THE HOBBIT: THE DESOLATION OF SMAUG (HFR-3D and 2D)
Sir Ian McKellen
The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug picks up right after the first part where Bilbo Baggins (Martin Freeman), Gandalf (Sir Ian McKellen) and the company of dwarves led by Thorin Oakenshield (Richard Armitage) are being chased by a pack of Orcs who are out for their heads. In order to go to the lonely mountains, they must go through the deadly forest, Mirkwood where they encounter giant spiders, cynical elves, and the same orcs hunting them. Once they escape the forest, they continue their journey to the lonely mountains and there they will slay the dragon, Smaug (Benedict Cumberbatch) to re-claim their homeland, Erebor. But as Gandalf leave the company, he discovers a greater threat that will return and wage war on middle earth.
I was very much on the fence about my thoughts about the film’s enjoyable yet clumsily paced predecessor, “The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey”. Passing through a lengthy dinner scene and another hour later for some story exposition, re-introducing an already familiar world and tone changes, the last third of the film did everything that I could’ve wanted from the first two acts of the film and it did give me hope that the second part of the film would follow through my thoughts of the last film’s remaining third act (and it did). Peter Jackson comes back with an energetic upgrade resulting to a satisfying sequel that’ll make you want more as the film end.
If you were underwhelmed by the first movie, prepare for a thrill ride in this film. With its mighty galloping pace, the film serves exhilarating and exciting action scenes with barrels, trees, ground chases (which brought back the classic running montages in the original LOTR films), fight scenes with orcs, spiders, elves and even a terribly large dragon. It departs from that child-like feel the last film did and goes to a more darker and adult route.
I watched this film in two formats which was in 2D and 3D-HFR. Comparing the two formats, I’m very much surprised on how the high frame rate didn’t overly enhance everything like the last film did. The film shows a lot of detail in the live action scenes while scenes with CGI didn’t look much like video game cinematics like the last film did to the trolls and other characters like Azog, landscapes (specifically Rivendell) and the other effects like fire and light. The HFR experience is still gives the feeling of the speedy momentum (that felt like skipping a movie on a Blu-Ray player in 2x speed), though unlike my first experience I got used to it and it didn’t hurt my eyes that much. The HFR felt like it gave emphasis on the swooping environment shots and I can actually tell what’s going on in most of the action scenes more than the 2D experience (mostly around Legolas’s action sequences), though some of the CGI moments that involve a CGI man and a force field still doesn’t look “polished” in most scenes in both formats. There are a lot of great 3D imagery such as spears and arrows flying on your face, swords slashing, barrels floating, a dragon’s snout, a bumblebee that you feel like swatting and somebody’s nose.
There is still a large amount of bickering on the internet whether or not Tolkien’s beloved 300-page novel (with the same name) should be stretched into three parts. In this second part, the book follows the parts of the book where it does involve the company going through Point A, Point B, to Point C meeting characters that goes by name of blargh son of wuzhemberg who has gone through a series of tragedies that led him to be in this kind of place in society. I don’t really blame Peter Jackson to expand some material from the chapters from Laketown and Mirkwood and even added Gandalf’s investigation for the white council. Knowing the fact that those parts of the book are rushed in the book and it did give build up to characters that popped up in the book whom had little time in the books (though I do wish they give Beorn a bit more scenes, especially with a fantastic set like that). Like every second part of the film in trilogies, this one had no beginning and no end; it’s straight to the action and ends in an actual cliff-hanger that would either piss you off, or get you excited…. It was both for me.
Though there were some flaws in the added material, namely it was the character of Tauriel being added in the movie. Sure she was badass from the start as she kills bad guys like a female Legolas and say one liners, but then she starts to fall in love with someone and that ended up giving a love triangle between her, that “guy” and Legolas which was erroneously shoehorned in this story. It’s like they only added her because (she’s a woman) for the sake of having a romance sub-plot in a Hollywood adaptation, it would’ve been cool if they made her the Eowyn of this trilogy like how Thorin is being the Aragorn and the Boromir of this trilogy. Some critics are saying that “more could’ve been less”; having the movie less room to breathe. In my experience, I only noticed the complaint once and it was the fight between the dwarves and Smaug where it was overdone up to the point where Smaug became a Scooby Doo villain, but that was just a minor gripe I had.
The performances are still brilliant, notably Richard Armitage as Thorin Oakenshield gave his best in this film. By the middle half of the film it did feel like the spot light is on him and not Bilbo (knowing the fact that he is the title character), up to the point where it does feel like he is the Aragorn of the film and later on becomes the Boromir of the franchise. Martin Freeman’s Bilbo Baggins is more confident and courageous but also a few shades darker because of the insidious power of the ring after the events of the last film. They gave him a lot of fun scenes but like I said he was in the back seat for a little while until his big scene with Benedict Cumberbatch. Speaking of which, let’s go to the big bad, Benedict Cumberbatch as Smaug. Benedict Cumberbatch never ceases to amaze me this year, he is the perfect choice for Smaug especially that menacing voice of his (but he did provide the motion capture for the character). People were complaining of never keeping Smaug’s look a secret, trust me – you haven’t seen anything yet, there’s more to see from the big bad dragon.
Both old and new cast returns, new faces like Lee Pace and Luke Evans grace the screen with a flawless performance and an enjoyable expansion of the character from the book. Though I did feel Beorn was there for a blink of an eye, which sucks because his house was one of the impressively thought out sets I have seen in the franchise by far. Reflecting about the book again, I felt like the introduction of the dwarves to Beorn would be inconsistent for the film knowing the fact that they are in a kind of situation like being chased by Orcs. The other returning character was Orlando Bloom as Legolas, whom I fear would be shoehorned in there for the sake of having a well- known character from the original LOTR films; but he wasn’t and he had a relevant part in the events of this film (it seems logical enough to put him there since his father is in the movie). The dwarves were developed a little bit, giving them little moments to be memorable enough. Last bot not the least, Sir Ian McKellen still delivering fun for a little while, like Bilbo he was in the back seat though he still felt relevant for the writer to expand his side of the story (that felt a bit lacking in the book).
In the end, The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug is a very enjoyable film from start to finish with a couple of minor setbacks. If the first film was a tiring walk, this on the other hand is a fast gallop, so fast that when you got out of the theatre you couldn’t believe that you were there for three hours. It has very enjoyable action sequences, excellent performances from this humongous cast, beautiful New Zealand sights, special effects and practical sets to look at. I also forgot how much I adored the Howard Shore's score as usual, with new favorites such as the Laketown theme and some dramatic serial-esque theme in other scenes such as the scenes in Mirkwood and the scene where they were being chased by dwarves near Beorn's house and the mysterious tone in Dol Guldur. I highly recommend you give the HFR experience another shot if you have seen it when you watched the first film and if you haven’t I’d still give it a try. For purists, go in an open mind that this isn’t the perfect adaptation you are looking for and instead enjoy the movie for what it is.
+ENJOYABLE ACTION SEQUENCES
+A BETTER 3D-HFR EXPERIENCE
+SOME GREAT CHANGES AND EXPANSION DECISIONS OF THE BOOK
- UNNECESSARY LOVE TRIANGLE
- SOME UN-POLISHED CGI MOMENTS
- SOME UN-POLISHED CGI MOMENTS
- SOME THINGS SHOULD’VE BEEN TONED DOWN
4/5 - FOR THE WIN!