorin and cohorts, the wizard Gandalf and their hobbit friend on a trek to the Lonely Mountain. They get abandoned by Gandalf, picked off by giant spiders, rescued and imprisoned by reclusive elves and chased by Orcs wanting blood.

Not content to follow Tolkien's outline, Jackson and his The Lord of the Rings co-writers Fran Walsh, Philippa Boyens and part-one co-writer Guillermo del Toro add characters, scenes and events that didn't happen in the book.

Trying not to be a plot spoiler but having no other way to criticize the changes, it must be said that Jackson adds Orlando Bloom's The Lord of the Rings elf hero Legolas as a main character and has Gandalf in key scenes involving Sauron. Things that didn't happen in the book. These are long stretches in the movie and leads you to wonder if you're watching a The Lord of the Rings prequel rather than The Hobbit.

The additions, extra action sequences and new characters -- in this critic's mind -- are designed to pad the story and turn it into three, gazillion dollar, moneymaking parts.

There is zero doubt in anyone's mind that The Hobbit would have made an entertaining two-part movie. With parts one and two, Jackson has dragged Tolkien's beloved book into territory bordering on deadly boring. Maybe this is the reason he is giving each part of The Hobbit a one-year space between releases. Then you might forget how badly he has butchered Tolkien's treasured fantasy.

-- Mr. Movie's most excellent reviews can also be found on his blog at www.tri-cityherald.com/arts/mrmovie.

Director: Peter Jackson

Stars: Ian McKellen, Martin Freeman, Richard Armitage, Orlando Bloom, Evangeline Lilly, Benedict Cumberbatch, Cate Blanchett.

Mr. Movie rating: 2 1/2 stars

Rated PG-13 for mature themes. Its playing at the Carmike 12, the Fairchild Cinemas 12 and at Walla Walla Grand Cinemas.

5 stars to 4 1/2 stars: Must see on the big screen

4 stars to 3 1/2 stars: Good film, see it if it's your type of movie.

3 stars to 2 1/2 stars: Wait until it comes out on DVD.

2 stars to 1 star: Don't bother.

0 stars: Speaks for itself.

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