Editor’s note: Our latest staff review comes from Saystine. As always if you’re still to see the film and are avoiding spoilers, please be aware that there are spoilers all through this review.
After seeing the film five times in the opening weekend, here are my thoughts…
First off do yourself a favor and see it more than once. I find that when it is a movie from a source material that I am familiar with, I anticipate too much instead of just enjoying what is being presented. This movie really is to be enjoyed. Trust me you will not regret your second viewing. I certainly did not regret my fifth!
The scene in Bree. I have to admit the first time I saw it, I wasn’t thrilled, because it seems to slows thing down. I was ready to hit the ground running, but in retrospect and after seeing the film five times, I like the slow down. It’s a great bit of back story, and it is worth it for PJ reprise of his Fellowship cameo alone.
I love Beorn. I think he looks great. My only fault with any of his scenes is there is not enough of him. He strikes me as such a gentle giant, who is even able to look past his own prejudices for the greater good. I look forward to hopefully seeing more in the extended versions. As all have said this set looks amazing.
Mirkwood is awesome. Here too, I look forward to seeing more in the extended editions. (I personally miss the Stag and Bombur falling in the river scene. I really hope it will be in the extended.) [Editor’s note: there is a still image of Bombur lying unconscious on an improvised travois in a rocky, forested area, surrounded by exhausted, dispirited-looking comrades. So obviously something like this was filmed. Whether it makes the EE remains to be seen.]
Otherwise, I really think PJ did a great job of creating a sense of confusion, and alternate reality in the forest. It really did feel claustrophobic and stale. So much so that you can really feel the relief when Bilbo can breathe the fresh air above the trees.
The Spiders are so very well done. I love the use of the Ring here to give the spiders speech. An excellent solution to a talking animal problem. I know the spiders talk in the book, but in a movie it is hard to make that not seen childish. Using the Ring as a method to hear the spiders was simply a brilliant stoke of genius. I do think the affect that the Ring has on Bilbo is played a little heavy in this scene and throughout the movie, but I understand why it is being done this way. This is a prequel to The Lord of the Rings. People expect it, and since Sauron is also being played up, it makes total sense.
I have never been a fan of Legolas, but this is not the same Legolas we know. He is spoiled and entitled. While this does not make me love him any more, it does make me interested in seeing how his character will change in the next movie. Don’t even get me started on the fact that he has Orcrist. The only nice thing I can say about that is at least it gives the sword I love a little more screen time.
Tauriel is amazing. I love her character and her motivations. She is everything a Tolkien woman should be. She is a wonderful addition. Her love story with Kili is sweet and while I like it, sometimes I do find it an unnecessary distraction from the main through line of the story. I am hoping that there is a pay off in the next movie. (I have a feeling that there will be as PJ rarely does anything for no reason.) Also it is not totally terrible to split the huge group of dwarves up into smaller bits. It makes it easier for the normal audience members to keep track and it gives the actors more to do than just run around Erebor.
What can I say of Lee Pace’s Thranduil. He is spot on. I am oddly attracted and repulsed by him at the same time. He has almost a snake-like quality to him. He has just the right amount of arrogance where you really want to hate him, but he is so charismatic that you can’t turn away. I would have loved to see even more scenes with him as well.
The Barrel scene is a rocket ride. This thing should be a ride at Disney Land. I Love it. All the sword throwing, ax chopping and hero Bombur barrel scene make this one of the highlights of the movie. Even the Elves and all their slick moves are perfectly in concert here. Kili getting shot then jumping in that barrel knocking the arrow out of his leg is the most painful thing in the movie. I cringe every time.
Meeting Bard is a genuine pleasure. He is very well played by Luke Evans and his presence is the voice of reason while Gandalf is off at Dol Guldur. All of his scenes are can’t miss. I don’t mind at all the toilet scene that so many others are bothered about, and I love the scene where Bard is figuring out who Thorin is. I feel for Bard’s plight and what the dwarf quest might cost him. He really is the heart of Lake-town.
Stephen Fry is great as the master of Lake-town. We really don’t see all that much of him, but when he is on screen he portrays the character perfectly. You really don’t care for him and you can’t wait to see him and his little lackey Alfrid fall.
Now on to the mountain… When the dwarves finally arrive at the lonely mountain several things happen. First, I expected to be a little more emotional when they are at the overlook, but that was to come later. The overlook was just a reminder that Dale was destroyed and that Gandalf is not there. OK, I’m fine with that, the thing that makes me laugh and shake my head every time is when they are looking for the stair to the secret door. Not only do they have a map as to where it will be, but the stair is part of a giant statue that is practically half the mountain! (OK, maybe not half, but you get my point.) It is huge. I don’t think Bilbo’s eyes had to be all that keen to see it. I try to think of it as a “not being able to see the forest for the trees” kind of thing, but I just feel like they would have seen it was they were approaching. Maybe they approached from another angle and then went around so they didn’t see it. I don’t know. I just really want to justify this for myself, because it is one of the only things that bug me about the film.
Well that and the fact that once they reach the hidden door, and lose the light, they give up too easily. Why come so far just to quit and head back so quickly. I guess I don’t like it when my dwarves lose faith. Thorin just dropping the Key was really heartbreaking. I understand that it was yet another place for Bilbo to shine, but even if they truly missed their chance, there is always next year. I just didn’t not enjoy the total loss of hope. Thankfully, we didn’t have to stay there long, as Bilbo figures it all out and even though he nearly kicks the key off the mountain, Thorin catches it, and we can move on.
Now, I get the emotional climax I wanted. I was in tears when Thorin opened the secret door and he and Balin enter Erebor for the first time in years. Both Richard Armitage and Ken Stott play this moment with such gravity, you can not help but feel it. I can only imagine what it feels like to go back to someplace that was taken from you so long ago. This was just beautifully portrayed and sets Bilbo up for this next quest into the mountain for the Arkenstone.
Bilbo’s search for the Arkenstone and his encounter with Smaug is so much more brilliant than I could have even imagined. Martin Freeman’s little moments are priceless. There are just too many to name them all, but I love his crouching down to hide when Smaug is uncovered, his waving away Smaug breath, and his little look of “oh there it is” when he finally see the Arkenstone. Martin Freeman is just a master of these little moments. It is a pleasure to watch him.
Smaug is simply breathtaking. He looks and sounds amazing. He is a gem covered Diva, just as he should be. Arrogant to a fault. The voice and movement are perfect. He was well worth the wait. I loved seeing him chase and breathe fire at the dwarves. I don’t mind at all that they all eventually came down inside Erebor so we could have this exciting chase/action sequence. I don’t quite understand why they could not just go back out through the secret door to escape, but them being stuck does provide a reason for them to attempt to kill Smaug, which is a very welcome event. It always bothered me in the book that they never really had a plan to kill Smaug. Probably the only thing I didn’t like in this sequence is the room full of mummies. Again I understand why it is there. It does show the price the dwarves paid when Smaug took over Erebor, but it is just really creepy nonetheless.
The attempt to kill Smaug is very good, although the first time I saw it, I really couldn’t follow what was happening. The part with Thorin running around with a wheelbarrow seemed a little silly, and I was kind of worried about Bilbo being on the floor with all the gold running everywhere. The lower center floor did not seem that deep as to keep all the gold from rushing everywhere and it certainly didn’t seem deep enough to completely cover Smaug. But these are small things that I can over look because the payoff is so good. I loved seeing Smaug covered in gold and it was simply majestic the way he spin it all off in the air before heading to Lake-town. The ending is prefect. We are left wanting to see what happens next and hoping that December 2014 gets here soon!