The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug

December 13, 2013

in Movies

Film (2013)

Directed by Peter Jackson

Screenplay by Fran Walsh, Philippa Boyens,
Peter Jackson, Guillermo del Toro
based on the novel The Hobbit by J.R.R. Tolkien

With Ian McKellen (Gandalf), Martin Freeman (Bilbo), Richard Armitage (Thorin), Ken Stott (Balin), Graham McTavish (Dwalin), William Kircher (Bifur), James Nesbitt (Bofur), Stephen Hunter (Bombur), Dean O’Gorman (Fili), Aidan Turner (Kili), John Callen (Oin), Peter Hambleton (Gloin), Jed Brophy(Nori), Mark Hadlow (Dori), Adam Brown (Ori), Orlando Bloom (Legolas), Evangeline Lilly (Tauriel), Lee Pace (Thranduil), Cate Blanchett (Galadriel), Benedict Cumberbatch (Smaug / Necromancer), Mikael Persbrandt (Beorn), Sylvester McCoy (Radagast), Luke Evans (Bard / Girion), Stephen Fry (Master of Laketown)

The Hobbit (1937) drawn by J.R.R. Tolkien

The Hobbit (1937)
drawn by J.R.R. Tolkien

Part II of the film mega-version of the short introductory Middle Earth novel – long, with non-stop battling of orcs, elves, dwarves and dragons, and much better than Part I.

Bilbo and company make their way on the quest and encounter a passel of orcs, a roster of elves, some nasty spiders and an eloquent, but wicked, dragon.

I do not know exactly why, but this second installment of the overly long film trilogy of The Hobbit is far better than the first installment, The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey. In the first one, I thought the bloating of the novel was ridiculous, despite the contrary opinion of some of my Tolkien-savvy friends who thought it was just fine and included exactly what the book did. In this case, Part II is equally long and unrelenting, but it is much better put together.

This second installment of the overly long film trilogy of The Hobbit is far better than the first installment.

Regardless of what accounts for the difference between the two films, the result in this one is much more satisfying. In the first part, there seemed to be no sense of cohesion to the story; it just rambled on and on. Here, the film is equally long, but it seems more coherent. One cares about its characters more, and each of the episodes seems more integrated.

It still seems ridiculous to have ten hours of movies dedicated to this first slim book of Tolkien’s Hobbit saga, but obviously Peter Jackson saw he had a good thing going with the wild successes of The Lord of the Rings (2001-2003) and decided to milk it for all it was worth.

This one is lots of fun, if you enjoy constant action and watching a ton of grody orcs grimace and ooze awful liquid substances from every pore.

This one is lots of fun, if you enjoy constant action and watching a ton of grody orcs grimace and ooze awful liquid substances from every pore. There are also some great dwarves and elves, and one elf in particular, Tauriel (Evangeline Lilly), is really beautiful, even more elfishly lovely than Arwen (Liv Tyler) was in The Lord of the Rings trilogy.

Martin Freeman as Bilbo, John Callen as Oin in 'The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug'

Martin Freeman as Bilbo
John Callen as Oin
in “The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug”
Photo: Mark Pokorny
Copyright:© 2013 WARNER BROS. ENTERTAINMENT INC.
AND METRO-GOLDWYN-MAYER PICTURES INC.

The score by Howard Shore is unrelenting. Not a moment goes by without a surge of orchestration to accompany it, which is sometimes a bit much. But the whole enterprise seems built on bigness, so the constant torrent of soaring harmonies is no exception. One wonders whether Shore is getting paid by the note; if so, he is even wealthier than we might have thought.

The score by Howard Shore is unrelenting. Not a moment goes by without a surge of orchestration to accompany it.

Even if you cannot follow the metaphysics of the Tolkien saga nor understand why the Hobbits and dwarves are off on a mission or where things went wrong during the Hobbit-millenia beforehand, one can still have a sense of the great mission involved and dive right into the action; you can see it even if you miss Part I.

Azog, performed by Manu Bennett in 'The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug'

Azog, performed by Manu Bennett
in “The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug”
Courtesy of Warner Bros. Pictures
Copyright:© 2013 WARNER BROS. ENTERTAINMENT INC.
AND METRO-GOLDWYN-MAYER PICTURES INC.

As with all of these Middle Earth fantasies, the most fantastic thing is the combined work of makeup artists and computer programmers. How the heck do those software wizards create that striking network of effects? It must be scarily complex, though, given the hectic advance of such technologies, one wonders whether, in two years, even more scarily complex apps will enable one to construct a graphically advanced Middle Earth adventure of one’s own complete with 3D effects with no muss and fuss on one’s smartphone on the way to work.

Evangeline Lilly as Tauriel, Orlando Bloom as Legolas in 'The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug'

Evangeline Lilly as Tauriel
Orlando Bloom as Legolas
in “The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug”
Photo Credit: James Fisher
Copyright:© 2013 WARNER BROS. ENTERTAINMENT INC.
AND METRO-GOLDWYN-MAYER PICTURES INC.

I really was intrigued by the dragon who spoke such great English between his roars of fire. I forget, if I ever knew, if or how Tolkien explained Smaug’s eloquence. Here, in the film, it is not explained, but it is a nice add-on. Had he not chosen a career as a terrorizing dragon, this creature might have earned an honest living as a butler.

As with all of these Middle Earth fantasies, the most fantastic thing is the combined work of makeup artists and computer programmers.

It was a pleasure to hear that the part of Smaug was played by Benedict Cumberbatch, who seems to be going full tilt in various projects. He was recently as the less horrific slave owner in 12 Years A Slave and will be seen in the forthcoming film August Osage County (2013). Though British, he seems to have captured a series of roles as an American Southerner and risen to the challenge admirably. Now he has a great dragon to add to his resume.

– BADMan

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