The family Boxing Day tradition continued, and I attended Ballarat’s premier screening of The Hobbit. It met all my expectations. So much so that my review of part 1 of the trilogy (released 12 months ago) is equally applicable to my review of part 2:

“To conclude, I think it can be said that although Jackson’s film is not very faithful to the pace and tone of Tolkien’s book, Jackson is faithful to Tolkien’s vision. If only it wasn’t half an hour too long, I would call this an outstanding movie. As it is, The Hobbit is overwrought but very good.”

Twice, while watching Desolation of Smaug, I turned away from the screen to see what time it is. Not good! These movies are looong. But steep running times are not unique to Peter Jackson. It’s a universal Hollywood trend. Meanwhile, I’m lucky to get to the cinema two or three times a year. So it may be that I’m just not used to sitting in a theatre for three hours. Maybe I’d check my watch even if a movie was well-paced.

It’s years since I read The Hobbit. Twenty years or more, I’d imagine. But I’ll amend that in the near future. In the $15-limit school staff Kris Kringle, I scored a leather-bound pocket edition of Tolkien’s novel. Well played Miss Slatter, well played!

Pictured: awesome KK present.

Pictured: awesome KK present.

Since I really can’t remember the plot of Tolkein’s book, I’m very forgiving of Jackson’s divergences. I remember enough to know that there ain’t no female-warrior-elves falling in love with boy-band-dwarves in the canonical literature. But who cares? It’s a good movie, with three outstanding sequences: the spider attack, the party’s white water barrel escape, and the epic battle with Smaug.

Did you notice these are all action sequences? Desolation of Smaug is an action movie. If you’re looking for Tolkienesque insights into morality and aesthetics, look elsewhere. They might resurface in the third instalment — I hope so — but you’ll have to settle for Hollywood standards this time.

The middle instalment of The Hobbit was always going to be the weakest link in the trilogy, just as The Two Towers is the weakest link in The Lord of the Rings. Part two must by its very nature lack the charm and novelty of part one, and fall short of the scale and resolution of part three. But still, Desolation of Smaug is a great film — beautiful to look at, compelling to watch, and entertaining.

If you’re more of a literary purist, you may prefer this worthy review from Madeleine van der Linden.

And now for something completely different: