I greatly enjoy all of the movies made by Peter Jackson about J.R.R. Tolkien’s fantasy world, Middle Earth. I, like many others, have not read any of the books. But my first encounter with Middle Earth was when I was a small child, my grade school took a field trip to a children’s theater where I watched a play of The Hobbit. I don’t honestly remember it very clearly, but I do recall citing the spider attack scene as my favorite part about it.
The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug continues the story of Bilbo Baggins, Gandolf the Grey and a band of dwarves on a quest to take back Erebor, a Dwarven kingdom, from a terrible dragon known as Smaug. The movies starts out with Thorin alone at the Prancing Pony Inn, where Gandolf persuades him to reclaim the Arkenstone and take back Erebor. Flashing forward one year, the story is back to where it left off in The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey. After the adventuring party successfully passes the Misty Mountains, Azog the Defiler and his pack of Orcs are still in pursuit. They find refuge in an unlikely ally, Beorn the skin-changer. After it is safe, they go towards Mirkwood, a dark and unpleasant place they must tread lightly through. Gandolf is disturbed after finding writting on an old ruin and takes off, warning the group to stay on the path. The group ends up getting nearly lost in Mirkwood, then gets attacked by giant spiders, then gets “rescued” by Wood Elves, led by Legolas and Tauriel. By rescuing, they actually imprison the dwarves since Bilbo gave them the slip. Bilbo helps them escape, after some fighting and water rapid riding, they meet Bard, a human who smuggles them into Lake-town. Meanwhile, Gandolf is off to Dol Guldur to confront the necromancer, where he is defeated and captured. Thorin, Bilbo and company make it to the Lonely Mountain, and eventually find the hidden entrance. Bilbo enters to steal the Arkenstone but awakens Smaug. I won’t give away what happens, but it’s not good for Lake-town!
What I Like About It
I like a lot about this movie. The biggest thing is the transformation of the actors into their characters. It just amazes me to see actors like Richard Armitage made into Thorin, or Mark Hadlow changed into Dori, it is really impressive to see the level of complexity in the makeup and wardrobe.
“It never ceases to amaze me, the courage of Hobbits…”
I really liked the visual elements of Middle Earth. The vast landscapes, the perfect moonlighting, the comforting yet eerie sunbeams through the trees, the chilling cold of Lake-town, all of the visual elements were just breathtaking. On that same thought, I like the look of the two primary Orcs, Azog and his son Bolg. I first noticed how lifelike Azog was especially in the sequence near the end of the first film, when they had trapped the adventuring party in the trees on the edge of the cliff, when Azog looks onto the party with focused intent, there is just something about his facial expression that for me at least, conveyed a pure sense of attention and eagerness to see what will happen. That carried over to this film as well, plus Bolg just looked generally bad ass.
I really liked that Legolas, a grand hero from the chronologically later movies is kind of a dick in this, his introduction. I liked that the power of the ring was beginning to show as Bilbo would use it for it’s ethereal capabilities. I liked who the necromancer was revealed to be (not too many spoilers here). I liked the music, the soundtrack is just magnificent.
“I am fire… I am death.”
I liked just about every aspect of Smaug. Aside from the obviously fantastic visuals of Smaug, the detail in his scales, the texture of his eyes, the churning flame that brews within him before he breathes fire, the way his fire breathing looks more like a lava/napalm/flame mixture rather than just a big burst of fireball, his smooth and fluent movements, all of it. I later found out that not only did Benedict Cumberbatch do the voice of Smaug, but he was also the motion capture actor for Smaug as well.
What I Didn’t Like About It
In trying to think about the movie, scrolling through many of the scenes in my head, there were but a few minor things I didn’t like about The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug. Namely, many of the action sequences felt very CGI/green screen, most notably when the adventurers were barrel riding down the river. Many sequences flashed by very rapidly, which normally wouldn’t be an issue but it seemed just fast enough that it took just a fraction too long to process what was happening before another flash of sequence was already happening. That kind of rapid sequencing just makes it feel very jumbled and I understand the desire to show that it was all happening very fast, but it was just a little too fast for my taste.
All in All
The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug was a fantastic fantasy adventure through a fictional world. When I saw it, it was the standard theatrical version, I very much would like to go see the 3D version before it leaves theaters.