Date Posted: 2013-12-21
Tolkien Fan Level: 6
Film Format Seen? 3D 48 fps
Will view again in a different format? Yes
When we pick up with Bilbo and the Dwarves, little to no time has passed since the end of the last film. They are still pursued by Orcs and working their way to The Lonely Mountain where their quest lies. They meet a WereBear shapeshifter named Beorn who offers to provide some protection against their hunters and then Gandalf, once again, decides to abandon them to their fate as he "seeks answers" elsewhere. So we begin to get a multiple story arc akin to the splitting of the Fellowship in the LOTR films.
Bilbo and the Dwarves press onward into Mirkwood Forest, which makes Fangorn seem like the 100 Acre Wood by comparison. It's dark and menacing and, worst of all, inhabited by giant spiders. Jackson and team get to show off their horror chops once again as the forest and spiders ensnare our travelers in a waking nightmare. It's infinitely creepy. but, worry not, it is not the end for our intrepid team and they soon find themselves in the company of Legolas, his pops Thranduil and a host of Woodland Elves who take them captive to their abode in the woods. Here we meet Tauriel, a completely Jackson/Walsh & Company creation found nowhere in the works of Tolkien. A bold step that surely angered many purists. I liked her. She is a strong character and provides an impetus for some of the action that follows. The "love" triangle between Legolas, Kili, and her is ... well, it just is and we have to accept it. It doesn't drag the movie, but feels a wee bit out of place. I'll leave that one to others to discuss, dissect, and/or desolate as they see fit. Our stout friends escape (with the help of Bilbo employing the One Ring) and then the barrel ride kicks in. We saw it in 3D HFR by the way, and the action sequences were literally breathtaking. The barrel ride with the Orcs in hot pursuit and the elves in tow is exhilarating. "Movie Magic" as they say. They make their way to Lake Town and we are introduced to Bard and his family as well as the Master of Laketown and his lackey Wormtongue. Okay, not actually Wormtongue, but a direct analogue of the sycophantic, sniveling, obsequious little servant who instantly registers as "up to no good". The Master is not given enough screentime in my opinion. He is excellently sleezy and self serving and will hopefully be more of a presence in the third film. Finally, Bilbo and party arrive at the door on the mountain. It's locked and the keyhole can only be seen on this particular day at a particular time (good timing for our explorers I must say). Bilbo enters the mountain wherein he meets Smaug. Smaug is the lynchpin of the film. Awesome in size, scope, and stentorian voice, he rests under a pile of gold to surpass The Rothschilds, Rockefellers, and Gateses of the this world. I'm still a bit unclear on the whole "dragons love them some gold son" yarn, but let's just agree that they do so. Smaug is a technical marvel. He lives. Cumberbatch embues him with haughty arrogance and disregard for all small, trivial things (like dwarves and hobbitses) and he is nearly flawless. He does have a weak spot. Not in his armor, but in his likability. He's just so dang cool you can't help but like him as you marvel at his awesomeness. I won't go any further here and leave the "ending" for your own consideration. As expected, every department at Weta and beyond is hitting their marks at such a high level of expertise and precision that Smaug is easily the year's best film. Like LOTR, it sets a new standard and precedent of pushing the technology and our collective imagination to a whole new level and bringing us all back to Middle Earth in the most immersive, complete way possible. Every attention to detail in costume, set design, make-up and special effects and every nuanced performance from actor and musician in the orchestra alike work in concert and bring us more fully into Tolkien's world. Looking forward to the DVD extras to see every step of the process in creating this magical experience. Suffice it to say : I loved it and it's going to be a long year until part 3 comes next December.
Submit a Review