Saturday, January 18, 2014

The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug – Early Thoughts



The journey of Bilbo Baggins and company continues on the silver screen.  Here are my thoughts on this latest installment.  This review does contain full spoilers.


The first thing that really struck me about this film is how great the production values are.  This is a beautiful movie.  The vastness of the landscapes in the great establishing shots, the rich and distinct looks of the locations, the costumes, the make-up, it’s all gorgeous.  There’s a lot of nice camera work to blend the CGI and the working actors too.  Smaug looks great and I love the glowing effect used on his throat and belly when he goes to breathe fire.  The only part that totally throws in the looks department is the molten gold at the end.  It looks great falling off of Smaug, but the running rivers of it was not nearly as awesome looking and that’s probably because molten metal doesn’t look like that.  Although I guess its magic metal considering Thorin can ride on it in a wheelbarrow and not get cooked.  

The acting is also really good.  While there is obviously a very large cast already and this film adds some new characters too I think time is well used to give a lot of them development.  Bilbo is becoming more courageous and bold while also beginning to fall under the influence of the ring.  Thorin is learning to deal with the needs of the many over the needs of one to borrow a phrase from another franchise.  We get to see glimpses of the world outside of the dwarves’ quest and how Smaug’s actions have affected not just them, but the areas surrounded that former kingdom too through the citizens at Lake-town and the elves.  Also I thought the Legolas cameo while obviously there for fanservice still served a purpose and didn’t distract from the main story.    
It certainly isn’t a flawless movie though.  Like the last film I again don’t like the title.  It just seems unnecessarily long and since Smaug himself doesn’t show until the last half an hour kind of false advertising.  We do get to see the desolation of Smaug as the group travels so on that level I guess it works, but I still don’t like it. 

Also the whole supposed love triangle subplot I think doesn’t need to be there and adds nothing to any of the characters.  Still I can see why it’s there, because man this film has a lot of padding.  It really doesn’t need to be a trilogy at all.  Seriously The Lord of the Rings being a trilogy makes sense.  It has three book so one movie per book works.  The Hobbit is one book why do we have three films?  No I know the answer to that it’s to make more money, but I think quality is being lost in making that choice.  The growing war plot is talked about and loosely connected with the quest for the arkenstone to expand the film, but I feel like it’s kind of two main plots going on in one film rather than being totally integrated at this point, and this film also suffers from an abrupt ending despite being nearly three hours long.  Seriously if they had just had Smaug attacking Lake-town and getting shot and killed by Bard or his son then this film could have had a proper ending; instead it just kind of stops.  However, other things like Bard’s ancestor almost killing Smaug, and Bilbo seeing the injury later, does tie together well so I have hope that everything will come together in the final installment.    

All in all it’s still a great looking film, with good acting, and a great soundtrack.  While the story is certainly drawn out I still find it engaging enough through the characters that I’m interested in seeing how everything is tied up and I’m looking forward to the final film.  I just don’t know if there is going to be a lot of re-watching value in this trilogy once it is complete, but we’ll see.

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