Saturday, December 28, 2013

REVIEW: The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug 3D

The Hobbit:
The Desolation of Smaug

Martin Freeman, Ian McKellen


December 13, 2013

Peter Jackson

Warner Bros. Pictures,
New Line Cinema
Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer Pictures

2 hours 41 minutes



Last year, director Peter Jackson brought the "Lord of the Rings" series back to theaters with the first of three prequels "The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey."  Next year we'll be getting the bridge between "The Hobbit" and "The Lord of the Rings" with "There and Back Again," so this year we've been given the second film in this new trilogy, "The Desolation of Smaug."  We begin where we left off at the end of the previous film, with Bilbo, Gandalf, and the rest of their company continuing their quest to the mountain that is the home for the vicious dragon known as Smaug.  Along the way, they encounter elves, orcs, and other magical beings, and this is all pretty much dragged out into a nearly 3 hour long film.  While that may sound like a bad thing, it really isn't.  In fact, I had a lot of fun with "Smaug," though probably not for the reasons one would expect.

It's one thing to make jokes during a film, but to make fun of an entire movie with one of your best friends, who happens to be a huge "Lord of the Rings" fan, is really something.  My buddy and I were making fun of this film non-stop and were constantly pointing out how implausible certain things in the film were.  This isn't taking away from the film at all, because looking back at it, I might not have given the film the proper attention it deserved.  To be fair, though, I don't think scenes involving characters fighting in barrels are supposed to be taken seriously in the first place, so go figure.  However, just because my viewing experience wasn't the best way to see this film for the first time doesn't mean that the film itself is flawless.

The fact that Peter Jackson decided to take "The Hobbit," a 200+ page book, and expand then into three 3 hour movies to me is completely ridiculous.  Having not read the book, I just wonder if everything in these films, which most of it apparently comes from other things J.R.R. Tolken wrote regarding this universe, was really necessary to put in.  You have subplots about elves and dwarves romancing each other, as well as Gandalf doing his own thing away from Bilbo and the others.  And yet, the main story of Bilbo on his quest to kill the dragon Smaug is kind of put to the sidelines and becomes the subplot in its own film.  And to make matters worse, the film ends on a cliffhanger to what is supposedly the finale of "The Hobbit" book.

After over 2 and a half hours of subplots, filler, and a 30 minute segment with a talking dragon, we don't even get the finale of the damn book.  If Peter Jackson had done what he promised and made "The Hobbit" into two movies, then have "There and Back Again" be the bridge in between "The Hobbit" and "The Lord of the Rings," then I think it would have paid off in the end.  But now, the last 30 or so minutes of the next film, like "Return of the King," is just going to be multiple endings that somewhat lead into the series we all know and love.  In my opinion, this is truly a shame and a letdown to fans of the book and even fans of solely the movies, because they could have easily wrapped things up here and have the next film be a 2 hour bridge between each series.  Having said that, there are actually good things present in this film despite not seeming like it at first.

The action, for the most part, is great to watch. Every scene, no matter how ridiculous it's executed, is done very well and are overall a lot of fun to experience. The visual effects are a marvel to behold, with all of the digital sets and particular characters, especially Smaug, look absolutely amazing. Even the makeup on certain characters and creatures look realistic and so good. They might not look as astounding as Gollum, but they are still technically impressive and a sight to really admire.  The acting in the film is also really good, with Martin Freeman's portrayal of Bilbo becoming ever so better than in the last film.  Benedict Cumberbatch voices Smaug the Dragon, and he too is fantastic in the movie.  Man, this guy can play villains really well, with Khan in "Star Trek: Into Darkness" and now this.  Nobody really shines in this film per say, but everyone does a great job.  As for the 3D in this film, it's pretty much a gimmick now, so only see this film in 3D if you really want to.  Otherwise, what's the point?

While "The Desolation of Smaug" is a lot more entertaining than "An Unexpected Journey," it's not necessarily a better film by any means.  This movie to me is a lot easier to make fun of, plus most of it felt a lot like pure filler throughout most of it.  "An Unexpected Journey" might be the slower of the two, but it's successfully able to balance the filter and the adventure of the film with some intense sequences, fantastic visuals, and a better told story I must say.  Plus, that film had an ending that's really satisfactory, while this film's ending just felt like a cop out, to some extent.  Nevertheless, Peter Jackson has made an entertaining enough movie that is good, but nothing spectacular, enough to recommend.  If there is one great side to this film, I will say that it did make me excited for the final installment coming out next year, and that's from someone who isn't even that big of a fan of the "Lord of the Rings" series to begin with.



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