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Wednesday, December 18, 2013

REVIEW OF THE HOBBIT: THE DESOLATION OF SMAUG


About The Movie:

Part two of Peter Jackson’s Middle-earth prequel trilogy, The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug, picks up right after the events of An Unexpected Journey as Bilbo Baggins (Martin Freeman), Gandalf the Grey (Ian McKellen), Thorin Oakenshield (Richard Armitage), and his company of dwarves continue their journey to the Lonely Mountain. Pursued by a horde of Orcs commanded by the ruthless Azog, Bilbo and his friends have no choice but to brave the dangers of Mirkwood – a dense and dangerous forest where even the most valiant and skilled warriors can become lost to darkness.
However, just as the company is about to enter the twisted tree line, Gandalf is called away on an important mission of his own (to investigate the growing Necromancer threat at Dol Guldur), leaving the hobbit and dwarves to continue on without assistance from the wizard. Undeterred, Thorin leads his companions onto the forest trail, refocusing on the mission at hand: reach the Lonely Mountain and recover the Arkenstone from Smaug, the cunning and deadly dragon that drove the dwarves from their home and fortunes in Erebor 150 years ago.

What Is Good/Bad About The Movie:

Like The Lord of the Rings movies that preceded it, the sheer scale ofThe Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug is a joy to behold. Once more the natural beauty of New Zealand is awe-inspiring, and the CGI-created worlds and beasts are captivating. Plus, the action sequences are tons of fun, full of imaginative stunts, character-based humor, and plenty of thrills. It's an absolute delight to see an arrogant, dwarf-hating Legolas (Orlando Bloom) use the grumbling little men as little more than stepping stools as he leaps onto their heads to fire an arrow at marauding orcs. And the spider scene--whose Rankin and Bass version still haunts me--is perfectly chilling and enthralling in live-action, punctuated by creepy sound design and a terrific blending of practical and visual effects.

Smaug was teased at the end of An Unexpected Journey and, thankfully, the final onscreen version is worth the wait. The combined efforts of Weta Digital and actor Benedict Cumberbatch (who voiced Smaug as well as provided motion capture for the dragon’s facial animations) result in one of the most believable fantasy creatures ever put to film. The sheer scale and detail of the dragon, set against a labyrinth of gold coins, jewels, and other dwarf treasures, is a treat for the eyes – one that is made even better by Cumberbatch’s snarly and coy voice acting. Anyone who might have been concerned that the Smaug/Bilbo meeting would be glossed over in favor of blockbuster action set pieces, will be relieved to hear that Jackson dedicates a decent amount of time to their interplay – which might even, for some, rival Gollum’s “Riddles in the Dark” sequence as one of the best scenes in this Hobbit film trilogy.

Overall Grade: A+

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