I went to see The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug today (in 3D too), and it was really good. I figured that I would write a review while everything is fresh in my mind. Note that there are some things that would be considered spoilers, if you haven’t seen it and would really mind about that sort of thing.
First I have to say that the visuals and the general scenery of the film was absolutely gorgeous and immediately made me want to visit New Zealand and just go for a hike and take hundreds of pictures. As well, I think that the 3D in this film was really well done and didn’t have a “cheap” feel to it. I am pretty sure that it was filmed with special 3D-capable cameras—the scenic shots certainly felt that way! I also did not mind the length of the film, although I have heard that some have felt that it was a little long for their tastes. Though it wasn’t completely faithful to the book, I think that the length of this film and the fact that this story is split into 3 parts really allows for detail that would have otherwise been left out. Personally, I would have been irritated if this story was only one film, and I trust Peter Jackson enough from the Lord of the Rings films that he knows what he is doing. Also on the technical side, I do think that I saw this film in the 48 frames per second rather than the regular 24 that most movies are in—the reason I say this is because I was getting a different visual experience that is a little hard to describe other than how it seemed to me to be more lifelike/fluid than normal. This is what the 48fps was supposed to achieve, and it did do its job, although it took me a second to adjust.
Now, onto the content of the movie itself.
I loved how they handled Beorn, in particular the part where he changes back into a man. I did realize that this part was different from the book, however overall I think that it played out well. I liked how Beorn mentioned how he was the last of his kind—I got a Doctor vibe from him, although Beorn is much more grumpy and standoffish.
While it doesn’t appear directly in the book, I liked how we got some screen time of what Gandalf was up to when he parted from the group before they entered the Mirkwood forest. I wasn’t really expecting the Necromancer to be the way he was on screen, but the eventual transition into the Great Eye was fantastic. Also, the voice of the Necromancer was quite good (it was Benedict Cumberbatch, if you were not aware).
I think that Mirkwood was done really well, even including the addition of Tauriel. I normally get quite upset when movies add in a character who did not exist in the book (see Nigel in the Harry Potter films), but I didn’t mind so much in this case. Yes, it does add unnecessary bits, but I think that those scenes were still enjoyable and didn’t destroy the movie.
On another note, if you’ve read The Hobbit you will realize that Legolas isn’t mentioned, yet he appears in this film. I think that it was clever by Peter Jackson to include this, and I do have solid reasoning. Thranduil is Legolas’ father, so it stands to reason that he would have been in Mirkwood around this time. Additionally, by having Orlando Bloom appear in the film Jackson is presumably trying to draw in more viewers. Finally, I was highly amused by one particular scene that could have only been done with Legolas in it. When the elves are searching the dwarves for weapons, they find a couple pictures on Gloin—Legolas comments on the first, and Gloin indignantly mentions that it is his wife. But what made me laugh was the second picture, where Legolas asks who that ugly creature was: “It’s my wee lad…Gimli”. I had flashes to the relationship that Gimli and Legolas would eventually have during the events of The Lord of the Rings.
Another scene that I thought was quite funny was the dwarves in barrels as they were swept down the river and waterfall. In particular, I thought that Bombur being flung from the water in his barrel, and then his arms popping out with weapons and battling orcs—while still in his barrel—was absolutely hilarious.
I’m not sure if I can pick out my least favourite part, considering I did love the film as a whole, although I did feel like some things were a bit odd—particularly the interaction with Kili and Tauriel. I don’t feel hopeful for Tauriel’s fate in the third and final movie, considering what happens to Kili in the book.
Now, I need to talk about Smaug. I have been so excited for his part in this movie, not only because I like dragons and the character in the books…but also because my absolute favourite actor, Benedict Cumberbatch, did the motion capture and voice for this formidable villain. His voice, which I believe had something added to it (although it wouldn’t surprise me if it didn’t) was downright chilling. I don’t know how a voice could be serpent-like, but this one definitely was. Additionally, the movements were gorgeous. I would be thoroughly interested to see the raw footage of Benedict’s motion capture to see how they translated to the screen, because what I saw was great. It is definitely quite different to Gollum, but nevertheless they are both spectacular. Also, I enjoyed the jewels/coins embedded on Smaug’s belly, although they are easy to miss if you aren’t paying attention. Also on that note, how his belly lighted up when he was about to breath fire was cool. Apart from his voice (thanks Benedict), my favourite part about Smaug (who is my favourite part of the movie) would probably be near the ending of the movie with the gold and the flying. Gorgeous and terrifying at the same time. He, at this point in time, is definitely the King under the Mountain.
Finally, I think that where the film ended was quite good. I will admit that you have to be a fan of the book in order to fully enjoy the ending (and to understand it, according to my mom who hasn’t read the book), but I think that it left a sense of foreboding for Laketown’s fate in the third film.
As for the song in the credits, I think that it was beautiful and fit perfectly. I have been listening to this song ever since it was released on Youtube, and I did understand how it would be connecting to the story in some way, but after watching the film it just connected perfectly. It encapsulated one of the most chilling lines from the film, delivered by Richard Armitage as Thorin Oakenshield: “If this is to end in fire, then we shall all burn together.”
Overall, I think that The Desolation of Smaug is an amazing film, and you should definitely give it a shot. Just make sure that you have at least seen the first one!