Monday, April 14, 2014


The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug (2013)

The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug theatrical poster

***1/2/***** (3.5/5)

Director: Peter Jackson
Producer: Zane Weiner, Fran Walsh, Peter Jackson, Carolynne Cunningham
Story/Screenplay: Fran Walsh, Philippa Boyens, Peter Jackson, Guillermo del Toro; based on The Hobbit by J. R. R. Tolkien
Music: Howard Shore
Cinematography: Andrew Lesnie
Editing: Jabez Olssen
Starring: Martin Freeman, Evangeline Lilly, Richard Armitrage, Orlando Bloom, Ian McKellen, Benedict Cumberbatch, Lee Pace, Luke Evans, Ken Stott, James Nesbitt

MPAA Rating: PG-13 for extended sequences of intense fantasy action violence, and frightening images

Run Time: 161 minutes

The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey, while definitely flawed and not up to the skill that The Lord of the Rings trilogy displayed, still served as a decent film adaptation of Tolkien's book (though three movies are a bit too stretched; two movies probably would have been enough; however, if the third movie delivers, then I won't complain too much). It did have some overuse of CGi and forced epic-ness, but it wasn't the abomination that some detractors claimed it was (and neither was it the masterpiece that its most ardent fans said it was). 

However, I was unable to catch this on the big screen, so I pre-ordered the Blu-ray when it was announced that it was going to be released soon. And sure enough, I got this film in the mailbox and decided to see this film with my siblings and a good friend of ours.

Now let me get to the plot summary: After the events of the previous film, the movie gives us a brief flashback to the events that happened before the journey, where Thorin (Richard Armitrage) is at an inn and Gandalf (Ian McKellen) meets him up there. It is here that Thorin is encouraged to go upon the quest and reclaim Erebor from the dragon Smaug (Benedict Cumberbatch). Later on, the film cuts to 12 months later, where Bilbo (Martin Freeman), Gandalf, Thorin and everyone else is on their journey and they come upon the house of Beorn (Mikael Persbrandt), in whose house they dwell while escaping from Azog and his forces. On the journey they encounter spiders, elves, and men, until they eventually come to the Lonely Mountain, to the Desolation of Smaug, and to their homeland in Erebor. 

However, dark forces are awakening that were only hinted at before, and they will arise to cause great disaster that will threaten not only our characters but also the entire realm of Middle Earth.

Now that i got the plot summary out of the way, let me get to the actual review of the film.

Is it the superb and masterful sequel that some claim that it is? Is it the bloated abomination of epic proportions that the detractors claim? Or are these two options only two of many different views of this film.

The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug fails in many ways as an adaptation and rendition of the original source. While the main journey is there, much subplot has been added into the film (Thranduil, Legolas, and that female character Tauriel (Evangeline Lily)), and there is more CGi and more action than ever was in An Unexpected Journey. However, if one is considering this as a film, then for the most part this movie succeeds as a nice, exciting action flick that has some pretty good filmmaking and serves as a good blockbuster entertainment that doesn't transcend heights and genre limitations like Lord of the Rings did.

The acting is really good, with Ian McKellen and Martin Freeman doing really good jobs as Gandalf the Grey and Bilbo Baggins. Freeman really captures the development of Bilbo and how he has changed from the previous film. And McKellen captures the character of Gandalf as he learns of the evil that is awakening. Richard Armitrage as Thorin is well-acted, showing how the quest impacts Thorin's heart, changing him from a person concerned for Bilbo to a person almost mad for the Arkenstone and consumed by his desire for Erebor and the wealth it contains. Evangeline Lily is pretty decent as Tauriel, though I find her to still be filler that was added just to make the story more "female-friendly" (not to mention that I personally didn't connect with the implied love triangle with her, Legolas, and Kili, one of the thirteen dwarves) and Orlando Bloom is also pretty good in his role as Legolas (though his face looks a bit unnatural in contrast to the Lord of the Rings movies).

All the other actors do well in their roles, including Lee Pace as the dwarf-hating Woodland king Thranduil, but especially interesting in Benedict Cumberbatch's portrayal of the fierce dragon Smaug. While he isn't the master that some of the fans claim he is, he actually is very good for his role, and the terror he inspires is fitting for his intimidating role. Cumberbatch was perfect for this role as Smaug.

The script also is pretty good, but the film did drag a bit near the middle, especially with the overload of action sequences in this film, all of which are pretty good but which are not great. Many of the scenes border on over-the-top and popcorn-style scenes, with dwarves suddenly having skills that rival the finest Olympic athletes, elves doing acrobatics while fighting evil orcs, Tauriel using cool ninja-esque moves while killing monsters, and more. For the heavy action fan and an admirer of today's action-packed blockbuster entertainment, this movie is heaven. But for those who preferred Lord of the Rings and don't like overloaded action, this film will drag (even though I admit that I didn't hate most of the action scenes in the film). And may I note that this film has an excess of computer-generated images in contrast to the happy marriage of practical and digital effects that has existed in so many great films, masterpieces and classic movies of modern times (Jurassic Park, Terminator 2, and The Lord of the Rings trilogy, and many other films come to mind). While the CGi does manage to be good in the long run, there are instances where it looks fake, particularly in the ending where Thorin and all the dwarves unleash a golden statue of a dwarf warrior and that statue melts and covers Smaug (the gold looked so laughably fake). 

Overall, The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug, while a bit too overloaded with action and CGi as well as other pop-blockbuster elements of today, still serves as a nice action movie that both expands upon the merits of An Unexpected Journey and at the same time expands upon the demerits of the film. It works on the overall level as an action film set in Middle Earth, and depsite its many flaws, there is just so much good work and effort put into this movie that it is near-impossible to compare this to other big-budget failures and fanboy punching-bags like the Star Wars prequel trilogy or Battlefield Earth

It is not a perfect film, and neither is it a great film, but it is a good film. 3.5/5

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