Director Peter Jackson has returned with another long installment of his ongoing, never ending, here-comes-another-one, will-this-ever-end chapter in the saga of Middle Earth and the odd goings on therein. Having experienced the entire Lord of the Rings (2001 to 2003) I suspected I was in for more of the same. I was right.
Once again we return to a land of Hobbits (short people with big hairy feet) Dwarves, Elves, Orcs, little bald guys and ugly monsters. Once again the Hobbits, Elves, Dwarves and other good creatures are preyed upon by Orcs, Dragons, ugly snarling wolf-like creatures, giant spiders and various other evil beings too numerous to list. The good guys are always on a quest to do good and stop evil. The evil guys are out to do bad to the good guys and bring darkness to all. (They also want to control all cable and satellite programming so only Honey Boo Boo shows can be seen.)
Not having seen the first Hobbit film, The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey (2012), I sat through it the night before viewing Smaug. Like the previous movie, in Smaug, Hobbit Bilbo Baggins decides to go on an adventure. He sets off with a few Dwarves to travel to the Lonely Mountain, so called because it is lonely. A big ugly dragon named Smaug has torched and taken over the mountain kingdom so he could have all the Dwarves’ gold and take a nap. So the Dwarves join Gandalf the Wizard and Bilbo the Hobbit to slay the dragon and regain their territory. They run into trouble.
The first Hobbit film and the new one are parts of a continuing story that will conclude next year with a third film using the same formula. The company travels for a while, fights its enemies, and escapes sure death just in the nick of time by being saved or pure luck. Take your pick.
The action in both films consists of a series of set pieces that look a lot like the ones from the Lord of the Rings. The events are different; although they, too, are similar to many of the things that happened in the LOTR series.
The new film is terrific to watch as far as special effects go. The set pieces are exciting, well directed and beautifully staged and designed. The only problem is that like the first Hobbit film, this one runs a very long two hours and 40 minutes, and most of the scenes seem stretched out to the max. It feels like Jackson has filmed a lot of material and can’t stand the idea of seeing anything left on the cutting room floor.
While above average, these long, long films’ audience is fans of the books – and fantasy films in general – rather than those of us who would gladly sacrifice a little more to the floor in the interest of telling a story.
Rated 3.0 out of 4.0 reasons there is only one film left to go. Of course, there is always The Silmarillion, a conglomeration of ideas that J.R.R. Tolkien’s son assembled and published as a novel in 1977 after JRRT’s death. The producers will probably rework this material into at least six more films.