Sunday, December 15, 2013

The Hobbit: Desolation of Smaug

So, something you all should know about me is that I am a HUGE fan of Lord of the Rings.  No really.  I saw Fellowship of the Ring THIRTEEN TIMES in theaters when it came out.  So, I'm not over-exaggerating when I say that I love these movies.  I knew at some point The Hobbit would be made--the first three movies were waaaaaaay so successful that this was inevitable.

I have always loved reading.  Growing up found me often with my nose in a book.  And one of my favorite books to this day remains The Hobbit.  So, it is with mixed feelings that I watch Peter Jackson's adaptations.  I find that the plot changes he is making irritate me, in a way that they didn't with Lord of the Rings (though, part of me thinks that is because I didn't read the books until after I saw Fellowship.  I tried, multiple times, but just couldn't get past the beginning of the first book.)

Too much exposition...*dies*

However, now these books remain some of my all-time favorite reads--and it was with great excitement that I looked forward to Peter Jackson's take on my beloved childhood novel.  After all, he had done such an amazing job with Lord of the Rings--surely it would be the same with The Hobbit.  Even the news that the movie was being split into three parts didn't deter me from my glee--if anything, it only added to it, because there's no such thing as too much Middle-Earth. (duh)

And yes, I liked the first movie very much.  I don't understand all the critics who complained that the beginning dragged.  To me, the movie was over way too soon.  It killed me to know that I had to wait another year until the next one...


Well, a year has now passed, and it found me at the midnight showing for Desolation of Smaug.  Yay!  Midnight showings are the best, because there's nothing like watching a movie late at night, when you're high on exhaustion after getting up at 6:00am to work all day, and then heading straight over to the movie theater to wait in line for over 5 hours so you can have the best seats in the house.  (Totally worth it).

Here are my thoughts on the movie, for what they're worth.  I both liked it and didn't like it at the same time.


Let's start off with The Good:

* Smaug was awesome!!!  Smaug was easily the best thing about this movie.  Peter Jackson nailed him.  He looked fantastic--one of, if not the best, dragons I have ever seen on film.  He looked real--he had a very palpable presence on screen.  Seriously, outstanding job on the special effects.  *gives standing ovation*  Benedict Cumberbatch's voice acting was supurb, though I expected nothing less.  I can't wait to see more of him in the third installment.

Might I trouble you for a cup of sugar?

* The spiders in Mirkwood were wet your pants terrifying.  One of my favorite parts in the books, is when the dwarves are captured by the spiders and Bilbo has to rescue them.  While in the movie it doesn't play out exactly the same, it's close enough, and the spiders are freaky enough that you don't care.  Shelob didn't scare me too bad in Return of the King, something about her never really felt real to me.  But these Mirkwood spiders, oh man, I was cringing back in my seat from fear.  Again, amazing job on the special effects.  Great action, and I gave a bit of a cheer when Bilbo named his sword Sting.


*Martin Freeman as Bilbo is perfect.  Once again, he just is Bilbo.  I love him to bits, and he does another excellent job in Desolation of Smaug.  Watching Bilbo come into his own as a valuable member of the group is great and heartwarming.

*Gandalf and the Necromancer--OMG, SO COOL!!  Gandalf was badass this movie if you don't mind me saying so.  The scenes where he went to investigate the Necromancer were spooky, and the Necromancer himself was really cool as this thing of shapeshifting shadows.  I have always preferred Gandalf the Grey over Gandalf the White, and this movie really lets us see how awesome the wizard is.

*Bard was a great character.  I liked that the movie fleshed him out a bit and gave him a bit more of a backstory.  Luke Evans was a good surprise, and the movie has set him up nicely for some epic heroic moments next film.

*Thranduil and Legolas were both very awesome.  It made the high school girl in me who had an extreme crush on Legolas and by extension, Orlando Bloom, very, very happy to see him again in this movie.  The moment with Gloin (Gimil's father) was wonderful.  I liked that Legolas's personality was different, in that he is a lot more arrogant and close-minded than when we see him in Lord of the Rings.  I'm really hoping the third Hobbit movie will show a bit of character development for him.  It would be great to see him go from this version of him, to something a bit more closer to how he was in Fellowship.

And his father Thranduil--perfection.  It was exactly how I imagined his character to be from the books.  Lee Pace was excellent.  He is aloof, dangerous, regal, and otherworldly as the Elven King.  The only bad thing about him was that he didn't have a lot of screen time.  I hope we get to see a lot more of him in the third movie.  I always like characters who are more complicated than just 'good' and 'evil.'  Thranduil is one of these characters--he clearly is on the side of 'good,' yet he often doesn't come across as a good person.

Also, he's gorgeous.

