(US/New Zealand - 2013)
Directed by Peter Jackson. Written by Fran Walsh, Philippa Boyens, Peter Jackson, Guillermo del Toro. Cast: Ian McKellen, Martin Freeman, Richard Armitage, Orlando Bloom, Benedict Cumberbatch, Luke Evans, Evangeline Lilly, Cate Blanchett, Lee Pace, Stephen Fry, Ken Stott, James Nesbitt, Aidan Turner, Sylvester McCoy, Graham McTavish, Jed Brophy, Mikael Persbrandt, Ryan Gage, Manu Bennett, Lawrence Makoare. (PG-13, 161 mins)
The second installment of Peter Jackson's HOBBIT trilogy is a no-expense-spared visual stunner, but again suffers from the bloat of Jackson and his writing team padding a 300-page book into what will amount to somewhere around nine hours of cinema. I'm not saying there's an etched-in-stone rule for film adaptations of books, but if you can read the book in less time than it takes to watch the movie, you might be overdoing it. Jackson was able to convey the entire epic LORD OF THE RINGS trilogy in three films, but the recurring--and justified--criticism of this latest venture is that The Hobbit is a comparatively smaller-scale, less grandiose novel, but it's still taking him three overlong films to tell the story thanks to the addition of material from Tolkien's The Silmarillion and Unfinished Tales. There's simply no reason other than the greed of getting fans to pay for three movies that this couldn't have been one three-hour film. This frequently becomes a problem when a visionary filmmaker unveils a game-changer and is then granted carte blanche to do whatever they want. He may not be the insufferable asshole that James Cameron is, but that doesn't make Jackson's self-indulgence any less problematic and off-putting.
AN UNEXPECTED JOURNEY to make him look younger, though considering Legolas is already several hundred years old, it hardly seems necessary). Tauriel is a character completely invented by Jackson, and much time is devoted to her mutual crush on dwarf Kili (Aidan Turner), a subplot that the audience will find almost as irritating as Legolas does. So, it's not enough that he's bloating the novel into three films by incorporating material from other Tolkien works, but now he's creating additional characters and plotlines? Just adapt the book, Mr. Jackson. I'm no Tolkien purist and it's been years since I've read it, but you're fixing something that isn't broken.