Editor Note: Our latest staff review comes from staffer and second half of the Happy Hobbit team, Fili. The Happy Hobbits were TheOneRing.net official representatives at the ‘black’ carpet premiere of ‘The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug’ this past Monday in Hollywood, CA. (You can see the unedited video coverage in our uStream archive)
As a word of warning, Fili’s review is filled with SPOILERS from the very beginning. If you are avoiding spoilers of any type, please know — you have been warned!
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If you’re expecting an articulate review of the film, stop now and read the reviews from other staffers instead! I’m not the best at that type of writing, so what is below is simply what I loved about the film. That simple. You know how us fair haired dwarves are! 😉
When Kili and I first watched the trailer, we went viral for how excited we were. Excited, psyched, anxious, flipping out? None of that can do what we felt justice. I had no expectations except that it would be epic, amazing, and heart slamming. This film did not let me down!
One of the things I loved about this film, that most hardcore Tolkien purists will dislike, was that besides the main plot points you don’t entirely know what is coming next. To say the film isn’t loyal to the story is false. Just about everything from Tolkien’s original work is there, it’s simply expanded, and as I said when we walked out of the theater, “it’s all there, but exploded by 1,000.”
The start has less surprises than deeper into the film, with Beorn who was completely badass and upon watching it I don’t know if his portion seemed so short because it was so good and went by quickly, or because there are some deleted scenes. I feel it’s a bit of both. Weta truly captured the wild heart and look of Beorn. Mirkwood’s disease spreading to the company was sickeningly good, and when Bilbo’s “Took” moment of accidentally provoking the spiders starts the attack on them, it’s heart jumping all the way through the woods.
There is a moment where Bilbo loses the ring, and there’s a great shot that puts you off slightly so that you feel the panic, the growing sickness in Bilbo’s mind from the ring. Martin Freeman pulls you into Bilbo’s panicked mind. It was also wonderful the way they portrayed the world when Bilbo put on the ring vs. Frodo. There is no voice of Sauron calling to him, which in an eerie way makes the ring seem more harmless than it clearly is. And talking spiders? The way Bilbo could understand them with the ring on is genius. Legolas’ spiraling, epic entrance to this film was amazing. As you’re watching, it feels more and more like a Lord of The Rings film (in a good way!) and then to see a face like Legolas on screen again is worth a loud cheer in your seat. Then comes Thranduil who rocked it, eyebrows, jewels, ego and all. But the best about Mirkwood is Tauriel. She is a pure badass with a warm heart.
Tauriel’s character adds a fresh feel to the story. She creates a storyline, and perhaps even a reflection upon the elves vs. dwarves feud upon growing fond of Kili. Their moments flow with the story. It gives us the opportunity to see deeper into their characters, and the relationship with the two races. And heck, it’s down right beautiful the way they pull it off that at the end, after Kili is wounded and she is there to save him. When he speaks about her like starlight could make you tear up! Their dialogue is heartwarming, and of course the acting and chemistry of Aidan Turner and Evangeline Lilly makes it. Their musical theme by Boyens of weaving dwarven and elven language captures the moments so well.
Tauriel kicks Orc butt. After Bilbo helps the dwarves escape and the orcs are after them, seeing her protect him and the others is amazing. We’ve hardly seen, if only once, a woman elf kicking butt in battle. And though he isn’t as elegant, beautiful, or eternal… who else has a battle sequence worth some words? BOMBUR. During their barrel escape he has, by my memory, a full minute or two scene of bouncing to squash orcs, slicing them, etc. Our row of TORn in the theater couldn’t help but laugh if we tried. Bombur is the new badass. Perhaps in film 3 Tauriel will see that? 😉
Yes, the barrel scene is expanded like crazy and quite frankly, better than it was in the book. Who wants to watch a bunch of capped barrels float down a river for an hour? When they reach Bard the story takes another epic turn, barreling them towards the Lonely Mountain. Luke Evans was wonderful, he brought Bard to life in a way he wasn’t in the text. He’s quite the epic Welsh warrior.
Laketown is hauntingly beautiful, the sets are just magnificent. New characters like the Master of Laketown, and Alfrid played by Ryan Gage, were great. Especially as an actor new to this large a film, Gage does a more than great job with a strong presence. Laketown’s scenes keep you on edge the entire film, from when Bard sneaks them in, to when the dwarves are discovered and Thorin makes a speech about Erebor than wins the town on his side.
