Unbeknownst to me, this Hobbit “trilogy” that producer/director Peter Jackson has served up apparently has Tolkien fans all atwitter. And I don’t mean that in the good, let’s-get-the-word-out, social networking way. Jackson has taken the one original novel by J.R.R. Tolkien, “The Hobbit”, and carved the movie adaptation into three massive installments, adding characters, playing with plot and flexing around with all sorts of other things, which has done everything to cause your average Tolkien fanboy’s head to explode. Thankfully, none of this matters one bit to the average movie-goer, like me, who just wants to know whether the movie is, well, entertaining.
The first installment of the trilogy, last year’s The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey, left me somewhat cold as it spent nearly the entire movie setting up the story. Now, in part two, The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug, the story finally gets underway—boy, does it ever. Hobbit Bilbo Baggins (Martin Freeman), who has been enlisted by Gandalf the Grey (Ian McKellan) to help the dwarves retrieve their homeland from the dragon Smaug, continues on his wide-eyed journey with the not-so merry band of dwarves, who encounter all sorts of obstacles along the way. It’s sort of a classic bro-mance, frat-boy, road trip, video game and fantasy movie all wrapped up into one elegantly produced, special-effects driven blockbuster of a rollercoaster ride movie that will please just enough of the child inside to allow you ignore so many obvious things that would make this, taken as a movie alone, a silly and almost preposterous experience. But Jackson’s total commitment and passion is evident in every moment, and you can’t help but get sucked in, despite the obvious lapses in coherence or originality.
What makes The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug worth the time, effort and money is the eye-popping blast you’ll have watching it. There are at least three major sequences that rival any action movie you’ll see this year or any year—sequences that will make you feel like you are on an actual theme park ride or inside a video game. And the climax of the movie—getting to the dragon, voiced by Benedict Cumberbatch—is so worth the price of admission.
There are a lot of weaknesses in this movie, slow parts and long parts, but I will tell you that the parts that are fast and furious and fun so outweigh them. Even if you really don’t give two cents about the story, which, I’ll be honest, I don’t—I still go for the visuals, the effects, the performances and the experience. Sign me up for part three.