Sunday, December 29, 2013

Theatrical Review: The Hobbit- The Desolation of Smaug

The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug (2013) Poster

Date: December 29, 2013
Time: 11:15am
Location: Pocono Movieplex
Party: 3 (my mom and aunt)
Duration: 161 minutes (+1 trailer)

Director: Peter Jackson


I believe the name of the movie is "300: Rise of the Empire"... it's the sequel to Zach Snyder's "300" with Xerxes as the returning antagonist and a brand-new protagonist... a female bad-ass, whom my mom and aunt recognized as Circe from the "Game of Thrones" series.
It looks pretty impressive, the scale of it and so on. Here's hoping it got better press than "300" did.

We were among maybe a dozen people in the theater. Then again, it was a rainy day so not a lot of people would be coming out to begin with.

Mind the spoilers... however few there might be.

As was the case with the first film, I won't bother with a lengthy cast list on account of the fact I'm really bad with names in the universe of Middle Earth.
I mentioned that I've yet to read a single book written by Tolkien and I'm probably going to keep it that way. Having said, according to my book-nerd aunt, it didn't really follow the book much anyway.

We begin in flashback at a familiar site. The only familiar site from the original trilogy. The port city just outside of the Shire known as Bree (where Frodo and his fellow Hobbits first met Aragon). Dwarf King Thorin of Oakenshield meets Gandalf there, who urges him to take back his home land or else darkness will overcome Middle Earth.

Fast-forward to a year later:
The hobbit Bilbo Baggins, the wizard Gandalf the Grey and the legion of Dwarves continue onto their destination: their former mountain home, now under the reign of the Dragon, Smaug.
Along that trek, they encounter more hardships. The theme of the previous film was multiple chase scenes. Here, the reoccurring theme was being captured and imprisoned. First by the Elves and later (although short-lived) by humans in a seaport just outside the mountains.

This time we saw the movie in 2D and certain pieces would have catered well to 3D, particularly when you see small critters like bees and birds flying around. But in some ways, it was a blessing to see it in 2D because it made certain scenes less intense.

When I saw "Chamber of Secrets" in theaters, there were two scenes that I found hard to watch. One featured Aragog and the big spiders in the Dark Forest. The other featured the giant snake known as the Basilisk.
I don't suffer from arachnophobia or fear of snakes, but the spider scene in this movie made that look like child's play. They were freaking huge and freaking scary. In a way, I guess you could say that that meant they were well constructed and the scene was well-written. Per my personal tastes, I couldn't wait for that scene to end.
It was also pretty jerkish that the Elves not only showed up AFTER the fact to help out the dwarves, but they also imprisoned them... for what reason, I really don't know.

They certainly spent a lot of time in this new trilogy emphasizing the dislike between the dwarves and elves. Of course we're seeing this from the POV of the dwarves so the audience is liable to side with them over the elves... even if they are the better looking bunch.
The trailers leading up to this appealed to the masses by showing a lot of scenes with Orlando Bloom (back as Legolas) and Evangeline Lilly (newcomer Tauriel). Legolas's father is king of the Elves and isn't the most likable character in this film.
In a nutshell, his attitude is that the elves should stay out of the worldly affairs and keep to their particular kingdom. He was also the one who refused to help Thorin's grandfather (as seen in the first movie's exposition) because he was blinded by his greed.

I hate to say it, but Legolas wasn't as pleasant to watch this time around. His attitude was severe whereas in the original trilogy, he was just as much a bad-ass in the battle field, but kept a level head while maintaining a good heart. Less snobbish, I guess you could say.
Thankfully, we had Tauriel to save us from hating Elvin kind entirely. She brought great new energy to this series, which was in dire need of some female ass-kicking. That plus the events that followed also allowed for Legolas to change his tune and win back the allegiance of his fan base :-P
There's also a hint of a love triangle where Legolas has feelings for Tauriel, the king tells her this and says not to accept his advances and she starts to develop feelings for one of the younger dwarves (who I didn't really pick up in the first movie, but then again, I only remembered 2-3 of them).

It also seemed like a lame move for Gandalf to leave the Dwarves maybe half an hour into the movie and to wait for him before entering the mountain... he never came back. He was busy heading in another direction, looking to face the Necromancer (who I don't believe we even saw in this movie... despite the fact Benedict Cumberbatch was listed in the cast) and instead gets captured by Sauron (aka: the eye in the tower overlooking Mordor in "Lord of the Rings").

But what was great was how much braver and stronger Bilbo has become as a character. He saved the dwarves from the spiders. He broke the dwarves out of Elvin prison and came up with an escape route for them. And he did his best to distract Smaug while looking the Arkenstone he was "hired' to steal.
Of course, the common thread was the aid of the Ring of Power. Becoming invisible helped a great deal with those situations, but sooner or later, it'll probably be his undoing.

As for Smaug, he was definitely worthy of the subheading in the movie title. Probably the most impressive dragon you'll see in any movie. (Back to Benedict Cumberbatch for a second, IMDB says he does the voice and motion capture for Smaug as well... and the Necromancer IS Sauron). And he got plenty of screen time, more than Gollum got in the previous film :-P

One or two more memorable scenes:
When the Elves "arrest" the dwarves, Legolas looks at the photos one Dwarf was carrying, asking who they were (with a twinge of disgust). One of his wife (reminding me of Gimgli saying how it's hard to tell the difference between dwarf men and women with their beards) and the other was his son... who was, funny enough, Gimgli.
For that reason, I was half expecting to hear a mention of Aragon or his father, Arathorn somewhere... unfortunately we're probably a few decades, if not centuries away from that.

The scene where dwarves are escaping from the Elvin fortress in barrels in the midst of a battle between Elves and Orcs... absolutely crazy, all the acrobatics going on. My mom and aunt were still talking about this scene 10 minutes after we got back home because there came a point when a dwarf-in-a-barrel was rolling down the riverbanks, knocking down Orcs left and right, almost like it was video game.

Ed Sheeran performs "I See Fire," the song in the credits.

The only real negative I can derive is that it ended on a God-awful cliff-hanger.
Granted, we knew this was coming because it's a trilogy originally written as two movies, but still... at least the "Two Towers" had a good place to call it quits. You know, not mid-action. I expected them to at least defeat Smaug... if anything, they worsened the conflict by allowing things to end as they do... or not end.

Comparing the two movies so far, it's a mixed bag. There were good points with both and negatives in both. But I found the original a little more enjoyable personally and despite being 5 minutes shorter, didn't feel as long as its sequel did. Maybe I've just gotten a little tired of the special effects as of late.

My biggest issue, other than the ending, was that it felt too hectic at times, too much going to keep up with... and this was in 2D.

Grade: A-
(92%, whereas the previous film is more like 94%)

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