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Ringer Reviews - The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug

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Ringer Review - NAME


Date Posted: 2014-01-11
Tolkien Fan Level: 6
Film Format Seen? 3D 24 fps
Will view again in a different format? No

I didn’t love “The Desolation of Smaug,” but I didn’t hate it either. Frankly, it met the very low expectations I had personally set for it, so my gut reaction was neither disgust nor enthrallment. Truthfully, this felt like watching an edited-for-TV version of DOS. Far more than any other Jackson’s LOTR-universe films, “Desolation of Smaug” DESPERATELY needs an extended edition, which is the version I am truly anticipating. Hence, I treated this film like a precursor to the real thing, and I watched with a far greater degree of objectivity than I would otherwise.

However, since this is a review of the movie that’s in theaters, I’ll regard it as such. It’s a movie with some excellent moments, and some less than excellent moments. Here’s a bullet point list:

- Environments and moods – Erebor, Mirkwood, Laketown (especially), even the foggy mist around Beorn’s house were beautiful. Great atmosphere in this movie.

- Acting – Martin Freeman was especially excellent. Hope to see more of him in the EE.

- Smaug – A visual wonder. He really was stunning, and arguably the greatest achievement of Jackson’s CG team’s career. What’s better, they gave him personality to match his grandeur. His dialogue with Bilbo is probably the highlight of the film.

- Expanded storylines – I honestly didn’t mind most of the expansions and changes the filmmakers made to the story (at least in theory). I even the addition of Tauriel. I actually thought she was one of the better characters in the story. I liked that they gave Bard more depth and backstory, elevated the importance of the Arkenstone, and also tied up a few loose threads from the first film (pursuit of Thorin, for example, though we still don’t have a full picture yet of his enemies motivations).

- Intro and conclusion – Loved the Bree intro. It helped clarify several key story elements. I’m also fine with the cliffhanger ending, since none of the other Tolkien films end this way and it distinguishes this movie tonally from the others.

- Pacing – Had I been updating a live Twitter feed of the movie every 15 minutes, it probably would have looked something like: #chase… #tensetalk… #tensewalk… #chase… #capture… #smallchatandescape… #more chase… #tensehiding… #chasethroughtown… #intensetalktotownsfolk… #Gandalfischased… #BilbotalkstoSmaug… #Bilboischased… #Dwarvesarriveandgetchased… #orcschasedbyLegolas… #EVERYONEFIGHTSANDISCHASED! This was simply a film with no sense of rhythm – it’s all high gear (save the scene with Kili and Tauriel discussing starlight, a nice breather). This is the area I most hope and expect the extended edition will remedy.

- Soundtrack – This is more of a gripe with the editing, because the music was fine; there was simply too much of it. I found this somewhat grating even the LOTR films. Jackson so infrequently gives the actors and scenes room to breathe, and nearly every instance of action, no matter how subtle, has a bombastic score behind it to cue the emotional mood. I find this overuse dampens the whole effect of even having a soundtrack, which is to highlight and supplement key moments. DOS seemed to suffer exceptionally from this, and it adds to the rushed quality of the film.

- Action scenes – I found most of the fight segments gratuitous and so over-the-top that I lost nearly all suspension of disbelief. I also wasn't that impressed with the CG fights and orcs- they're beautiful looking computer graphics, but still lack the immediacy and presence of real actors. Unlike many others, I did not find the barrel scene that great. Each act of elvish bad-assery simply undermines the bad-asseriness of the next. Do we need to see Legolas kill literally 100 orcs in one film? That’s the province of a 14-year-old playing video games, which is what I felt we were watching during most of the action sequences. His scrap with the evenly-matched Bolg, while brief and technically simple, was probably my favorite fight sequence in the film - honest truth. After two-and-a-half hours of predicable slaughter, it was immensely refreshing to have a genuine showdown that didn’t involve superhuman antics.

I could add more to both of these categories, but these stick out in my mind, so I’ll leave it at that. “The Desolation of Smaug” is a perfect exhibit of Peter Jackson’s excesses and all of the benefits and detriments thereof. Truthfully, there’s probably a dozen directors I would have rather have seen helm this series than post-LOTR PJ, but he has his charms and I’ll try to like his Hobbit adaptations for what they are. Here’s hoping for a better developed Extended Edition.

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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