Directed by Peter Jackson. Martin Freeman, Ian McKellan, Richard Armitage, Luke Evans, Orlando Bloom, Evangeline Lilly, Lee Pace, Stephen Fry, Benedict Cumberbatch (voice). Warner Bros.
Decent Films Ratings
|?Teens & Up|
Content advisory: Intense fantasy-action violence and battle sequences; scary images and creature menace; fleeting sexual innuendo. Teens and up.
From a National Catholic Register review
By Steven D. Greydanus
At the climax of the last of the many sprawling, outrageous action set pieces in The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug — a few with some textual basis in Tolkien, many without — comes a visual conceit so spectacularly gratuitous that it beggars the phrase “gilding the lily.” What is gilded here is so far beyond lilies that, like “jumping the shark” and “nuking the fridge,” it demands to be commemorated as the standard for future excess: in this case, excess in cinematic adaptation.
“Gilding the you-know-what” (or you will know if you click the link, so spoiler warning) has become, by now, the stock in trade of Peter Jackson and his collaborators, Fran Walsh and Philippa Boyens. The Lord of the Rings films were already marked by excess, but also by poetry and grace — and the source material was one of the grandest literary epics of all time, giving Jackson and company a great deal to work with. Even when they went bigger than Tolkien, as in the Mines of Moria or at Helm’s Deep, Tolkien was already so big that it wasn’t entirely unfitting.
But then came Jackson’s take on King Kong, a gleefully messy exercise in surfeit, shot through with moments of brilliance, but stuffed with characters no one cared about and such indiscriminate action spectacle and violence that it quickly became numbing instead of thrilling. After that came The Lovely Bones, a troublingly ham-fisted adaptation of Alice Seybold’s paranormal thriller, long on trippy imagery but short on recognizable human emotion.
Now, two installments into the epically epic trilogification of Tolkien’s slender fairy tale for children, it seems Jackson and company have only one abiding goal: to keep one-upping themselves with ever more preposterous action sequences, nastier violence and more inappropriate humor.