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Director:  Peter Jackson
Writers: Peter Jackson, Fran Walsh, Phillipa Boyens and Guillermo del Toro
Cast: Martin Freeman, Sir Ian McKellan, Richard Armitage, Orlando Bloom, Lee Pace and Benedict Cumberbatch
Studio: New Line / Warner Brothers

“The Desolation of Smaug” was better than I expected. But, I have never been a super fan of the original Lord of the Rings books or films. But, I always held a special place in my heart for “The Hobbit”. I don’t know how much of that is Rankin/Bass or actually reading the book in one sitting. That being said, it represented Tolkien’s ideas at his best. Clear-cut mythology working with a sense of a defined world. Characters were quaint, yet bigger than life. There was no fat to the material, just a grand adventure.

The second film in a trilogy always has the hardest work to undertake. “The Desolation of Smaug” has to sell the villain that carried the background of the first film, while helping the Dwarves to take back their birthright. I guess that’s why so many viewers have had trouble with where the second film chooses to end. Smaug’s death, the Laketown folk or the pending War with the Five Armies lays fresh on the minds of the informed audience. Expectations are breaking the narrative in a race to provide something that matters to the core audience.

There is something to this trilogy that underlies the problems with prequels. When the audience understands the consequences of the film’s actions and knows the outcome, what is there to gain from watching the film? It’s an invitation to marvel at the expected and to throw your hopes on the screen. That’s not healthy and it only leads to disappointment when Evangeline Lilly gets shoehorned into an already crowded movie. So, what should the viewer do with his/her expectations?

Art isn’t a democracy and the audience should have realistic expectations for film. Yeah, the Jackson additions don’t make any sense for The Hobbit as we know it. But, what version of The Hobbit are you sticking to as an aging viewer? Did you give Rankin/Bass that much grief for their changes? The least said about the Russian TV version, the better. If you never saw it, YouTube it after you get out of your showing.

Ultimately, the film’s legacy will be made or broken by future Tolkien fans. In the immediate now, we’re going to balance expectations of fans and the constant malaise of an over-exposed audience. The only thing new I gleamed from my screening was that 48 frames per second is starting to become my preferred way to view heavily CG’d movies. The animation flows much easier for the eye and the environments look real. I celebrate increased cinema technology, but the films must be able to keep up with it. Hopefully, the third Hobbit film makes this prequel trilogy worth it.

RELEASE DATE: 12/13/2013

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