Wednesday, December 18, 2013


Yes, I saw The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug.
I actually saw it twice. Once in H(igh)F(rame)R(ate) 3D and once in standard. So what's to be gained from the double viewing? You mean aside from totally awesome reemersion into the world of Middle Earth? Well I recognize now that HFR is an interesting experiment that other techniques and technologies are not quite ready for. The CG looks good for the most part, but falls apart when a real person is set in closeup on a backdrop of digital fiction. The CG characters look great in real situations... but that river of gold looked awful in both formats. It surprised me actually, how many times I noticed the CG this time around. How rushed some of it felt. Because the first Hobbit film looked great from start to finish.

Which leads me to my next statement... and it may not be shared by many... I liked An Unexpected Journey more than The Desolation of Smaug. When they decided to break this one up into another two films I think the pacing went to shit. That's not to say it wasn't incredibly entertaining and nearly everything I hoped to see from this part of the story... but Beorn felt rushed, the elves of Mirkwood felt drawn out and overanalyzed, and the orcs seemed utterly useless throughout. Yet, once we reach Laketown and from there discover Smaug, things really pick up (with the exception of that river of gold).
So let's talk about the dialogue. This script and its predecessor have both been littered with sloppy dialogue issues. They even repeated my least favorite line from the first one... but it seems they realized how awkward and repetitive it already was so they cut out a small piece of it. I'm talking about that Galadriel line... you know the one "Something lingers in the shadows, hidden from sight, it will not show itself." or something like that. It's just an example of how over-the-top some of their writing goes.

But then, I'm being nitpicky about... well... the greatest fantasy film series of all time. So take all of this with a grain of salt.
Essentially, Peter Jackson is a genius just to have managed to bring life to Middle Earth on film in the first place. But beyond that, he continues to create works of quality. The casting is almost always superb and the effects are almost always on the money. Though I do wish they would have kept a few more of the practical images they eventually CGed over in these most recent films.
Martin Freeman is impeccably well cast as Bilbo. He brings such life to the character and fills his performance with an excellent variation of nuance and emotion. One only wishes, as the lead of these films, that he would get more screen time.
Richard Armitage, on the other hand, tends to miss the mark for me. And he does this mostly by trying too hard to hit his marks on set. By this I mean, I can see him trying to act in every other scene... it particularly stands out in the opening sequence. Ian McKellen gives his strangest Gandalf performance to date in this one, but I find myself still getting behind all of his choices here. This is a different side of Gandalf... a Gandalf that is less certain of the fate of the world and in many ways a less serious Gandalf. Something I appreciate seeing in practice. Beyond that, I love that James Nesbitt is in these films. If you ever got a chance to see Jekyll, you'd recognize how much fun he has performing and he never seems to hold anything back. The addition of Orlando Bloom was awkward to me. Sure it makes sense that he would be there. After all it is his home and given the life cycle of elves he would most definitely be alive and well at this point in the timeline. But it's Orlando Bloom... and he may be the worst actor in the franchise. That being said, his existence opened the doors for Evangeline Lilly to make a very interesting appearance with a new character. Tolkien didn't write too many females into his stories, so it is welcome in my mind to see Evangeline step in and add an extra element to the film. Her subplot is actually pretty interesting. Benedict Cumberbatch was a great choice for Smaug and the dragon honestly looked great all across the board.

Anyway, like the length of these films, I've probably gone on long enough. I love these movies, warts and all. And I can't wait until next year to finally see the battle of the five armies. Damn that'll be cool.

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