Do we have any actual evidence that Peter Jackson has gone through puberty? Yes, there’s the beard, and the children, but his Tolkien movies all look like they were conceived and directed by a ten-year-old. I only saw The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey on TV but we saw The Desolation of Smowg in all its 3-d, 48-frames-per-second glory last night. The dragon is fabulous (and Martin Freeman is a great Bilbo); the rest–and there’s a LOT of the rest–is relentless closeups of fights and frights that the “high frame rate” makes look like Survivor: Renaissance Faire.
While I remain morally offended by the making of three big movies from one little book, the addition of subplots and characters was itself well-done, even the inclusion of not-Liv-Tyler as not-Arwen, although she totally was and was. In fact, the movie seemed like it needed more plot, because what there was got dragged out to inordinate lengths. The spiders, the barrels, the Orc-fighting . . . and near the end the dwarves bustle about Smowg’s lair for what seems like days (Richard asked me what they were doing. “Killing time,” I said.) The amount of attention and detail lavished on the barrel-riding in particular made it look theme-park ready.
Boys of any age and gender will enjoy all the combat, which is what the high-frame-rate stuff was made for, as the fights seems excitingly real. But there’s little sense of actual danger, as we know from the Lord of the Rings movies that Bilbo and Gandalf and Legolas (wtf?) will all be fine. Not-Arwen should watch her back, though.
There are about six chapters left to go, including “The Clouds Burst,” aka The Battle of Five Armies, which is just the kind of Tolkien Jackson likes. Expect Ian McKellen to have a good time with “Bolg of the North is coming, O Dain! whose father you slew in Moria. Behold! the bats are above his army like a sea of locusts. They ride upon wolves and Wargs are in their train!” Oh, who am I kidding? I’ll be there.