Friday, January 3, 2014

The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug Movie Review

Ever since the end credits started rolling at the end of The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey (2012), I've been chomping at the bit to see the sequel; The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug (2013), and I was not disappointed. Even with a few flaws, there is more exciting action, more beautiful visuals, and easily the best dragon in cinema history!
After successfully crossing over and under the Misty Mountains, Thorin (Richard Armitage) and company continue their quest and must seek aid from a powerful stranger named Beorn (Mikael Persbrandt) before taking on the dangers of Mirkwood Forest. Upon reaching the forest, the wizard Gandalf (Ian McKellen) discovers "Black Speech" graffiti on an old ruin and abruptly leaves without explanation. If the dwarves reach the human settlement of Lake-town, it will be time for the hobbit, Bilbo Baggins (Martin Freeman) to fulfill his contract with the dwarves and use stealth to retrieve the Arkenstone which will reunite all the dwarves. The party must complete the journey to the Lonely Mountains and burglar Baggins must seek out the Secret Door that will give them access to the hoard of the dragon Smaug (Benedict Cumberbatch). Meanwhile, Gandalf rejoins a fellow wizard of his order, Radagast the Brown (The Doctor Sylvester McCoy), to investigate a potentially greater foe that the Black Speech foretold.
As was the case with The Lord of the Rings Trilogy, The Hobbit movies are being filmed back to back and filming sometimes overlapped. It's all the same cast and crew. So to save space here, just go read my review of An Unexpected Journey; what I discussed there can easily be said about The Desolation of Smaug.  An Unexpected Journey was good, though it had some pacing issues. But holy cow! The Desolation of Smaug is amazing! I think this is more of the tone viewers were expecting with the first movie. This one really takes things up to the next level.
This movie assumes that you have seen the previous one. Seriously, you must not see these out of order. The movies starts off with some exciting action and doesn't really slow down enough to develop the characters that have previously been established. Sure, we get some new characters; Orlando Bloom reprises his role as Legolas the elf, Tauriel (Evangeline Lilly) the Chief of the Guards for the Elfking, and Bard the Bowman (Luke Evans), and the Master of Lake-town (Stephen Fry). They all get developed to varying degrees, but the movie assumes you already know who Bilbo, Gandalf, Thorin, and the other dwarves are. That's often a downside to sequels; but since this is part two of a three part story, I can let it slide.
The Hobbit Trilogy is based on the book, the appendices to The Return of the King, and Tolkin's personal notes. There are extra scenes and characters I just didn't recognize at all. It turns out that there were scenes and characters included that were unique to the movies; Tauriel for example. I was suspicious that Legolas showed up in The Hobbit at all. He was not in the book, and I was expecting him to just make a simple cameo, nod to the fans, and be gone. Not so. He's actually a major character and that makes sense because his father plays an important role in the movie and the book. If you're going to shoehorn extra characters or scenes into an established story, it's important to make them meaningful, memorable, and amazing. That is exactly what Legolas and Tauriel were, and I loved it!
Smaug is easily the best dragon ever put on the big screen. I was a bit upset that we got to see him in one of the trailers. But no, the trailer did not do Smaug justice. If you saw the trailer, you have not seen anything yet. He is absolutely colossal. He's cunning, articulate, evil, ridiculously powerful, menacing, and dominating. I mean, you know when Bilbo enters the hoarded treasure chamber that you're going to see Smaug, but nothing can prepare you for it! You really feel the dread Bilbo feels upon first seeing this monster. Smaug would probably corner you without any kind of effort, kick your butt at a game of chess, and then incinerate you. I simply cannot describe how excellent Smaug is in this movie! This dragon is truly epic, and is going to be a memorable movie villain for ages to come; right up there with Lord Voldemort, Darth Vader, The Wicked Witch of the West, and The Joker.
The Desolation of Smaug isn't without its flaws. The music is good, but not nearly as memorable as the music in An Unexpected Journey. This isn't a movie score you're as likely to listen to repeatedly. The story is weakened a bit simply from being the "middle chapter" in the bigger story; there isn't much of a beginning point nor is there much of a conclusion. It just ended so abruptly. This is very much a special effects intensive film, but a couple of times the CGI looked rather overt. I felt like some scenes could have been polished up a bit more.
The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug was fantastic! It's got some flaws, but I don't think they are deal breakers by any means. The director, Peter Jackson, seems to be slipping into the realm of fan fiction at times, but he manages to make his additions acceptable and lots of fun for the most part. Smaug is incredible; best movie dragon ever! We're left with a considerable cliffhanger, but it's made me all the more excited for the final installment. You must see The Desolation of Smaug on the big screen. Smaug will look much less incredible on a TV screen. Catch this in theaters, and then wait to buy the extended edition on Blu-Ray. It's worth owning.

All other movie dragons have now been dethroned, but before Smaug came along, what was your favorite movie dragon? I thought Draco the dragon in Dragonheart was pretty good. Comment below and tell me about your favorite!

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