Um, shit. Lemme try that again...
Nope, still not there yet...
Alright, you get the idea. At the moment there is a paucity of draconic Cumberbatchy goodness, though that will probably change over time.
In lieu of an actual review (because it's late and I'm tired), a few thoughts on The Hobbit 2: The Hobbiting — er, The Desolation of Smaug:
- While I really don't object to Jackson et al.'s taking liberties with Tolkien — these are really prequels to the movie versions of LotR, and not a straight adaptation of the 1937 kids' novel — the movie does stay better when it sticks closer to the book. I loved the Mirkwood scenes, which were my favorite in the book (as well as the 1977 Rankin-Bass cartoon). Spiders, man.
- Most of the extraneous stuff didn't really bother me, not even Kili fire-mooning over Tauriel's Muppety cheekbones, or Stephen Fry's Black Adder-y antics. But some enterprising kid is going to throw together an amazing two-hour fan edit of these things when all is said and done.
- Laketown reminded me a little uneasily of the village from Altman's Popeye.
- What really did bug me was the endless Rube Goldberg/Temple of Doom action in the Mount Doom scenes. (Jackson, the Muncher of Carrots, must really want to make that Tintin sequel.) I would have been perfectly happy to see Smaug get super pissed at Bilbo and fly off to ravage Laketown, as he does in the book. Instead we get a lot of disjointed setpieces with the dwarves that go nowhere. And the bit with the foundries is uncomfortably close to the Steam and Sparks Factory redolent of '90s action/SF flicks.
- As in An Unexpected Journey, it really felt that Jackson, et al. were trying very hard to recreate as many emotional beats from the original movies as possible. Just as the first film ended on the same sort of teary-eyed epiphany as the original movies (with even the same music!), there were a lot of scenes here that felt like they were designed to echo stuff in LotR. Kili seeing the light of the Eldar in Tauriel as she nurses his wounds calls back to Frodo and Arwen in Fellowship; Gandalf's wizard-fu with the Necromancer also recalls his battle with Saruman, albeit with more of a Dragonball Z vibe. And the business with Bard avoiding the Laketown guards is reminiscent of Gandalf and Pippin lighting the beacons in Return of the King.
- Some reviewer observed that with the Hobbit movies, the archetypes and cliches that Tolkien inspired in a zillion other sources have come full circle back to the original. The prologue at the Prancing Pony is straight out of a D&D campaign, with a chance late-night encounter at a busy tavern.
- At the end of the day, what Jackson and his collaborators have done here isn't all that different from what they did with LotR — adding subplots that weren't in the books to ratchet tension, building or expanding the backstories of the characters in ways that Tolkien probably wouldn't recognize, like Aragorn's reluctance, or Bilbo being corrupted earlier by the Ring's influence. The difference is that LotR was big and epic enough to absorb those changes, whereas with the Hobbit it feels like a narrative turducken.
- Yeesh, that cliffhanger ending.