Directed by Peter Jackson. 161 mins.
Worth my time? Yes. (Seen in 3D [24fps] at Arclight Hollywood)
Apart from my sore bladder near the end, Desolation is a good adventure movie and the first of Jackson’s Middle-earth adaptations in which I thought the good outweighed the bad. Some of the transitions between plots and subplots are janky (though I don’t know how Jackson and editor Jabez Olssen could have taken on so many stories and made it smoother), but unlike previous installments, fun shit happens at an acceptably steady rate.
Also, I opted for the 24fps experience this time around, definitely a good call. An Unexpected Journey looked like a nauseating (literally – 48fps makes me physically queasy) television program.
Martin Freeman is an infinitely better lead actor than LotR’s Elijah Wood. Freeman was the best part of Unexpected, and his character is even more interesting in Desolation. Kudos to the One Ring for slowly turning Bilbo into a sadistic junkie. Thorin (Richard Armitage) develops some layers, but I still wouldn’t care if any of the other dwarves die. I couldn’t name any of them. One of them is Cory, maybe?
Oh, and Ian McKellan is reliably awesome. That dude is able to carry even the most outlandish scenes. If you don’t believe me, watch X-Men: The Last Stand. McKellan’s the only actor who does any acting in that piece of Ratner shit.
Some critics and nearly every fan of the original novel are up in arms about Desolation’s inclusion of Legolas (who wasn’t in The Hobbit) and Tauriel (who has no basis whatsoever in Tolkien’s bibliography). Their inclusion isn’t crucial to the story, but I wasn’t offended. I understand that Jackson wants his Hobbit trilogy to tie into The Lord of the Rings more closely than the novels, and that’s okay by me. If you want The Hobbit to be 100% faithful to Tolkien’s vision, read the goddamn book. You could probably complete it cover-to-cover in the same time it takes to watch two of these movies.
Cliffhanger endings are tricky, but I thought Desolation pulled one off very well. The revelation and confrontation with Smaug was well done – he’s a pretty suave dragon – and the final battle scene kept me on my toes. I almost jumped when the screen went black. That’s a pretty good reaction to have after such a long movie.
Aside: Why do dragons like gold so much? They aren’t spending it, and sleeping in it appears rather uncomfortable. So what’s going on?
(Seen and written on 2013-12-13)