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 The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug

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Donald McKinney
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PostSubject: The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug   Tue Jan 07, 2014 12:53 am

When The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey opened in late 2012, it came with a lot of expectations, and some grumblings from critics and even die-hard fans of Middle-Earth. The fact that Peter Jackson and his team had decided to split J.R.R. Tolkien's 1937 book, which lasts a meagre 310 pages into a 3 part film, which each part lasting in excess of over 2 and a half hours, it did seem excessive. There were even some who feared that it would be a mess to rival the Star Wars prequels. However, that proved to be not the cast at all. The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey proved to be a fun and thrilling fantasy adventure. True, it was lighter in tone than The Lord of the Rings trilogy, and a lot more playful as well. However, Jackson had fun with the film, and had brought about a good origin story for the life of Bilbo Baggins, and his adventures. In short, he had done justice to Tolkien's world, and captured the spirit of the book. For the second film, the film shifts gears right from the start, it's a much darker tone, but still with a good sense of fun about it's structure, but we've had the fun and games of An Unexpected Journey, now it gets down and dirty. As this part was originally packed to the gills with action and story, it was during editing in the summer of 2012 that Jackson decided to split the The Hobbit from 2 films into 3. Expanding the story, giving it room to breathe and the viewers to take in this vast and majestic world. With The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug, the action kicks in, there's a lot of entertaining set pieces, and some brilliantly imagined characters on display. Plus, like a lot of film trilogies, it doesn't fall into the traps of Second Film Syndrome, it manages to be a great way to pass over 2 and a half hours.

Picking up from almost immediately where the first film left off, Thorin Oakenshield (Richard Armitage), Gandalf (Ian McKellen), Bilbo Baggins (Martin Freeman) and the band of dwarves Dwalin (Graham McTavish), Balin (Ken Stott), Kíli (Aidan Turner), Fíli (Dean O'Gorman), Dori (Mark Hadlow), Nori (Jed Brophy), Ori (Adam Brown), Óin (John Callen), Glóin (Peter Hambleton), Bofur (James Nesbitt), Bifur (William Kircher), Bombur (Stephen Hunter) are being chased by Azog (Manu Bennett) and an army of Orcs. When they reach Mirkwood, Gandalf abruptly leaves the group, but he promises he'll reunite with them on the other side. Our heroes go into the woods, battle spiders, and get imprisoned by the Wood Elves, led by Elvenking Thranduil (Lee Pace), along with Legolas (Orlando Bloom) and Tauriel (Evangeline Lilly). Bilbo uses the ring he claimed to free the dwarves, make an escape and meet Bard the Bowman (Luke Evans) to help get passage to Lake-town. Smuggled in barrels of fish, the get in, but with Legolas and Tauriel in pursuit, Tauriel wants to help the dwarves, realising what their purpose is. Meanwhile, Gandalf and Radagast (Sylvester McCoy) meet investigate the tombs of the Nazgûl, and make a disturbing discovery. Thorin and Bilbo make their way to the Lonely Mountain, Bilbo enters to try and claim the Arkenstone to unite the dwarves, but he ends up awakening the dragon Smaug (Benedict Cumberbatch), who has been guarding the treasure.

The film begins with director Jackson doing a cheeky reprise of a villager in Bree munching on a carrot, showing how the band of dwarves came together. It's a good prologue, which has some darkness abound, but the film is dark from there on out, with not as much humour as An Unexpected Journey, but there is a lot of fun to be had throughout. For example, the scene with the spiders in the labyrinth of  Mirkwood is amazing to watch, and is exciting. While the escape in barrels from the elves is like the best computer game level you've ever seen, it's fast and all over the place, but it's great fun, and it has the same level of thrills that the mine cart escape in Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom (1984) had, it's that level of excitement. As with our previous excursions to Middle-Earth, it's beautifully realised. From the rich cinematography by Andrew Lesnie, Jackson's trusted cinematographer for over a decade, and Dan Hennah's detailed production design, with a little help from illustrators Alan Lee and John Howe, who had brought Middle Earth to life in the Lord of the Rings trilogy. Even Howard Shore puts down another great score, one that's heroic and suspenseful when it needs to be. Jackson gets the best out his crew, all working hard and bringing this world to life.

