Tolkien to the extreme

bilbo

I have my various obsessions that range from mild (I can talk for way too long about cheese) to … let’s say intense. (I own the Library of America Collection of the entire “Little House” series. It contains footnotes, autobiographical essays and scholarly research. For example, it turns out that Rev. Alden left his wife and two daughters for a younger woman. I KNOW.)

So maybe I’m not the target audience for “The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug.” I’ve read “The Hobbit” and the “Lord of the Rings” books, but only once. I tried “The Silmarillion,” Tolkien’s prequel to, well, everything, but gave up. Maybe it would have helped me navigate the 2½-hour film, which has at least three plots, none of which hold together.

The visuals are great, but they suffer from the same problem that bogs down too much of the rest of the film. There’s just so much movie in this movie: so many characters, so many subplots, so much “CHECK OUT MY DRAGON.”

Director Peter Jackson’s choice to cram in as much Tolkien as possible into this trilogy (remember: “The Hobbit” is one book. ONE. Jackson added in a bunch of stories from other Tolkien sources.) is understandable. But the choice to make the trilogy an elfstravaganza was the wrong one, because it slowed “Smaug” down so much I could have made it to Mordor and back before anything of importance happened.

Those who love Tolkien the way I love Laura Ingalls Wilder probably will enjoy the film — after all, I’d sit through three hours of a film version of “The Long Winter” if it meant I got to see them grinding that wheat in real time.

Jackson seems to have forgotten, though, that he was making a movie, not a compendium of All Things Tolkien. Adding in all that archery fun with Legolas means the film misses the mark.

Kristen Page-Kirby covers film, arts and events for Express.
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