The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug

The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug, while somewhat self-indulgent, is a better experience at the movies than the first Hobbit installment. It’s somewhat more intense, more cohesive as a story, and the acting has settled nicely.

That said, there’s a bit too much CG where there could have been creatively shot live action.

In any case, you will enjoy The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug if you liked:
The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey
The Lord of the Rings trilogy
John Carter

Here’s a trailer:

The deets:

Released December 13, 2013

Written by Fran Walsh, Philippa Boyens, Peter Jackson, and Guillermo del Toro, based on the books by J.R.R. Tolkien

Directed by Peter Jackson

Starring Evangeline Lilly, Cate Blanchett, Richard Armitage, Orlando Bloom, Martin Freeman, Ian McKellen, Lee Pace, Benedict Cumberbatch, Luke Evans, Ken Stott, Graham McTavish, William Kircher, James Nesbitt, Stephen Hunter, Dean O’Gorman, Aidan Turner, John Callen, Peter Hambleton, Jed Brophy, Mark Hadlow, and Adam Brown

Rated: PG-13

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Story

Thorin (Armitage) and his dwarves (all those guys), along with Bilbo (Freeman) and Gandalf (McKellen) made their escape from the albino orc and have made it past the Misty Mountains. Now they have to continue their journey to the Lonely Mountain by first passing through the realm of the elves. These elves are led by Thranduil (Pace), an ancient elf who has murky motivations and at one point reveals that there is definitely something amiss in his world. In Thranduil’s realm are Tauriel (Lilly) and Legolas (Bloom), who appear to have a budding romance going.

The dwarves are taken captive by these elves, although Tauriel and Kili (Turner) seem to hit it off rather well. In fact, Tauriel feels the dwarves are being mistreated. Meanwhile, Bilbo was not taken captive, since he was invisible, and so he sets about freeing the dwarves.

At the same time, Gandalf is out trying to find out what’s going on with the necromancer (Cumberbatch) and get to the heart of what seems to be a defeated enemy’s renascent power.

Soon we get to the barrel escape, which is fun and exciting, particularly considering the addition of the orcs on the dwarves’ trail. Legolas and Tauriel get to join in the fighting, adding even more fun.

Eventually our merry group arrives at Lake Town, with the help of a smuggler named Bard (Evans), who might have a heritage he is hiding. As the dwarves finally get to the Lonely Mountain, Bilbo now has to find the gem that they have been seeking, while at the same time Bard is trying to keep his town safe from corruption and the evil dragon that he is sure the dwarves are going to wake in the Lonely Mountain.

Sure enough, Smaug (voice of Cumberbatch) awakes. After a truly excellent sequence in Smaug’s lair, which includes a great exchange between Smaug and Bilbo, Smaug is angered and then he heads out to go wreak havoc. The dwarves try to stop him, but– well, he’s a massive dragon.

The story pauses with Smaug’s emergence.

Critique

So, we’re back in Middle Earth– and honestly, that’s all that matters to many people. Truly, the production values and overall finely tuned experience is all kinds of fun and is exactly what most people want out of these movies.

Add in the great fight sequences, some very nice group dynamics, heroism, astonishing visuals, a great dragon, and a blink-and-you’ll-miss-it cameo by Peter Jackson in the opening scene– and you have a fun movie-going experience.

Is it as rich and satisfying as the Lord of the Rings trilogy of movies? No. Nothing can ever reach that level of power, storytelling, detail, emotional arcs, and character depth.

Does Jackson use CG too much when he could be shooting live action? Yes. There are a few scenes where you just want to see a real thing in your fantasy movie.

Do we want our elves to be less unbelievably kick-ass? Actually, yes. Legolas is a little god-like, which is clearly the intent, but some risk of failure would be great.

Are these movies a little too long? Yep. The power of the stories being told is lessened because of this indulgence.

That said, The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug has enough going for it that the time passes without a problem. Action, fun characters, great attention to detail–

Plus, we’re back in Middle Earth.

Content warnings: Plenty of fantasy violence, mostly without gore.

Writing: 4          Acting: 5           Overall: 4.5

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