Review: New 'Hobbit' breathes fire into trilogy
This image released by Warner Bros. Pictures shows Martin Freeman, left, and John Callen in a scene from "The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug." (AP Photo/Warner Bros. Pictures, Mark Pokorny)
Sleeping dragons, as we know from our childhood literature, eventually awaken. If they didn't, there wouldn't be a story. So it's hardly news that in the second installment of Peter Jackson's "Hobbit" trilogy, the dragon rouses from his slumber.
What IS news: the franchise wakes up, too.
Die-hard fans might disagree, but to many, the first film, last year's "The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey," took way too long to get going and then dragged for much of its 169 minutes. "I do believe the worst is behind us," noted Bilbo Baggins at the end of that film, to which some of us wanted to reply: "Well, we hope so."
This image released by Warner Bros. Pictures shows Evangeline Lilly, left, and Orlando Bloom in a scene from "The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug." (AP Photo/Warner Bros. Pictures, James Fisher)
"The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug" is not much shorter — 8 minutes, to be exact — but it feels brisker, lighter, funnier. The characters are more varied, more interesting; We'll take a comic turn by the entertaining Stephen Fry over another Orc any day. There's even an added romantic subplot.
The whole enterprise, it must be said, involves a huge dollop of cinematic hubris. J.R.R. Tolkien's "The Hobbit," after all, is a book of some 300 pages. With these three films, a prequel to his "Lord of the Rings" trilogy, Jackson devotes about two film minutes to each page. Imagine if they did that with Tolstoy's "War and Peace." The movie would have been 40 hours long.