Strong sense of deja vu lording over ‘The Hobbit’

December 21, 2013

As a huge fan of the effort put forth by director Peter Jackson, the cast and the visual wizards of his Weta Digital team, I must admit that with the release of "The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug," I am now suffering from "Lord of Fatigue."

I mean, how far do these freaking hobbits have to go?

Granted, when the original "Rings" trilogy came out, there was a purpose to their mighty runtime. Each film spanning well over two hours felt fitting to match its multi-book origins. But in an effort to recapture that momentum, Jackson has inflated J.R.R. Tolkien's comparatively diminutive "Hobbit" to mountainous lengths, and we are there for every hairy, oversized footstep.

On the plus side, Jackson does manage to wring a bit more fun out of this one, which features some inspired action sequences that are equally thrilling and silly. It's certainly less of a chore than "An Unexpected Journey," which dulled down everything that made his original trilogy so spectacular.

But "The Hobbit" book is not as sweeping. It seems written for a younger audience and is light and fanciful where the "Rings" series was dark and glowering. Jackson's attempts to super-size the hearty-but-more-comical dwarves into little mini-Bravehearts just feels like an unnecessary stretch in an effort to hang around Middle Earth a while longer.

Mercifully, we are not treated to backstory, as things pick up from the previous installment: Thorin Oakenshield (played by Richard Armitage), is out to reclaim the dwarven kingdom of Erebor, but not before visiting with some nasty giant spiders, fleeing those omniscient orcs, shacking with a “skinchanger” and jailed by those spiteful sprites, the elves (that sound you hear is Orlando Bloom’s excitement for the chance to be relevant again). The stop also allows us the opportunity to witness some hot elf-on-dwarf action as Evangeline Lily introduces us to Tauriel, an elf with bow skills that would make Katniss jealous. Tauriel (a character created specifically for this film) sparks an interest in hunky dwarf Kili (played by Aidan Turner) and further pads the film with a rather inconsequential love story.

But the “Smaug” monster in the title is supposed to be this installment’s tent pole. Voiced by Benedict Cumberbatch, the braggin' dragon rests among the wealth and treasure of the once-great city, and it’s up to Bilbo (played by Martin Freeman) and the boys to pluck one lone crystal from the kingdom.

It's not without its thrills, but after four films set in the same worlds, a strong sense of deja vu is beginning to lord over the franchise. And as much praise I've previously bestowed upon the effects team, this is the first film in which some scenes really suffered from showing the seams in the curtains of green screens used throughout.

By the time the film reaches its abrupt ending, the anticipation for the final installment (due next year) extends more from the fact that the quest will finally end, and not from eagerness for what lies ahead.

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