Kili’s injury that worsens during this time is what in the end, causes what again, purists, may grumble over. The dwarves are split up. Not everyone goes to the Lonely Mountain. No, this doesn’t happen in the book, but in the book 90% of the dwarves are just names anyway with no heart, so the writers took a chance to create more story and pulled it off great. As the dwarves are heading off to leave, poor Kili tries to come but Thorin holds him off. The greatest moment of this sequence is seeing Fili stand up to Thorin when his uncle tells him to come with them. He and Kili are a pair, bonded for life, brothers, and to hear Fili say that he belongs with his brother is so heartwarming. Dean O’Gorman captures that so well.
The scenes in Laketown where the dwarves left behind are trying to save Kili are stressful but very well done, the worry on Fili’s face is tear jerking. Especially when you think of what’s going to happen in the next film. Like Beorn’s house, this is a sequence I’d guess has deleted scenes and I’m looking forward to seeing more between Kili and Fili. Oh, and let us not forget Bofur missing the boat, waking up drunk? I got a feeling we’ll see that wild party on the Extended Edition blue ray as well!
When Tauriel comes to their aid and heals Kili, again, it’s very sweet. It is not overbearing. It is not ridiculous, silly, or even unfitting, it’s there. It fits in the Middle-earth that Jackson and crew have created, one with a bigger heart than you get from the text. When Legolas finds them he has an epic showdown with Bolg. When he runs after him, galloping out from Laketown with one of the film’s most beautiful shots, he creates a new storyline that we don’t see tied up yet.
Back to the Lonely Mountain with the other dwarves and Bilbo is the part of the movie that tries to hand out heart attacks with its nerve wracking and heroic scenes. Seeing Thorin look upon the door of the mountain gives your mind a shake. We can’t already be at Erebor, no, we really are… is what went through my head. I wanted to cry as much as Thorin seemed to, for Armitage captures the floods of emotions and memories running through this brave-hearted dwarf. Throughout the film, and starting here, Thorin shows the need to get his home back despite any losses. Especially once he gets near the gold, (even just at the door), when he starts to get sickly tempered.
When Bilbo doesn’t give up with his brave big hobbit heart, and waits till the moon rises, opens the door, you feel such pride for such a little creature. And protective over him the moment he steps into the mountain. Though you know he’ll get out, and that he can outsmart Smaug, it’s fist clenching nonetheless. The whole sequence inside is where it truly feels like a roller coaster. From when Bilbo is treading on the gold, to when Smaug appears. You’re just waiting for that beautiful beast to pop out from the sea of coins, and when he does so the moment is so beauteous and magnificent that you can’t just hate Smaug, you love him. Even if you do sorta-kinda-have-to-hate-him… Cumberbatch has created such an eerie, thundering, spine-crawling voice for the dragon that you don’t want Smaug to leave the screen, but at the same time, are so terrified for little Bilbo, hiding around pillars, that of course, you do. His motion capture comes across so beautifully as well.
Their dialogue, their chase, everything is like a feast for your eyes and nerves. And when the dwarves come in, your heart pounds even more. The moment Thorin lays eyes on Smaug, the look in his eyes floods over you like a boiling flame echoed within the dwarven king’s heart. That feeling stays with you and the dwarves as they battle the dragon until the end of the film, where one of the most beautiful shots is born. When Thorin and company flood the dragon with boiling gold is a moment of pure triumph. Smaug is drowned in gold. And for a moment, though you know the time isn’t right, you’re wanting to feel that they won, that he is defeated… But that moment doesn’t last long before Smaug, looking more magnificent than ever, glittering with passion, rage, and best of all, blanketed in a coat of molten gold, barrels out of the mountain. With more fury than ever. But also, he is more weak. And though this sequence was not in the book, it feasibly could happen in Tolkien’s world, is more thrilling then the scene in the book, and truly gives more of a reason for Smaug’s one arrow death by Bard in the next film.
But this is where the worst part of the film comes. The part that leaves you so shocked and wrenched… it ends. The screen goes black. It is so wonderfully jarring that it leaves you in a starved panic for more of this rich feast Jackson has so carefully cooked for you. It is one of those feelings that leaves you stunned. When the credits rolled, the entire movie flooded through me, I turned to Kili and grinned, for it was more than either of us ever could have dreamed.
Yes, there are deviations from the text, but they work and everything important to the story is still there. Things may be done different than how you imagined, but the story Tolkien wrote is much more skeletal compared to the juicy work Jackson gives us. And it’s down right amazing. A huge thank you to Jackson, Walsh, Boyens, to each of the actors, artists and amazing Weta crew for an outstanding film. Now just to find a time machine for December 2014. Want to help with that Weta? 😉