Monday, December 16, 2013

Review: The Hobbit - The Desolation of Smaug


In the second of three films that compose the re-telling of JRR Tolkien's The Hobbit, Peter Jackson returns to the epic action sequences he perfected in 2003's The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King. The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug is a lengthy but entertaining addition to the chronicles of Middle Earth and is a must-see in the theater for any LOTR fans.  Bolstered by the excellent performances of Martin Freeman as Bilbo Baggins and Benedict Cumberbatch as the voice of Smaug the Dragon, this second film exceeds the excitement of the first in several key areas.

I won't get into the plot too much as the only people who are going to see this movie are either fans of Tolkien or Peter Jackson Middle Earth converts who saw the first four films he made.  Basically Bilbo has banded together with Thorin Oakenshield and a group of dwarves to reclaim their homeland (Erebor) that had been destroyed and inhabited by Smaug.  The first three quarters of the film show the dwarves' plight to make it to a hidden door in the mountains of Erebor in an attempt to have Bilbo the burglar infiltrate the throne room in search for a precious stone known as the Arkenstone.  We see some inter splicing of elvish involvement as well as the always excellent Ian Mckellen as Gandalf the Grey throughout the journey.

The real meat of the movie occurs during the final quarter as Bilbo faces off with Smaug in the throne room.  The geniuses at Weta Digital have done it again in creating Smaug, a clever, brash and ferocious fire-breathing behemoth with a sly perfect voice from Cumberbatch.  The dragon looks immense on screen and seeing the fire build in his belly before he shoots flames is an added authentic touch.  Freeman is awesome in these scenes, portraying the quirky banter between dragon and hobbit perfectly.  His physical nuances are well thought out and add to the overall reluctance of Bilbo to carry out this task for his dwarf friends.

My biggest gripes with this movie are the shear number of dwarves involved and the inclusion of Legolas the elf.  I can never remember the names of the dwarves and several of them look alike.  Legolas himself seems a bit out of place in this story (Jackson wrote him in as he wasn't in the book) and while Evangeline Lilly (Tauriel, another made-up character) is a nice bit of eye candy who gives a Liv-Tyler-esque performance of delivering beautiful lines of elvish dialogue, the whole elf involvement as a whole seems forced.  If you cut out all of the elf scenes in general you get a more manageable runtime and what I would argue to be a more compelling film.  That being said, Jackson does a great job with the story overall and delivers more than enough action and jaw dropping visuals to keep you engaged throughout.

For my review score here I am torn between 4 and 4.5 JRs.  This movie is very good and the action scenes are more intense and epic in scope than in the first Hobbit film, however I think the involvement of Gollum in the first movie just bumps it up a slight notch.  Therefore I will give this movie 4 JRs.  Smaug makes this film worthwhile and it'll be good to see him again in the third installment next year which will mark Peter Jackson's final farewell to Middle Earth.


Note:  I only saw this movie in 2D and not 3D or HFR 3D (which kinda sucked last year).  I may see it again in 3D, but there are a lot more pressing movies I need to see first for that to happen.

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