Thursday, January 30, 2014

Movie Review: The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug

     Okay, let’s have a more serious review of this movie. Per Mr. Jackson’s usual trend, the second isn’t as good as the first; however, if the trend continues, then the last movie will be excellent.

     The film starts out with a flashback-this one, to Thorin meeting with Gandalf in Bree. Gandalf not only presents him with the map to the Lonely Mountain, but also warns him that there is a price on his head. This leads us to where the last film left off-the company is still on the run with orcs following. Gandalf leads them to the relative safety of Beorn’s house, who aids them in making their way to Mirkwood. At Mirkwood, as in the book, Gandalf parts ways with them-he and Radagast will go investigate the Necromancer.

     Mirkwood was done a bit differently. Rather than falling into an enchanted stream, the forest itself seems to have a soporific, and almost maddening effect on them all, causing them to stumble right into the spiders’ territory.

     Can I just remind everyone I don’t like spiders? Because I really don’t like spiders. Watching this part was nightmarish. However, we see that the Ring is in some ways having an effect on Bilbo here-he has a freak out and kills a spider all to protect it.

     The scene in the wood elves’ home was done extremely well. Thranduil was appropriately arrogant and snobby, yet somewhat more sympathetic than expected. For one, Jackson seems to be going with the interpretation that the Arkenstone is in fact one of the Silmarils that was lost (probably the one Maedhros dropped into the fissure in the Earth); we also see that Thranduil is taking an isolationist policy against Sauron, something that you don’t get in the book itself. He also hints at having fought firedrakes in the past, and clearly doesn’t wish to anger another one. However, the plot must go on, and the Elven Drunk Party ensues. The barrel chase is exciting, but complicated by the addition of some random orcs that apparently decided to show up for the sheer purpose of injuring Kili so several of the dwarves would be stuck in Bard’s house during the latter half of the movie.

     During all these scenes, we cut back to Gandalf, and oh, it is glorious. In the book we only get the merest hints of his fight with Sauron. Here, we see the confrontation and the Super Magic Wizard Battle that ensues.

     The conflict between Bilbo and Thorin, and Thorin’s growing obsession over the Arkenstone, is set up briefly but effectively.

     One part that I was surprisingly pleased with was Tauriel’s role. I feared she would be relegated to “token female” and merely there for Orlando Bloom to moon over. However, it all took a surprising and, actually, sweet twist. It’s completely unnecessary to the plot, but it was completely adorable, and I shamelessly squee’d over it.

     That said, there are parts that irked me. Beorn’s role was far too small; the early arrival of the orcs, while explaining why a gigantic army is about to show up, was unnecessary and complicated; and quite frankly, Tauriel and Legolas’ subplot is unnecessary, even if it led to adorableness.

     But the best part, the part that everyone was anticipating, was Smaug, and oh, can Benedict Cumberbatch do sinister. He gets Smaug’s personality down perfectly: the oily, dangerous charm and the raw power that makes Smaug such a perfect villain. You really see just how in over their heads Bilbo and the dwarves are. Bilbo finally gets it in the end, with the very last line of him saying, “What have we done?”

Good question, Bilbo. Good question.

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