Friday, December 13, 2013

The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug

***DISCLAIMER*** The following review is entirely my opinion. If you comment (which I encourage you to do) be respectful. If you don't agree with my opinion, that's fine. To each their own. These reviews are not meant to be statements of facts or endorsements, I am just sharing my opinions and my perspective when watching the film and is not meant to reflect how these films should be viewed. Finally, the reviews are given on a scale of 0-5. 0, of course, being unwatchable. 1, being terrible. 2, being not great. 3, being okay. 4, being great and 5, being epic! And if you enjoy these reviews feel free to share them and follow the blog or follow me on Twitter (@RevRonster) for links to my reviews and the occasional live-Tweet session of the movie I'm watching! Yay!  I get to go back to Middle-earth!!!

The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug – 5 out of 5

The next film in The Hobbit trilogy hit the theaters today (well, if you’re reading this tomorrow or any other day, then today would actually be the 13th of December and I am typing this from the past) and if you read my review of An Unexpected Journey, you would know that I absolutely loved returning to Middle-earth for The Hobbit series (and I didn’t care that Peter Jackson cut it into 3 movies and used a lot of bonus material from the appendices). So, what did I think about The Desolation of Smaug? Well, if you look at the score, I freakin’ loved it! You may now stop reading—No wait, don’t do that.

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"Is that...two wargs doing it?"

(YES!  I did that joke in the last review for The Hobbit and successfully did it again.)

Gandalf (Ian McKellen), Bilbo (Martin Freeman), and Thorin (Richard Armitage) and his company of dwarfs, are back to continue their journey to reclaim Erebor from the evil dragon Smaug (voiced by Benedict Cumberbatch). Along the way they endure the dangers of vicious spiders, untrustworthy Elves and a horde of Orcs out to claim their hides. Meanwhile, Gandalf discovers that an ancient evil, once believed dead, is attempting to return and spread its darkness all across the land.

                                                                                                              New Line Cinema
The evil being spread is the Bud Light in the barrels behind Bilbo.

Ever since it was announced that Peter Jackson was going to develop the story of The Hobbit into something longer (originally planed as two films before it ballooned into three), denizens of the internet have lit message boards aflame with how he’s ruining the classic piece of literature. I, on the other hand, was not one of those because I love my trips to Middle-earth and when I realized that for three years I would get to make regular visits to the fantastical world and get to see the story that, up to that point, I only got to see in animated form (where it put that “greatest adventure” song in my head) or in print form, I was more than all for it! Those same people who complained about it being three movies (and were the ones complaining about the frame rate, as well) are also the ones who are raising a fuss about a brand new character that has never had a place in J. R. R. Tolkien’s work. I’m speaking, of course, of the elf heroine Tauriel.

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Somebody go back and write her into the book.  That won't piss off the fanboys, right?

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Be thankful, Bloom, it's not like Disney is going to bring
you back for another Pirates movie.
Not only is Jackson a terrific director for these films—and not just because of the work he put into The Lord of the Rings trilogy—but Jackson clearly understood the world of Middle-earth incredibly well. Tauriel is pure Tolkien and fit into the story to the point you would never realize that she wasn’t actually created by the author. She’s half-parts Arwen and all-parts a badass elf ass-kicker and was, in my opinion, a welcome addition to the story. While the fight scenes she is in are just eyeball popping-ly fun to watch, Evangeline Lilly made the character more than an arrow-slinging, dagger-flashing Orc slaughtering machine. She embodied the established standard of what the elves are in this fictional world but she also had enough personality that she stood out; her presence as an object of affection for Legolas (who was added to this film despite not being in the book) and the dwarf Kili, really made for an interesting side story for the film.

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"That was fun killing those Orcs. Hey, Legolas, can I ask you a question?
Not to get too personal but do you usually get such a massive erection killing
evil minions from a dark kingdom?"

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"Gah!  I wasn't humping the gold!"
The entire returning cast once again does an absolutely tremendous job of bringing these classic characters to life. Ian McKellen is still portraying Gandalf as if he is (and should be) the only person in all of existence to play him, Martin Freeman is still delightfully entertaining as Bilbo and his unique form of physical acting is both humorous and capable of speaking at higher volumes than actually dialogue can go, and finally, once again, all the dwarfs are portrayed perfectly by each actor and are capable of capturing the essence of each character and make them as original and unique as the day they were created.

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Poor Orc...he's about to get stabbed in the taint.

