Here follows my multiple fandom musing about The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug.
There are spoilers! Pictured above are a few of my fave scenes that I could save from trailers & finally put into context.
First off. The trailers & previews simply didn’t do this movie justice. I’m not easily impressed but when you see all those bits & pieces put together in proper order, fleshed out, it becomes even more spectacular than you can believe, and exhausting, and with all the added story you know for sure now that there was no way this complete Hobbit film was getting done in 2 parts. With this kind of scene after scene intensity & everything yet to come? It HAD to be a trilogy!
Second, I was glad of the overall positive reviews for this film, although too many compared it to the first installment as if there was something wrong with An Unexpected Journey. There wasn’t, the story leading into this had to be set up somewhere!
After The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey, my expectations were very high for The Desolation of Smaug to match or surpass it’s excellence and I was absolutely not disappointed! My top fave actor in this film, Richard Armitage, who plays Thorin Oakenshield, waged a successful battle with the special FX, loved his portrayal & evolution of the character of the still-deposed dwarven king desperate to reclaim not only his people’s glory, but his own in the form of the Arkenstone, the true treasure of Erebor. I still believe his family were justifiably outraged by displacement & theft, and I completely understand if not approve why Thorin would do anything to get the Arkenstone & Erebor back, even at the cost of others including his own blood kin. There’s still no mention that Thorin’s father Thrain had Ring madness, not gold madness like Thror had, but it’s the gold madness, or dragon sickness, that Thorin fears he might inherit, and you indeed see some of it coming into play now, so hot is Thorin’s desire to find the stone & kill the dragon who stole his kingdom.
In a recent interview Richard said that Thorin is his best, most satisfying role since playing John Thornton in North & South, and I can’t disagree. But his manner in this was more like his Guy of Gisborne! Once again, I was thrilled with the many closeups, his eyes are his best feature. I also enjoy his fighting style. His voice work really paid off with the speeches.
Martin Freeman was… still Martin Freeman, except this time with a darker edge. I felt a lot more for Bilbo Baggins, especially when he shows he has learned to kill readily. He even names his elven dagger Sting, after what the spiders say. He also has a bit of conscience trouble with the Ring he found, and it shows in every scene you see it. But he doesn’t hesitate to use its property of invisibility and a good thing too. What really touches me was even though Bilbo is afraid at nearly every turn, he keeps going & doesn’t give up. That’s the courage of hobbits.
I was immensely happy to get to know the dwarves of Thorin’s Company better!
Balin (Ken Stott): as eloquent and funny as before, a firm head on his shoulders & stout defender of Bilbo. He damn well knows what the deal is with Thorin & doesn’t hesitate to tell him.
Dwalin (Graham McTavish) asserts his big badass self in a big way this time! No patience for diplomacy.
Bofur (James Nesbitt), his best scenes came in Lake-town after he literally missed the boat, funny & pithy lines as ever, showed his concern for his fellow dwarf as well as Bilbo.
Bifur (William Kircher), showed more, loved seeing his fight in the mountain
Bombur (Stephen Hunter), seeing him in the barrels fight scene alone was worth it!
Gloin (Peter Hambleton), finally got to see a picture of his family (wife & young Gimli). Tight with his purse, it’s about the investment!
Oin (John Callen), the healer, got to see him ply his knowledge of herbal remedies when he stayed behind to tend Kili, said he was privileged to see Tauriel’s elven healing technique
Dori (Mark Hadlow), sharp tongue this time, protective of his brother Ori
Ori (Adam Brown), had some good lines, a lot of innocence until they get into the mountain, reality hit him hard then
Nori (Jed Brophy), showed up great this time, courage when facing the dragon.
Kili (Aiden Turner). I was happy to see a more prominent presence for him! Much has been made of his attraction to the elf Tauriel, but he had already noticed elves when the Company was in Rivendell, had even been teased for it. So this further story development was not off the shelf, and I liked those scenes a lot, especially when they were talking about the runestone talisman Kili’s mother had given him & Tauriel talking about the stars. Why not an elf & a dwarf? The budding friendship was also useful later when he got hurt by a Mordor arrow & really needed help. And to me, Kili is a dwarf who least looks like one. I could see an elf having fun with him. :D
Fili (Dean O’Gorman), much admire him for telling Thorin he would stick with his brother instead. Good fighter as usual.
I love Gandalf (Sir Ian McKellen) & Radagast (Sylvester McCoy). Great stuff from them as always, if a bit too short. At least now I know what happened to Gandalf’s original staff.
Beorn (Mikael Persbrandt) the skinchanger was terrific, his part in this was WAY too short!
Bard the Bargeman/Bowman (Luke Evans), a good family man, Girion’s descendant, like him a lot. Trying to do what’s right for his family & people, he is a hater of corruption. Interesting to watch the animosity between him & the Master. I liked his kids, too (John Bell, Mary & Peggy Nesbitt)
Lake-town Master (Stephen Fry) & Alfrid (Ryan Gage): politics in a small town. The Master thinks Bard is a troublemaker because Bard doesn’t like his policies. Let’s see who sucks up to whom. They certainly did to Thorin!
Tauriel (Evageline Lilly), liked her! Great fighter, kindness to Kili if not attraction, longtime privileged Wood elf among some High elves but willing to do what’s right no matter the cost. Her storyline is one of the best character additions.
Legolas (Orlando Bloom), very sure & full of himself at this point in time, I love his incredible fighting skills even more in this. Since he sides with elf opinion, he’s a lot more menacing in this, and very protective of his interests, which include Tauriel.
Thranduil (Lee Pace) was a piece of sh… perfect magnificence. I understand his wish to protect his people, and at heart he is good. But I don’t like him here, and would tell him to elf off.
