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Ringer Reviews - The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug

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Ringer Review - NAME


29, Calgary

Date Posted: 2013-12-23
Tolkien Fan Level: 8
Film Format Seen? Imax 3D
Will view again in a different format? Yes

The Two Towers was an extremely enjoyable theatrical release. But on the heels of The Fellowship of the Ring extended edition, it was very noticeably edited. You suddenly realized things could be missing from the story. Sometimes extremely important things.

The Desolation of Smaug felt much the same way for me. An Unexpected Journey felt like an Extended Edition version of a much tighter and focused theatrical edit. One of the problems people had with the movie is that it just took FOREVER to get going. But I would argue the same could be said of The Two Towers... it takes nearly FOREVER to get to Edoras in the Extended Edition.

With DOS Peter Jackson returns to an extremely tight and focused edit which is a non-stop roller coaster ride of impressively staged action and drama. Characters and scenarios literally fly by with very little time spent. The House of Beorn is noticeably cut down to the bear (!) minimum. Mirkwood always felt like the most trying part of the Quest for Erebor but here it is cut down to a montage eagerly forcing us into the confrontation with the Spiders. Which in any other movie would be the stand out action set piece. I like that the Elves save/capture the Dwarves in Jackson's version. Heading towards a merry elf-dancing feast in the dead of night would have felt astray in this version of the Hobbit.

Thranduil and the wood elves perspective on outsiders and the dwarves in particular are not adequately explained. I feel like more time should have (and will be) spent with Thranduil establishing his rationale for his isolationist attitudes. It's a stretch to think this character would ever leave his kingdom to join the Battle of Five Armies. That he would come and demand a portion of a treasure he admittedly cares little about. Tauriel and Kili have a romantic subplot. I didn't really feel that it added enough to the story to be included in this theatrical cut - but Jackson was clearly held hostage by having Tauriel appear in Laketown to save Kili. Without the time spent on their relationship it wouldn't have made sense. But I am not sure this romantic/poison subplot added to the movie.
Barrel escape? Perfect.
Laketown is truly an accomplishment. Grander and more alive than Tolkien's ever was... there is a Dickens flair to the whole thing that felt correctly industrial and desolated. Bard is a much fleshed out character in this version of the Hobbit but I am again not sure it is necessary. He could have just been a really cool smuggler who found his heart of gold in the moment when Smaug attacked his favorite port. No kids. No Robin Hood virtues. No man of the people subplot. Just a Han Solo savings Luke Skywalker in the Death Star trench kind of move would have been great.
Oh Gandalf...
Gandalf's subplot was razor thin in this movie. It was never more apparent that this story was supposed to inter-cut with a much suppressed 2 part Hobbit and there wasn't enough content to have his plot stand apart during this movie. I hope there is a greatly expanded story for him waiting on the cutting room floor but I believe in a 2 movie situation his part played in AUJ and DOS would have been sufficient. But as Ian McKellan is always the stand out in these films his screen absence is definitely felt. His confrontation with the Necromancer felt heightened to match the inter-cut Erebor sequences of Smaug vs Thorin. The inter-cutting did not work for me.
Smaug is magnificent. The entirety of his greatness (performance, CG and character) is communicated perfectly in his confrontation with the consistently superb Bilbo Baggins (Martin Freeman). I found the epic fail liquid gold subplot to be not only far-fetched but somewhat unnecessary. Again - I am not sure this sequence would have existed in a two movie version of these films.
Overall I enjoyed this movie but what is a rock solid 7.5 theatrical cut will likely become a 9.0 Extended Edition home video experience.

The Ratings
The Other Ratings
Martin Freeman 's performance as Bilbo Baggins?
How would you rate Luke Evan's performance as Bard??
The Overall representation of The Dwarves ?
How would you rate Benedict Cumberbatch's' performance as Smaug?
Ian McKellen's performance as Gandalf?
How would you rate Lee Pace's performance as Thranduil?
How would you rate Orlando Bloom's performance as Legolas?
How would you rate Evangeline Lilly's performance as Tauriel?
How would you rate Stephen Fry's performance as Master of Lake-Town?
Did you think Tauriel was a welcome addition to the film?
How would you rate Beorn?
How would you rate the scene with the Spiders?
How would you rate the imprisonment/escape sequence?
Did you like the Necromancer being discovered by Gandalf as Sauron?
Did the movie fairly portray the character arc of Thorrin?
How would you rate Lake-Town?
How would you rate the burglar interchange between Bilbo and Smaug?
How would you rate revisiting Bree?
How happy are you with the attempts to tie The Hobbit back to the Lord of the Rings?
Did you enjoy seeing Gandalf visit Gol Duldor and The Tombs?
Did you like the splitting of the company of Dwarves?
Did Smaug live up to your expectations?
How would you rate the ending of the movie; in regards to leading well into the next film, and serving as a good ending point.
Is DOS a better film than AUJ?
The overall pace of the film.

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