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"Hmm, I suppose my crown is ridiculous but I can't
help but think we can go more ridiculous."
With the new leg in the journey upon us, new characters join the film and it’s almost like Peter Jackson and his production have their own form of magic working for them because they are getting the perfect people to play each part. I’ve already mentioned Evangeline Lilly but it didn’t stop there. Lee Pace was unsettling as Thranduil, the Wood-elf King, Mikael Persbrandt is other-worldly as Beorn the Skin-Changer, Stephen Fry is hysterical as the Master of Laketown and Luke Evans just looks all kinds of rugged and badass as Bard. All of these actors felt tailor-made for the characters they were cast in and is just another brick in the wall that contains a mural showcasing how Peter Jackson and his crew have an understanding of the universe they are working in like no other. And did I mention that Stephen Colbert has a non-speaking role? Because he does and that only makes the film 100 times more awesome than it already is…and it’s pretty damn awesome to begin with.

                                                                                                              New Line Cinema
Bard's coat alone is cooler than anything in my life.

We need to get down to brass tacks here (I’ve never actually understood that phrase); let’s talk about the dragon…because everyone wants a dragon! That’s what this movie is about—mother fuckin’ Smaug! When you think of dragons, Smaug is the dragon you think of—it’s been scientifically proven. Sure, you may think about Falkor, that dog luck dragon thing from that movie that, despite its promise, clearly has an end to it, or you may think about Puff but Smaug is the king of all dragons! The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug does not disappoint when putting the beast up on the screen.

                                                                                                              New Line Cinema
Bilbo just lost his second breakfast down the back of his pants.

One of the things Peter Jackson has done stupendously with these films is his sense of scale. The hobbits and dwarfs all look tiny compare to the larger humans and elves, while the trolls look massive compared to them all. Additionally, Jackson is already capable of making locations look lavish and expansive but how hard is it to make a beast fill that area and be capable of making the locations look tight and small to the massive creature? When the Balrog showed up in The Fellowship of the Ring, it was an awesome sight that caused geek-gasms all over the world. However, Smaug’s appearance and presence in the film is the Balrog times by a million.

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Look at that hobbit, all happy and shit.  It's like he momentarily forgot he could
die a horrible death on this adventure at any second.

Everything about Smaug was mind-meltingly awesome! The special effects for him are just insane and he moves ridiculously fluid and looks pretty freakin’ real. His massive size is perfectly encapsulated in the huge halls of gold under the mountain and when you get to see minuscule Bilbo trying not to quake in his hairy feet in front of the sight, it’s really a spectacle to see and take in. Finally, when you add in the incredibly talented Benedict Cumberbatch providing the voice (and some body work, as well. He was mo-capped for the film), the dragon comes to life in a tremendous way. The interaction between Smaug and Bilbo was always one of my favorite parts in the book (right next to his part with Gollum) and to see it played out on screen, and in-between the two stars of Sherlock no less, absolutely made the movie into something beyond words and beyond cool.  It's like a childhood dream coming true to see these two come to life.

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Bilbo has that look of murder in his eyes...and Sting thirsts for the blood of goblins.

The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug is, without a doubt in my mind, absolutely fantastic. Jackson had the perfect place to end the first film and he picked right up and got right to the heart of the matter in a way where it felt like a year hadn’t passed since the last time I went to Middle-earth for a midnight screening. The story flows fluidly with no sign of dragging, the characters continue to grow as their journey continues, the visuals are second-to-none, the special effects are too much for words and, most of all, the film is capable of being dramatic, tender, hopeful, frightening, exciting and funny all at the same time. I can’t say enough good things about the film and everyone involved—everyone from the people responsible for the epic wardrobe to the cast and all the way to the runner who gets the dwarfs their coffee. Granted, I am completely biased because of my geek tendencies and the fact I loved the book and Jackson’s previous adaptations of Tolkien’s work but, at the end of it all, the film entertained me in a big way and that’s exactly what the production was going for (entertaining me and me only).

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"Where the fuck is our coffee?"

Jackson succeeded to no end to create an adaptation that continues to keep the spirit of the book alive. Yes, additions were made (whether they be taken from the appendices or just made up like Tauriel) but they only added to the authentic feel of the fantasy world. I honestly don’t believe any other production crew could have crafted these movies and this world better. The Desolation of Smaug, other than being ├╝ber-exciting and fun, has raised my excitement levels for the final film; The Hobbit: There and Back Again, to near supernova levels.

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