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Thursday, December 19, 2013

Movie Review: "The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug" (2013)


"The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug" is the 2nd movie in director Peter Jackson's "Hobbit" trilogy and I thought it was great, definitely better than the 1st movie ("The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey"). Did Jackson need to make 3 movies out of such a simple, short book? Probably not...but that's OK with me as I'd watch 20 movies based on both The Hobbit and/or The Lord of the Rings trilogy!

As I tend to do with blockbusters, I saw this at the IMAX in 3D. I also plan on going to see the 48 frames per second (fps) version as well, just like I did with the first movie.

The movie begins with a flashback (look for Peter Jackson's cameo!) which kicked this whole adventure off. It then picks up this adventure with our beloved hobbit Bilbo Baggins (played perfectly by Martin Freeman, who may actually BE a hobbit...I wish I was a hobbit so I didn't have to wear shoes!), our beloved wizard Gandalf the Grey (played by Sir Ian McKellen...I think I wish I was a wizard more than a hobbit, then I could do ANYTHING!) and their motley band of dwarves (the head dwarf being Thorin Oakenshield played by Richard Armitage...I definitely DON'T want to be a dwarf!) continuing toward the Lonely Mountain where the dwarves' kingdom under the mountain resides. Oh yeah...and also where a fire-breathing beast of a dragon named Smaug (voiced by Benedict Cumberbatch...I don't know if I'd rather be a dragon or Cumberbatch as both are pretty much awesome) resides. I will get to Smaug in a little bit...

Before our boys finally get to see Smaug, they have to get through Mirkwood, the spooky forest. And even before they venture through Mirkwood, they need to dodge some orcs. What's the best way to do this? Get a man who can turn himself into a bear to help you out, that's how! This man/bear is named Beorn (played by Mikael Persbrandt). Beorn is a pretty sweet character in the book and I would have liked him to get a little more screen time in this movie. But at least he made it (unlike poor Tom Bombadil who never did make it into "The Fellowship of the Ring"). They finally make their way into Mirkwood, where Gandalf decides to depart. Mirkwood has its own perils & mysteries, most notably some awesome spiders & then wood elves who take some (note SOME) prisoners. Here we meet the Elvenking Thranduil (played by Lee Pace), his son Legolas (yes, THAT Legolas played of course by Orlando Bloom) and a new female elf named Tauriel (played by the lovely Evangeline Lily...aka Kate from the TV show "Lost"). It is at this point where Jackson & his creative team take some liberties with the story as Legolas is not in the book and Tauriel doesn't exist at all in Tolkien's Middle-earth (nor do many other women). I have no problem with this creative license as it further enhances & builds the story rather than take away from it.

Anyway...the wood elves prisoners manage to get free (I won't give away HOW this happens) and escape via wine barrels (one of my favorite parts of the book), floating down a river toward Lake-town (aka Esgaroth). This isn't exactly a leisurely float down the river as they have to dodge orcs & wood elves. But they eventually do escape and are found by Bard of Lake-town (played by Luke Evans) who smuggles them into Lake-town, which is just south of The Lonely Mountain.

Meanwhile, Gandalf is working with Radagast the Brown (played wonderfully by Sylvester McCoy) to see what happened to the Necromancer who was introduced in the first Hobbit movie. It's no big secret as to who the Necromancer is...he's Sauron. And Gandalf's investigation into this aspect of the story is yet another opportunity for Jackson & his fellow writers (Fran Walsh & Philippa Boyens) to take some creative license with the story in a very positive manner. This also turns into a battle between Gandalf, Azog the orc (Thorin's nemesis, played by Manu Bennett) and the Necromancer himself...or itself, whichever you prefer.

The movie ends with Bilbo going into The Lonely Mountain via the secret entrance at Thorin's request (behest?) to retrieve the Arkenstone which is known as the "Heart of the Mountain" and is a very precious gem that the dwarves cherish. This is where Bilbo (and eventually the dwarves, as well as the audience) get to finally meet Smaug. And this is quite the meeting as the fire-breathing dragon certainly shows who is the REAL king under the mountain!

I have already inserted many of my opinions about this movie in my summary of it, so I won't add much more to this review. One thing I will say is this: Smaug is the best computer-generated creature/element that has ever graced a movie screen. The intricate details were not spared when generating him. I was very impressed with Jackson's Weta Workshop team who created such a visually stunning character. Add Cumberbatch's impressive voice to this beast and you have a wonderful creation. I am really looking forward to viewing Smaug in 48 fps!

Jackson has done a terrific job of enhancing an already great story with this film. I believe the elements he's added and the changes he's made would be embraced by J.R.R. Tolkien as they truly are enhancements. This is a wonderful adventure told by a master at his craft along with an immensely talented staff of production support, writers, computer geeks, etc.

This is a fun, exciting & visually incredible movie and I cannot wait for December of 2014 to roll around so I can see the final chapter in a great trilogy...9.0/10 stars

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