Jackson again has a brilliant cast once again. Martin Freeman's Bilbo Baggins goes from the fussy and particular hobbit who likes things a certain way, to brave and courageous hero. He's found confidence and it might be because of the ring he found. He's matured since leaving the Shire, and he's not going to be the same when he returns. Even the veterans from the first film have little screentime. Ian McKellen as Gandalf leaves the film after about 15 minutes to follow his own agenda, and his presence is missed, but it's going to set the tone for the hell that's going to come in There and Back Again. Like what happened in The Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers (2002), it set the tone for what was to come in the grand finale. But we have Orlando Bloom returning as Legolas, years before he set out on another great odyssey with another Baggins, and he shows a more tenacious side, and he acts well against some new faces, including Lee Pace as the uncompromising Elvenking Thranduil, while Evangeline Lilly as Tauriel is more diplomatic and when she realises what the party of dwarves are up to, she wants to help. Luke Evans, (from The Three Musketeers (2011)), makes a good Bard the Bowman, while Stephen Fry has an amusing little cameo as the dubious Master of Lake-town. But the icing and cherry on this rich and vast cake, is Benedict Cumberbatch, mo-capped up as dragon Smaug, whose deep tones are unsettling and creepy, and add to the tone.



The Desolation of Smaug dives into the action straight away, it's fast and furious and it doesn't let up until the end, there's room to breathe every now and again, but it's fast and it goes from set piece to set piece. But it's brilliant fun to watch, and to those who thought that it had gone a little sloppy in An Unexpected Journey, fear not. Middle Earth is back with a bang here, with weird creatures on display, from the devious Orcs to Beorn (Mikael Persbrandt), a skin changer who goes from man to black bear to man again. You do get the impression that Jackson has packed it a bit too much to the gills with details and characters, but he's doing Tolkien justice, he's giving Middle-Earth love and attention. Jackson loves Tolkien, that much is clear, and he's doing a stellar job. This isn't just a simple, bog-standard adaptation of The Hobbit, this is a massive epic adaptation, will all the bells and whistles, no expense spared on any department. The ending, however abrupt it might seem is one hell of a cliffhanger, and it sets the tone for whats about to come in the next part, There And Back Again, which can't come soon enough. In fact, this'll leave you wishing that it was coming out sooner, and you want to see what's going to happen next. Roll on December 2014 and the grand finale to end them all!!
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PostSubject: Re: The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug   Tue Jan 07, 2014 9:51 am

Awesome review Don!


I still think it's the weakest of Jackson's Middle Earth films but the more I think about it the more I love it.

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He's a klutz, Mrs. Landingham. Your president's a geek!
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PostSubject: Re: The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug   Tue Jan 07, 2014 6:08 pm

Maybe the extended version on DVD will be better. Wink
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PostSubject: Re: The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug   Wed Jan 08, 2014 9:59 am

Yeah maybe. I still have the extended AUJ to watch! Really looking forward to that.

_________________
We renounce our Maker.
We cleave to the darkness.
We take unto ourselves the power and glory.
Behold! We are the Nine,
The Lords of Unending Life.


Frakkin toasters!

So, what, the murder weapon was a top sirloin?

He's a klutz, Mrs. Landingham. Your president's a geek!
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PostSubject: Re: The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug   Wed Jan 08, 2014 5:32 pm

I'm going through the Appendices of that DVD now as we speak. Wink
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PostSubject: Re: The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug   Thu Jan 09, 2014 5:15 am

Are they as good as the LOTR ones?

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Behold! We are the Nine,
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So, what, the murder weapon was a top sirloin?

He's a klutz, Mrs. Landingham. Your president's a geek!
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