Saturday, December 14, 2013

Film Review: The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug

Conklederp and I went out last Thursday night to see The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug, it being the midnight-opening night/morning showing of the movie.  There were a handful of people in costume (a crossdressing Thorin and Thranduil; Gandalf, a Hobbit, Galadriel), which was nice to see.  Conklederp did make the observation that (at least) for our line for the non-Imax 3D version, we were one of the older people, asside from the parents.  The theatre wasn't nearly as full as I would have thought as most of the front groups of seats were empty.

For the most part the audience was fairly well behaved.  I should say that my "perfect movie audience" is one that doesn't talk (or move around) during a movie.  Noises are okay, but only if they are a vocal response to fear, surprise or laughter.  "Noises" do not include "Holy shit, that's fucked up!"  when you see something frightful; "Waaah, that got me!" when you are surprised; or "Ah man, that's hilarious!" at a funny scene.  Before the movie started, a girl came back from smoking some pot (an observable fact, not a judgement) outside and proceeded to rock her chair back frequently and kept hitting my knees.  I would have asked her to stop, but I don't think she realized she was doing it and I don't like confrontation, especially with teenagers.  So after Conklederp and I moved over one seat to the right, the person behind me kicked the back of my chair just less than a dozen times during the course of the movie.  Lastly, after we had moved over, two guys sat in the open seats to my left and the one right next to me said to his buddy, "I'm not into this whole Hobbit crowd."  Sigh.  Once the movie started (after the previews), he opened a can of beer.  The beer didn't bother me, it was the fact that after finishing said beer, he pulled the tab off, opened/peeled back a portion of the top of the can and proceeded to use it as a spittoon for the rest of the movie.  The only thing missing from this guy was a can of axe body spray and a bucket of Stetson.

Okay, all of that aside.  So how was the movie?  For the most part I enjoyed it.  It is definitely going to have to be a movie that I see again.  Like the first movie, this one diverges a bit from the book, but unlike the first movie, this one diverges even more.  Granted it is still The Hobbit, there is just more material relating more to what Gandalf was doing before the events in The Hobbit take place as well as what he is doing regarding the Necromancer while Thorin and Company are in Mirkwood Forest.  Tolkien has said that he took Gandalf away from the Dwarves so that the events in Mirkwood with the Spiders, Wood Elves and Erebor could happen without the convenience of a wizard and came up with some busy work for Gandalf.  That works well enough in the book, but in a movie that deals with the world of Middle Earth and all the events that conclude with the Lord of the Rings, there would need to be a more detailed explanation.

I had originally thought about doing a list of what I liked and didn't like about the movie, but that turned into something that I wasn't ultimately happy with.  That's not what I set out to write about.  Yes there are somethings that I wanted to bring up that I didn't like, but those involved spoiling a movie that came out yesterday.  Even with a "Beware - Spoilers" disclaimer, I don't want to be that person.  So now I will just write in specific generalities.

I often feel like movie sequels suffer from a word that I don't know if it exists or not.  I'm trying to refer to "the look" of the movie, from Part I to Part II and so on.  I think I noticed a bit of it here, but I will really need to see the movie again before making any final judgement.

I liked the look of Beorn, although I thought he was a little too forgiving about finding his home full of Dwarves.  Maybe there's more material that was cut so that the Dwarves and Bilbo could get into Mirkwood faster.  It's a possibility.

Mirkwood was great.  I really felt that the filmmakers captured the belief that a forest is sick, can be disorienting and how it can play tricks with your mind.  Simple camera tricks worked great here.  I will hint that when the spiders talk, it makes sense.

I thought Lee Pace as Thranduil, King of the Wood Elves of Mirkwood/Greenwood the Great did a fantastic job.  At first I thought him a little stuffy and closed off, but then I thought of both Thingol and Turgon and I immediately felt better. 

One point of contention since it was made public was the character of Tauriel, a female Elf created for the movie portrayed by Evangeline Lilly.  I will say that as a whole, I thought Tauriel a believable Elf in the film created universe of Middle Earth.  I don't have a problem with her existence.  Maybe a little shaky on some of her motivations that I won't get into now, but you'll probably see what I mean when you see the movie; or maybe you see all new ones that bother you instead/more.

I am a little sad that I have mixed feelings about "the look" of Bard/Luke Evans.  It is true that he does look a lot like a slightly older Will Turner/Orlando Bloom from Pirates of the Caribbean and that's very unfortunate as I found it a little distracting.  That's probably just something that I need to get over for myself.

Smaug looked amazing.  If you've read the books, you'll know that Smaug isn't around very long.  He's introduced to Bilbo, they converse, Smaug gets pissed and flees the mountain and heads for Laketown.  There he burns some building and finally gets shot down after a couple of passes.  I will just say that I understand the filmmakers' decision for having "more" of Smaug and while on screen, they didn't do any disservice to the character.  The one thing though was that I felt that Smaug's conclusion to Bilbo's "barrel rider" riddle came too late for him to have his expected reaction.

Lastly, I will say that the movie, which clocked in at 2h41m, it ended before I thought it was going to.  I expected something a bit more at the end, but it looks like that that will happen near the beginning of the next movie, which we will have to wait another 360+ days for.  And, now that I know what changes were made from the books, less questioning about where the movie was going and less worried about if things were not going to be done at all, I definitely plan on seeing the movie again (hopefully next time with a better audience) to see if my First Impressions change and if I am able to come away with different or new thoughts about The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug.


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