The Villains. I want to give an award just for casting Benedict Cumberbatch as Smaug and also as Sauron (The Necromancer). How perfect was this?! I remain in fascinated awe of the motion-capture technology that allowed the digital studio to make Smaug’s face look so much like Ben’s, which in turn made his voice seem natural when he spoke. Smaug himself was a gorgeously rendered beast, the detail was just stunning.
Azog (Manu Bennett) still wants Thorin’s head, and his eyes still remind me of Benedict’s. :D
Didn’t get much from Bolg (Lawrence Makoare) besides fighting, he gave Legolas a few rounds before riding off.
Not so much a focus in this film but TOTAL flail over weaponry & armour again, dwarven made items, elven made Glamdring the Foe-hammer (Beater) still with Gandalf, and Orcrist the Goblin cleaver (Biter), now in Legolas’ hands. Bilbo really put Maegnas (Sting) to a lot of use! And the thing about the great dwarvish-made wind lances that once defended both Dale & Esgaroth, Bard still has that last black arrow saved! Loved that bit about Girion, Lord of Dale.
Architecture. Beorn’s house was amazing in scale & detail!! Much more seen of Erebor this time, it’s so HUGE the dragon looks almost normal sized in there. And again, dwarven mines are incredible! More of the ruins of Dale, and we get to see some ruins of Esgaroth on the approach to Lake-town. The Woodland Realm is as gorgeous an elven place as any of the others I’ve seen in Middle-earth.
Music. Beautiful but dark, especially Smaug’s score, excellence again from Howard Shore. I sorely missed the dwarves singing, though, which should’ve been in the much-too-short Beorn segment. I can hope for the extended edition… Ed Sheeran’s I See Fire theme song should win the Oscar.
The film in general. Instead of picking up immediately where AUJ left off, we see another glimpse of the past, when Thorin met Gandalf for the first time & not by chance. This is an extremely critical scene to keep in mind for the 3rd film, and I had keenly anticipated it. It’s short, and from there we go back to the present, after the Eagles had rescued the Company from Azog’s attack. They are now on the run from that orc pack on the outskirts of Greenwood, now known as Mirkwood because of the invasion of evil. The Company spots Beorn as a bear, runs from him as well, taking refuge in his house, one of the most impressive sets in this film. Beorn’s part was too short, the Company spends much less time there than in the book. Azog & Bolg are actively tracking the Company. Azog meets with Sauron, the Necromancer, who is building his evil army for war. There’s a lot added about that & why Gandalf leaves the Company & where he goes. I really enjoyed being told this additional backstory, since it’s a link to The Lord of the Rings. Speaking of The One Ring, I’m convinced Gandalf knew Bilbo had it, and let him keep it because he knew he could not.
I hate spiders! Felt much more intense than it was in the book. The meeting with the Elvenking Thranduil was awesome, one of Thorin’s best scenes because he cursed him in dwarvish!
The barrel escape was everything I had expected! More crazy fighting between dwarves, elves & orcs. I loved the all detail given to Lake-town, especially the Bard & the town Master’s intertwined story. I’d vote for Bard.
I totally didn’t expect the dwarven Company to be separated. The trip to the Mountain & up to the secret door was perfect. I felt the awe & emotion when Thorin & Balin went through the door & saw the dwarvish inscription in stone. Then, the terrifying stuff with Smaug! The ending of this film is different from where it occurs in the book, and I’m perfectly happy with it being so because it really shows the ingenuity of the dwarves, their knowledge of their home & their vast skill of craft which I think has been largely unmentioned in any of Jackson’s films to this point. Dwarven made items are miraculous and the scale of their many statues is immense! So, instead of being like the book, sitting around just talking about the awful beast & how to drive him out of Erebor, in this movie the dwarves actively DO SOMETHING about Smaug. I practically shouted & applauded the action! Bravo, Thorin & Company! And then I cursed because it’s a whole year till we get more!
Film format. I saw this in 2D, RealD 3D HFR, IMAX & IMAX 3D. Some of these were with Dolby Atmos sound, which is totally worth it. I appreciate the choice of viewing options, new film tech & filmmakers wanting to see what they can do with it, but because I’m easily stimulated & have a very vivid, creative imagination, my personal taste remains 2D which was enough for me for this film (except for Smaug, he needs 3D every time!). Maybe the shine of 3D + HFR has worn off, because after subsequent viewings both I and my companions were heckling some of the scenes where 3D seemed overused & mismatched. Also, I just can’t get out of my mind the impression that in certain places, 3D + HFR makes the picture look like one of the Krofft live action Saturday morning kiddie shows that were prevalent on US TV in the 1970s. This after spending $300M on it? H.R. Pufnstuf, were you in that wood?
Film length & rating. It’s pretty much 3 hours with previews & credits, we observed that both children & adults could not sit the entire time so be prepared for interruptions. Not me, I saw every second & wanted to, was glued to my seat! Also, I rate it same intensity as the previous film, even the spiders (yes I shut my eyes a bit), in my opinion this is suitable for children 8 and older. But as always, use your own parental judgment.
Postscript. A few thoughts re The Hobbit: There and Back Again, the final film of the trilogy due out December 2014. If you’ve read the book, you can guess what happens next with Smaug, since I’m rather certain Peter Jackson doesn’t mess with that particular bit. And I expect the 3D Battle of the Five Armies to be everything he’s advertising. Will this be a shorter film? It seems likely, because I hate to think it will take Bilbo a half hour of screen time to get back home. And if you’ve read the book, you know who dies, and then you wonder who else you care about won’t survive. I expect to be very sad by the end of this trilogy, and not just because the ride’s over.