The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug (2013) Review

smaug

Rated: PG-13
Genre: Action, Adventure, Fantasy
Running Time: 161 minutes
Director: Peter Jackson

The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug is the continuation of an incredible journey incentivized by Gandalf (played by Ian McKellen), along with Bilbo Baggins (Martin Freeman), a hobbit who wishes to keep to himself, along with thirteen dwarves that includes Thorin Oakenshield (Richard Armitage), a king whose home on Lonely Mountain was captured and guarded for years by the infamous dragon, Smaug (Benedict Cumberbatch). The Desolation of Smaug is part two (the first was The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey) in this three-part telling of The Hobbit novel by J. R. R. Tolkien. If you weren’t aware, this is the same individual who gave us the Lord of the Rings (LOTR) Trilogy. The Hobbit is the prequel to the LOTR story. Peter Jackson as director of LOTR and The Hobbit films, does not shy away from what is surely a difficult endeavor: bringing to life epic novels and fully immerse both readers and newcomers alike.

You do not have to see the first film, Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey to catch on as some back story is provided. I would however, still recommend viewing the first installation to fully grasp the history of what Thorin along with his ancestors and comrades have experienced. We meet the travelers where the first film left off and they are now heading toward the forest of Mirkwood.

While the movie is a full two and a half hours long, it does not feel like it. The story is engaging from beginning to end and is action packed, heartfelt, amusing and intense. Gandalf and the crew do not travel together for long as Gandalf is given insight into the evil that is brewing (and leading into what occurs in the LOTR series) and must complete some preemptive tasks. We follow Bilbo and the dwarves into deceiving woods, a town with a dark past and iffy present, and into deeper and more dangerous territory. Bilbo turns out to be quite the companion and in more than one occasion, is truly heroic. We encounter a familiar face with Legolas, played by Orlando Bloom. While Legolas was not in the Hobbit novels, he was likely placed as a fan favorite. We are also introduced to another character not in the novels, Tauriel, played by Evangeline Lilly, an elf with immense skill and quite a heart. I cannot fail to mention Bard the Bowman, played by Luke Evans, who is a human who on more than one occasion risks everything to do what he feels is right.

I was instructed not to “spoil” anything (although many have read the novels and for them the movie is simply their imagination and Tolkien’s vision come to life), and so I will not give additional details about what exactly occurs. I will mention however, that the characters are intriguing, the movie is filled with drama, battles between good and evil, right and wrong, trustworthiness and friendship, and I could barely look away.

A huge improvement of the viewing experience between An Unexpected Journey and Desolation of Smaug, is that the former was filmed in 48 frames per second (most films are recorded at 24 fps), and that first movie was shown in this original format. As a result, the experience, particularly of any CGI, was jarring and frankly, difficult to enjoy. Every small feature and movement could and was observed and the experience was more like watching a switch between a reality show filmed in a fantasy realm and quite apparent CGI effects. This film seemed to have taken viewer reception into account and this was not the experience while watching Smaug. The transitions between heavy CGI sequences and those that were not, was much smoother and in many cases, one could not tell when they occurred. The result is an epic and beautiful viewing experience.

There are very few viewings of which I must see in 3D and of which I’d push for others to also. The 3D experience itself is oversold and overhyped (with very few exceptions such as “Up” or “How to Train Your Dragon”). This movie however, filled with ravishing New Zealand scenery, scenes created with the 3D experience in mind such as insects or orcs coming straight at the viewer, along with fantastical close-ups, one would truly be missing out by not experiencing this in 3D. As early as the Warner Brothers logo appears, you are caught up in the vividness of each second; from small sequences of Oakenshield and Gandalf sitting together at lunch, to panoramic views of incredible forests and fields, to finally, finally seeing Smaug; the experience is all encompassing. I HIGHLY recommend, if you didn’t get that vibe already…

Here’s a trailer:

The official release is this Friday, December 13, 2013. Go see it and once viewed, return here so we can discuss! Looking forward to part three: “The Hobbit: There and Back Again” coming sometime in 2014.

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