{film} The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug

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I feel as if my ‘Top Reasons’ to see a film posts are making me a lazy film reviewer. And yet, I going to indulge in another one. In no particular order, I present:

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The Top 5 (1/2) Reasons to see The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug (2013)

the-hobbit-the-desolation-of-smaug-tauriel#1: You are a fan of both Tolkien and the Peter Jackson collaborative. This is not where I make absurd promises that the film is adapted remarkably close to the book and therefore fans will be so very excited. Yes, Beorn (Mikael Persbrandt) made the cut (into the film, at least) and I know our household was hoping the bear-man would have some screen-time. No, the fans to whom I am referring are the type who can look at the invention of Tauriel (Evangeline Lilly) and approve of the inclusion of such a bad-ass heroine she-elf officer-in-charge–and why? because it is Tolkienesque to populate his adventures with female characters of her ilk and it is really nice to have Tauriel’s presence in this second film of otherwise all male protagonists. Too, the sort of fan that appreciates the mindfulness of the LOTR films in which they might echo and anticipate the ring. And the sort who can dig the incisions of the Necromancer story from other Tolkien material dealing with the Wizards, etc.

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#2: The sets and effects are amazing. as was true of each LOTR installment, Jackson ups the ante. The most deliciously chilling? The High Fells of Rhudaur, the Tombs of the Witch-king and the Nazgûl…(a clip, though best seen in context). Then there is the explication of the eye of Sauron. Gorgeous graphic work there, and such an intense scene w/ Gandalf, the light and the darkness. And I really cannot get enough of how beautiful Smaug is! Nor can I get over how wonderfully grotesque the orcs are in this installment.

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#3: Martin Freeman as Bilbo Baggins continues to impress. While it may feel like Bilbo and Thorin (Richard Armitage) compete, as foils, for the hero of the story (title not withstanding), Thorin is oft static, we cut to him and he is this or that with the wind blowing through his hair, or he is running or fighting, cut to his face and ah, that belligerent stance, but we rarely see a ranging emotion in front of a still camera. And perhaps he is meant to be unreadable as we question whether he is of his people or will be like his grandfather (note his profile against profile of the statue scene, nice). Perhaps the memorable moments belong to Bilbo. Freeman is tasked with Germany: "The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug" Premiereechoing Smeagol at one point and it is disturbingly well done. He is emotive not only in face but body and his line delivery is unquestionably good. Last film, he was entrancing as he and Gollum (Andy Serkis) interacted in a game of riddles and hide-and-seek and this film features Bilbo and Smaug (Benedict Cumberbatch) in a similar game (at a similar point in the film) to just as enchanting effect. And damn if Cumberbatch/Smaug is not striking in his own expressiveness.

#4: The Elves…minus that cavernous setting in spite of their love of elevation and light; or is this an appropriate tension: they talk of one, but reside in another state… I mentioned Tauriel, but I want to expound a bit about her presence. She allows not only for some expansion of the plot, but enlivens it; especially since–for some noble reason ($), no doubt–they brought back fan-favorite Legolas (Orlando Bloom); more on that in a sec. She facilitates greater realization of a few of the dwarves. The Desolation seems conscientious of better characterizing the large relatively large crew of dwarves. Tauriel also negotiates the tension between Legolas and his kingly father Thranduil (Lee Pace). Ah, but if they needed a return of Orlando Bloom, I wish they’d cast him as the-hobbit-the-desolation-of-smaug bard andthe Bard–no offense to Luke Evans’ work in the role. But while they can smooth  wrinkles (as they’ve been doing this whole series), his features have matured into more masculine squares, in face and body. The dissonance between his character/figure will be the most keenly felt when viewing The Hobbit then LOTR series. Where Desolation did not go badly with male elves is Lee Pace as Thranduil. His costuming and throne alone are excitable, but Pace’s bearing and speech are marvelous. Lee Pace fans will say, of course; one of whom is Sean. He was thrilled, but not surprised. I just turned to him and said, Mr. Pace does theater doesn’t he… which he does, of course. Pace’s Thranduil easily resides in league with Hugo Weaving’s Elrond and Cate Blanchett’s Galadriel. He is a must see.

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#5: And Action. I found the choreography of An Unexpected Journey to be visually stunning. They upped the ante here as well. The barrel scene was a delight, Bombur (Stephen Hunter) had everyone laughing uproariously and, might I add, continuously. I also found it all less dizzying, the exuberance is restrained into well-directed energy that is nicely plotted toward moving the film along and engaging the audience in more and greater intensity until the adrenaline and dread meet in that breath-catching end.

the hobbit desolation stephen fry#5 1/2: Stephen Fry as Master of Laketown. also, look for Peter Jackson’s cameo in Bree with carrot at the very start. And Stephen Colbert as one of the Laketown spies.

————–

The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug (2013), Directed by Peter Jackson; Screenplay by Fran Walsh, Philippa Boyens, Mr. Jackson, & Guillermo del Toro; Based on The Hobbit by J.R.R. Tolkien; Editing by Jabez Olssen; Cinematography by Andrew Lesnie; Music by Howard Shore; Produced by Carolynne Cunningham, Zane Weiner, Ms. Walsh, & Mr. Jackson; Production Design by Dan Henneh; Set Decoration by Ra Vincent; Costume Design by Bob Buck, Lesley Burke-Harding, Ann Maskrey & Richard Taylor; Studio: New Line Cinema, MGM, WingNut Films. Distributed by Warner Bros.

Starring: Ian McKellen (Gandalf), Martin Freeman (Bilbo), Richard Armitage (Thorin), Benedict Cumberbatch (Smaug/Necromancer); Evangeline Lilly (Tauriel), Lee Pace (Thranduil), Luke Evans (Bard/Girion), Ken Stott (Balin), & Orlando Bloom (Legolas).

Rated PG-13 for extended sequences of intense fantasy action violence, and frightening images. Running Time: 161 minutes.

{images belong to Warner Bros.}

One Comment Add yours

  1. I’ve become a BIG Lee Pace fan over the years. Pushing Daisies, The Fall and Miss Pettigrew Lives for a Day are easily re-watchable in part because of how excellent Pace is. I was so happy we got to see extended scenes with him in this film. He does a great job being a terrible prick of a character, though understandably so given the way the elves and dwarves treat one another.

    I too think the sets are amazing and the movie could have been even longer (oooo…can’t wait for the Extended Edition) just to give more time to explore various locations. I’m with you all the way on Beorn. That time was much too brief, but enjoyable all the same.

    I really enjoy the addition of Tauriel and although part of me likes having Legolas here just for the emotional bond of these films to the LOTR films, I wish we didn’t have the love triangle aspect. I’m okay with the crush/romance between Tauriel and Kili, but I don’t need Leggy in there as well. And it is hard, especially in HFR to see a noticeably older Bloom cast as a younger Legolas. It distracts a bit from being able to completely give over to the joy of his inclusion.

    All in all I am loving these films. Not to the degree of passion that I have for the Lord of the Rings trilogy. Nothing is going to replace that. It is better source material that lends itself to better storytelling. But I’m glad we get three Hobbit films and that efforts are being made to pull in other Tolkien source material as well as efforts that exist to tie both film trilogies together.

thoughts? would love to hear them...

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