And now, for The Okay:

*Tauriel.  I liked her character a lot, I just didn't see the point for her to be in the movie, other than to mess up the plot with an unnecessary love triangle.  Yes, she's a strong, kickbutt, You-Don't-Tell-Me-I-Tell-You-How-It's-Done female, but adding her character seemed to be more about being politically correct than about adding anything to the story.

No, I'm not Katniss--Why do people keep asking?

*Mirkwood overall, I felt was okay.  I think part of this had to do with the pacing of the movie--but in the book, the psychological impression of Mirkwood is that it's this dark, dark place, where the dwarves and Bilbo are forced to spend quite a long time.  In fact, I believe it takes them so long to get through the forest that they start to slowly starve to death because they run out of food.  There is really none of that in the movie.  I'm hoping we'll get to see more of Mirkwood in the extended edition, but overall it was a bit disappointing how little time they seemed to spend in the forest.  I thought for sure the majority of the second movie would take place there, but it didn't.

*Beorn--he was pretty cool, but again, we hardly got to see him.  They also changed a lot from his scenes in the book which was again, disappointing.  I hope we get to see more of him in the third movie as well, in the Battle of Five Armies.

*The Dwarves themselves for the most part were just eh this movie.  I still can't tell them all apart, except for Thorin, Balin, Kili, and Bombur.  And I'm a superfan--imagine how the general public are faring with them all.  This is a common criticism of the movies, but it's a valid one.  This movie wasn't very interested in developing the dwarves as distinct individuals.  I wish Peter Jackson could have found a way to maybe cut some of the action and in it's place put in some more scenes with Bilbo and the dwarves.  Maybe them interacting in Mirkwood?  That would have been cool, and allow us to get to know the characters better.

I believe that's Thorin on the accordion.

Finally, the dreaded, The Bad:

*Major Plot Changes from the book really, really bugged me in this movie.  It's like sometimes we weren't watching the Hobbit at all.  Kili gets wounded and must stay behind in Laketown with some of the other dwarves? Um...why? Bilbo stealing the Arkenstone, and riddling with Smaug was no where to be seen. Instead we're treated to major action set piece.  I get that a book doesn't always translate to the big screen and sometimes plot changes are necessary, but the changes Jackson made, especially with the care he put into Lord of the Rings, really irritated me.

*The Love Triangle.  This is one of those major plot changes that bugged me so much, I felt it deserved it's own separate bullet point.  I'm sorry, but the Tauriel/Kili romance is so completely out-of-nowhere.  Why do we need this in the film?  It felt forced and artificial, and I can't buy that these two characters, raised in their respective cultures, could overcome those cultural prejudices so quickly and fall in love.  Just no.  Sorry, but no.  I know this pairing already has fans, but I'm not one of them.

Tauriel: There's something I have to tell you...
Legolas: I bet you fell in love with a dwarf, didn't you?
Tauriel: I fell in love with--Hey!
Legolas: Called it.

*The special effects were also at points, I felt, really, really bad.  I read another review that compared this movie to watching a trailer for a really cool video game and I can totally understand that point of view.  Where as in Lord of the Rings everything always felt so real, in The Hobbit to me, everything looked really fake and CGI, none more so than in the barrel sequence.  I actually thought while I was watching the movie, 'Wow, that looks really bad.'  Which is a shame, because when the special effects were good (aka Smaug, the Spiders,) the movie was amazing.  But when they were bad, they were bad.  It's ridiculous, because a movie with this budget shouldn't be anything less than perfection when it comes to special effects.

*The pacing felt incredibly rushed to me.  It was like, 'Hi Beorn! Bye Beorn! 'Hi Mirkwood! Bye Mirkwood!' Hi Laketown...Bye Laketown!'  I wanted the movie to slow down, and show that this is an long, difficult journey.  Distances don't seem to mean anything here--the Orc Azog goes from Beorn's to Dol Goldur in a single scene.  There's no sense of time passing like in the book.

So overall, did I like the movie?  Yes, I did, but to me, it's no longer really The Hobbit, it's more like an Alternate Universe fan film version of the Hobbit. Despite that, am I excited for the third film?  Heck yes!  This movie was still lots of fun, and overall I feel the good things outweighed the bad.  I can't believe I have to wait another year to see what happens next--where Peter Jackson ended this movie was particularly cruel.  If you're a big fan of the book like me, prepare yourself for some disappointment, but if you enjoyed the first Hobbit movie and the Lord of the Rings films, chances are, you'll still enjoy Desolation of Smaug too.  I give it 3 out of 4 stars.


 Fun Fact of the Day: Stephen Colbert has a cameo in the Laketown scenes.  If you look closely, he is the character with the hood and eye-patch that knocks on some wood to alert some spies of Bard's movements.  This is just one of many reasons why I love Stephen Colbert.

TTFN! Ta Ta for Now!

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