Whoa, dudes. Whoa.
My husband and I went to the 12:01 IMAX 3D showing of “The Hobbit:Desolation of Smaug” Thursday night/Friday morning and I am still kind of reeling from the awesome.
I did my homework, and I read the book for the first time since seventh grade, just so I could remember what I am supposed to expect in this installment. I drink a lot, you know? I will try to do this without spoilers, but, let’s be fair here. The book was published in 1937. You’ve had literally decades to get with the program. So, if I spoil it for you, it’s your own fault for having never, ever chosen to read the book and then – for some reason – choosing to read the review.
Let’s start with a brief recap of “The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey” – they walk. A lot. For forever. Some things happen, but mostly the walking thing.
I started writing movie reviews long after “Unexpected Journey” came out, but if I were to write it now, it would essentially boil down to “enjoyable and I loved it, but seriously, it’s another three hour movie about a bunch of dudes walking.”
But, seriously, if you haven’t gotten a chance to watch “Unexpected Journey” and you just can’t wait to see “Desolation of Smaug” until you have seen it, the shortest I can get you caught up is like this: Gandalf has recruited quiet, peaceful Bilbo Baggins to travel with a company of dwarves as they try to reclaim their ancestral home under the Lonely Mountain – which is still almost definitely inhabited by the dragon that ran them out of it in the first place. By the end of the film they’re about halfway there, after encountering mountain giants, goblins, orcs, and trolls. Bilbo meets Gollum in an underground lake and wins a riddle contest, accidentally steals the One Ring (which he doesn’t know the true nature of), and the company is under a time crunch to reach the proper spot at the proper moment in order to get inside the mountain.
With me so far? Excellent. Moving on…
“Desolation of Smaug” starts out with action and doesn’t let up til the credits roll. There’s a bit of walking, yes, but the walking is constantly broken up by things getting in the way – giant spiders, enchanted forests, asshole elves, orcs, and pissed off Laketown residents. It definitely has a different feel than its predecessor, and it’s terribly stressful. Peter Jackson ramps up the dramatic tension throughout the almost-three-hour epic and never really lets go. I am still a little stressed out from this movie, but I already want to go and watch it again.
Enough pussyfooting around, let’s talk about the performances. Martin Freeman as Bilbo Baggins is a joy to watch. Tolkien purists were irked at the first movie when Bilbo was super reluctant to join the party, but by the time this movie begins he is already a different hobbit, which Gandalf (Sir Ian McKellan) mentions early on. McKellan is Gandalf, and while his role in “Desolation” is more minor than in the first installment, he still commands his scenes with the agility and dominance of a much younger man. When you see Gandalf break out Serious-Wizard-Shit, it’s thrilling.
The dwarves maintain their close-knit ensemble cast, in which there are several standout moments from each character. As a general rule, however, they remain a homogeneous group. Again, many Tolkien purists will hate the changes made to the story by adding a female elf and giving her a very un-elven love interest, but I felt it added depth to the story. Not only that, but she is the ONLY FEMALE CHARACTER and they had to MAKE HER UP. It is nice to see that even though the book was written before women were considered “people,” Peter Jackson refused to let that stand in his film.
All the action leads up to the moment that gave me chills watching the trailers – the moment Bilbo finally meets Smaug. Voiced and motioned-captured by Benedict Cumberbatch, Smaug is the most formidable dragon I’ve seen in film, with a voice equal parts terrifying and sexy. In post production, Cumberbatch’s voice has been edited just enough to add an echoey depth to his words without losing the rich tone he’s known for. Is it wrong to find a dragon sexy? If it is, I don’t wanna be right.
The film ends with another cliffhanger, which pissed everyone off but surprised no one. Time to wait another year for our final (?) trip to Middle Earth, with nothing but the extended edition of “An Unexpected Journey” to look forward to in the next few months, and a rabid re-watching of “The Lord of the Rings” all year long.
- Legolas, who is a total dick in this film.
- I actually made it through the spider scene without sobbing in fear.
- Stephen Colbert’s cameo in Laketown (hint, he wears an eye patch).
- Stephen Frye as the master of Laketown.
- Bilbo finding his courage and saving the day multiple times.
- Wizard battle!
- Benedict Cumberbatch as the Necromancer.
- Worth the extra $$ for IMAX.
Really? Are you kidding?
- Only one female elf in the whole kingdom? Serious?
- Orlando Bloom’s blue contacts were distracting.
- Cliffhanger ending.
- Not enough Stephen Colbert.
- A moment in the book that seems crucial to the plot that wasn’t addressed in the film regarding the Arkenstone. Hopefully it gets picked up early in the next installment.
Read more reviews from Colleen Bailey at EmptyPopcorn.tumblr.com.