Thursday, January 02, 2014

Movie Review: The Hobbit (The Desolation of Smaug)

We all know already that this Hobbit movie series expands upon the simple childhood tale that we might or might not have read as a child. Those disagreements and criticisms were made last year when TH: An Unexpected Journey was released and reviewed. You either liked it or you didn't. You either washed your hands of Peter Jackson and said "No more, man. I'm not gonna watch your movies anymore." Or . . . you didn't.

Me? I'm in the camp of knowing what he did and deciding to be fine with it. I mean, what am I gonna do? Go make a movie of my own? Go watch the Richard Bashki animations again? I know that this movie is made by the Peter Jackson that made King Kong rather than the Peter Jackson that made LotR: The Fellowship of the Rings. This Peter Jackson has a guaranteed fan-base (me included) that is gonna do what he's gonna do. You're going to have to be okay with his artistic license and his story manipulation, because he brought the Lord of the Rings to life in a faithful adaptation that no one else thought was possible. He did it and he made gazillions and he won Academy Awards and you're just going to have to be okay with that.

So, what was The Hobbit: TDoS really like?

It was a more coherent story than TH: AUJ. It somehow felt more like a movie and less like a video game. But maybe that was the lack of dwarf songs and circus-dancing dish cleaning? Instead, this was a journey movie, tracking Thorin's company through the perils of Mirkwood, the local politics of Laketown, and right into the heart of the Lonely Mountain to Smaug himself.

There was also lots of diversionary, appendix-based investigations by Gandalf and Radagast into the true nature of the Necromancer. (These scenes were the biggest diversion from the original story--leaving aside the very existence of Evangeline Lilly's Tauriel . . . and her unexpected love interest with Kili the dwarf?) Most of this I really didn't mind. Legolas and Tauriel's rubber-boned attacks on hapless orcs resulted in lots of visual interest and provided a spark to the movie that was lots of walking and talking otherwise.

[Also . . . is it killing Hollywood to allow Orlando Bloom to get the girl? What am I missing here? He's asexual as Legolas in the first LotR movies, so I guess no harm there. But in each of the Pirates of the Caribbean movies he's gotta move heaven and earth to convince Keira Knightly to love him. And didn't he play Paris in the mid-2000s big budget Troy movie that flopped? So, he failed to win over Helen in that movie, launching a war over his romantic ineptitude? Seriously everyone, why all the lady hate for Orlando B?]

[And as I now think of it, anything, and I mean ANYTHING, is better than the disaster that was the Goblin King mess of TH: AUJ. I mean, that nonsense was just awful.]

The most problematic part of the TH: TDoS was at the end, when Thorin and (part of?) his Company decided to accompany Bilbo into the Lonely Mountain and proceed to lead a hair brained attack on Goldenbelly Smaugerbatch. This led to lots of Attack of the Clones droid factoryesque fighting that had no place anywhere and should not even have been attempted.

But, overall, it was a more engaging movie than TH: AUJ and may be the strongest in the trilogy, considering that most of what is left in TH: Battle of the Five Armies (or whatever subtitle they choose to give it) is going to most closely hew to the battle scene sections of The Two Towers. So, if you watched TTT and said to yourself, "You know . . . the Battle of Helm's Deep should have been an hour longer" then this next movie is probably for you. But if you wanted more idyllic stuff similar to The Fellowship of the Ring, I'm guessing this third installment might be disappointing to you.

But, what do I know?

  • I thought the molten golden statue of Thror that was crafted in the fight against Smaug was ridiculous and very deux ex machina. But Brandon from work suggested that the mold was shown in the TH: AUJ scenes when Smaug first attacked Erebor. Maybe he's right. I haven't rewatched that movie.
  • Did you blink and miss the cameo from Peter Jackson . . . but most importantly (noted Tolkien nerd) Stephen Colbert?
  • We didn't stay to see if there was an extra scene at the end of the credits. Does anyone know?
  • What was up with the Thranduil zombie face reveal when he was talking about dragon fire? Even stranger than Galadriel's Ring-based freakout in LotR: TFotR.
  • Speaking of Thranduil . . . did you know he was portrayed by Lee Pace--formerly of ABC's Pushing Daisies TV show? If you didn't see his name in the credits, his eyebrows should have given him away.
  • Also . . . I reject the decision to augment Benedict Cumberbatch's voice. Sure, you can put an echo on it since Smaug was in a cavernous space . . . but why do more than that?
What did you think? Like or not like? Let me know in comments.

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