Thursday, January 9, 2014

The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug Review (2013)

The first part of Peter Jackson's The Hobbit, "The Unexpected Journey" had me wondering  if Randal in Clerks 2 had it all right. Was these movies really just a bunch of people walking? Fortunately my biggest complaint from part one was rectified as stuff of actual interest happens in Desolation of Smaug.

Say em all fast now

Picking up where we left with out 13 Dwarves Thorin, Balin, Bifur, Bofur, Bombur, Dori, Dwalin, Fili, Gloin, Kili, Nori, Oin and Ori along with Bilbo Baggins of the Shire and Gandalf are continuing towards the Lost Mountain on the merry quest of simply slaying slaying a killer cunning Dragon named Smaug and reclaiming the Dwarves homeland.

Desolation manages to push the plot along at a nice pace this time around, starting in dark evil woods, through to the finale in the mountain it bounces along briskly.
Photographed beautifully as you would expect by the now from these films there is still stunning wide shots of glorious countryside. However the overuse of the CGI much like in "An Unexpected Journey" becomes a deterrent. In the opening half hour you see this wolf like creature and it just looks of, either to CGI or bad CGI, the judge is open to a sway of decision. I'm not sure but the overuse continues and I think at one stage I saw a CGI horse, how about just getting a real horse Mr Jackson? A Fantasy Adventure needs to be immersive and I felt like I was being held back.

Of course Book purists are not happy with all the liberty's, additions and changes Jackson and co have made to the Hobbit films, I have simply come to accept this as "Peter Jackson's The Hobbit' not J.R.R Tolkien's and with that I get to embrace some of the cool changes in Desolation of Smaug.

Where the hell is Jack? 
The Barrel sequence seen a bit in the trailers is allot of fun. I remember zoning out for just a second and thinking "Oh hey. I'm enjoying this." It's just the exact kind of sequence that I want to watch in an Adventure film like this. The good guys doing an epic getaway from the bad guys in bad-ass totally unrealistic fashion that is just riveting fun.
Another royalty that Jackson took is the addition of characters and in Desolation of Smaug he added a kick-ass Elf named Tauriel; played by Evangeline Lilly. Reports when Lilly was cast all said she was to be a love interest for Aidan Turner's character Kili. Which although is true Tauriel added a needed dynamic to the cast of Elves including Orlando Bloom returning as Legolas. Tauriel stands as the apparent only non-Elf supremacist in the group that we get to meet. Even Legolas seems like more a dick and elthough the whole Elves hates Dwarves relashionship was played with in the Lord of the Rings films, here it seemed pushed into the foreground and more apparent.
The Tauriel and Kili romance also allows Aiden Turner to flex his character and we as the audience actually get to see more from one of the 13 Dwarves. Up until this stage the 13 Dwarves seemed to be just two Thorin and Balin followed by 11 mysterious ghosts who pipe in for a quick one liner here and there outside of pronouncing themselves at the Shire in the first film.

Now I'm not sure how much of Benedict Cumberbatch's actual performance as Smaug helped created the menacing beast the was thrown upon the screen in front of me but oh boy, if this isn't the best on screen Dragon of all time! If it wasn't his performance it was defiantly Cumberbatch's voice work that brought the gravitas needed for this performance of Smaug. He is powerful, cunning, conniving and quite magnificent in the face of all that. The treasure filled room where  Bilbo makes his confrontation with Smaug is a magical setting. Although to be honest I couldn't help thinking why can't Sherlock and Watson just get along the entire time. Geekasms aside Martin Freeman is also wonderful in the scenes with Smaug showing smarts and the obvious growth of bravery; this isn't the same Hobbit we left with the Shire with. The converse with Smaug and Bilbo plays out in a brilliantly terrifying and funny way that just wouldn't have been as great without the two actors delivering the performances.  

Aside from the main quest at hand we get more incite in the Necromancer sub-plot when Gandalf goes to investigate the ruins that Radagast came across in the first film. It's all very 'darkness is coming' 'evil is rising' and foreshadowing of the next film though and after a certain amount of it, it becomes tedious. Yes we get it, evil is coming... in the next film, so can we get back to what this film should be about now and not sneaking anticipation for the next film only half way into this one.

Furry feet doesn't cause shocks
Some other high points though include Stephen Fry winning the best mustache of 2013 award as the Master of Laketown. Ryan Gage as Alfrid giving the best evil henchman of 2013 performance opposite his musty muse Luke Evans as Bard, the local sneaky man but all around good guy.

Awards aside though I feel like if you felt similar about the issues with the first film you should enjoy Desolation of Smaug allot more like I did. It still feels quite plastic at parts but welcome changes like the awesome Barrel sequence with kick-ass Legolas to boot and Evangeline Lilly's character's welcome heart. Oh and did I mention Smaug is awesome?

+ Stuff Happens 
+ Smaug!
+ That Barrel Sequence
- Still to Plastic


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