Ever since the Harry Potter series unapologetically milked audiences by splitting its final installment into two HUGE blockbusters, several other lucrative franchises sought to further capitalize on this idea by splitting their finales into two or even three parts. Most of the time, the filmmaker would whip up some ridiculous excuse for the split, desperately trying to creatively justify robbing viewers. The most recent example of this attempted justification is The Hobbit film series, which will split a 306 page book into a trilogy of three hour movies. This is a vast undertaking for viewers, especially because most of the material added by director Peter Jackson and his team is unnecessary fluff taken from other Tolkien books. With the bloated first film already released, it has become abundantly clear that the direction Jackson and his filmmakers are steering the trilogy is not what fans of the book were hoping for.
A good chunk of the first movie was spent exploring and expanding on themes and characters that were not involved in the book’s events, which would have been acceptable if they were included for creative reasons. One of An Unexpected Journey‘s biggest missteps was its inclusion of Azog the Defiler, a fearsome, one-armed orc with a thirst for dwarf. This inclusion adds roughly an hour of material to a film that already suffers from too much happening at one time. In the novel, Azog is long dead by the time Gandalf, Thorin, and the dwarves come a-knockin’ on Bilbo’s door, but his son Bolg makes an appearance in the chaotic Battle of Five Armies. Quick breakdown: Jackson and his team of filmmakers need a villain in the first film so they toss in a character who really has no business chasing Bilbo, Thorin, and company, pissing off hardcore Tolkien fans and altering the history of his stories in one fell swoop. And if that wasn’t enough, we spend a whopping forty-five minutes in Bilbo’s kitchen listening to the dwarves sing, dance, and bore us.
The second film, The Desolation of Smaug, continues this trend, packing its not-so-short runtime with explosive action sequences, a diverse cast of characters, and plenty of nods to the Lord of the Rings trilogy. While some of the additions to the already beefed up script are welcome ones, I still can’t rid myself of my own skepticism at the many liberties Jackson has taken with these interpretations. As viewers catch up with Bilbo and the Bearded Bunch, Azog the Unnecessary still runs rampant, Smaug still sits smugly atop a mountainous pile of gold, and viewers can’t help but feel a bit overwhelmed. Legolas makes a welcome return, and this time he’s got a squeeze in the form of beautiful elf Tauriel. Tauriel doesn’t exist in Tolkien’s books, but she single-handedly adds a strong feminine edge to a testosterone-heavy action flick that is both welcome and impressive. But because she’s the only female in this three hour sausage fest, she finds herself caught between the affections of Legolas and Kili the dwarf. This romance drains both the runtime and viewers’ patience, robbing them of a good story by adding more shit to an already heaping shit pile.
With three films that clock in at about three hours each, there should be plenty of breathing room. After all, The Hobbit is an airy, whimsical adventure that frolics and has fun with its light tone. Sadly, that is not the case with Jackson’s adaptations. These movies lack almost everything that made the book so magical and endearing, and it’s because they seek to include as much Tolkien lore as they possibly can.
It may have been unreasonable to think that a Hobbit trilogy could reach the level of emotion and spectacle that The Lord of the Rings achieved, but I don’t think a fun, well-paced film is too much to ask for.