“The Hobbitt: The Desolation of Smaug”
For those whose cup of tea isn’t fantasy adventure film, anyway, this one will be even more bewildering because of the lack of explanation. It’s the second in a trilogy, and ends even more abruptly than it begins. Those who love this genre will find a creative, complex story, rich in character development: a kind of pilgrimage, quest, and adventure epic unlike any other.
But, for the uninitiated, a short summary: “The Hobbitt” series is based on the novels of J.R.R.Tolkien, a British professor and scholar who wrote it for his children in the 1920’s. When they were later published and found a popular audience, he developed his “Lord of the Rings” series, which actually builds on the fantasy world of “The Hobbitt.” In the back story, Bilbo Baggins (Martin Freeman) is a hobbit (a sort of pointy-eared, fur-footed combination of elf and human), who is enlisted by the wizard Gandalf (Ian McKellen) to help the Dwarves recover their homeland, by stealing the treasure guarded by the fierce monster-dragon named Smaug (the voice of Benedict Cumberbatch).
In this second installment, still journeying to the Dwarves’ distant ancestral homeland, our intrepid band of adventurers encounters many obstacles, including giant spiders who sting them and encase them in sticky webs, armies of evil soldiers mounted on hostile beasts in hot pursuit, warrior-elves who won’t help them unless their homeland is also threatened, and escaping the clutches of a great rampaging bear which actually morphs into a hairy helpful human. Yes, there’s a hint of romance, between one of the Dwarves and an elf warrior princess (Evangeline Lilly), but we really don’t have time for all that. We’re off to see the fire-breathing, evil Dragon, ruling his oppressive domain with consummate cruelty, and guarding every coin in his overstocked gold treasury. (What does a Dragon need with money, you ask? Well, true evil would want to hoard it all just so nobody else could enjoy it; instead, dooming the innocents to poverty, misery and hopelessness.)
Bilbo has found a magic ring that he keeps in his pocket, because when he slips it on his finger, he becomes invisible: a particularly handy device for escaping, and also for being the “fly on the wall” to discover what others are plotting. The previously-unassuming Bilbo, having formerly been content to just read books in his easy chair by his fireside, is now not only enjoying the adrenalin rush of putting himself in danger, he’s also finding that he loves being in possession of this magic ring which gives him the secret power. Yes, his self-confidence has increased, but will pride inevitably follow? And does pride come before the fall? Ah, but Bilbo is also the one who finds the keys to free the Dwarves from their imprisonment by the Elves, and also solves the riddle of the “last light of day” that illuminates the magic keyhole to the secret door through the mountain. (Nobody else considered that it would be the moonlight that glows just after sunset.)
The good news is that there’s a discernible plot here, that gives direction to all this fantastic fantasy adventure. The bad news is that it’s so immersed in its own idiom that it will have a very difficult time appealing to a wider audience. But love it or hate it, you have to admire the way Director Peter Jackson has brought to life on the big screen a unique storybook adventure series, that would otherwise sink into the literary obscurity of the bargain bin of used bookstores.
Dr. Ronald P. Salfen, Minister, St. Stephen’s Presbyterian Church, Irving , Texas