December 13, 2013

The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug - Movie Review

The „Lord of the Rings“ is the biggest fantasy franchise in history and even 10 years after it is unmatched by any of its competitors. No other series has such a spectacular world rich with fantastic creatures and epic battles. The expectations are high just because its such a beloved story. Once again after last years start of the Hobbit trilogy Peter Jackson returns to middle earth with the second part about the tale how everything begun.

The films begin where we left the group of dwarves and the hobbit thief Bilbo. The orcs are after them and they try to run away from them. They conquer Mirkwood and meet the elf there. The beginning feels rugged. Too many short cuts and no real explanation. It just starts without giving you time to grasp everything, getting a feeling for what's going on. The other problem is the new techniques behind the screen. The HFR (48 Frames instead of 24) makes it more difficult for the eyes do adjust. That took me around 10 minutes, which made it especially difficult for me to get into. The woods are quite dark with spider attacking them which didn’t help either. But afterwards the movies go on quite colorful with beautiful shining woods, flowers and great landscapes. The eyes adjust to this new feeling and you can easily immerse yourself even better than with normal 3D movies. The higher frame rate enables the movies to feel more fluent without any lag or colors dimmed by the dark shaded 3D glasses. The best comparison would be with a video game. 

Due the extensive use of visual effects and the new possible camera flying and rotation create astonishing pictures. The orcs and elves are also mostly rendered by the computer which results in wonderful animations of gorgeous choreographed fights beyond human possibility. One scene is especially worth mentioning. It’s obscure reality in an overwhelming fashion and adds an unexpected funny moment to a battle. It felt like the mini battle Gimli and Legolas had and was quite well done. Legolas also has his great moments with his stylish fighting. There is much eye candy going on for sure. There are also some aspect that doesn’t look good. A few shots look like they were done hastily or at the end there is some stuff happening with melted gold with actually looked terrible, but these are just a few aspects. Most of the time it looks awesome, better than any other movie out there.

The orc style changed too. The first one had goblins which were portrayed in a white skin with a small figure resembling more Gollum than real orcs. Now we got more LOTR styled orc with brownish skin and ugly faces with their piercing and sharp teeth. Also the fights are a bit more gruesome. We see many orcs killed by chopping off their heads and of course elves die in the same manner. On the other hand we don’t see much blood nearly none and even some funny jokes which seems quite childish. It feels like LOTR rings a bit toned down but not enough for children to watch. The movie is rated PG-13 like the rest of the movies. The art style itself is awesome. Mirkwood looks nice and even Lake-Town is great in its one way. It feels quite nordish with its snow flakes, the fish and the heavy bearded men. 

There are also new additional parts added which were only mentioned the book. Mostly regarding Dol Guldur a castle in Mirkwood occupied by a Necromancer and many orcs. Also the role of the elves are advanced further with the new female character Tauriel played by Lost actress Evangilne Lilly. First I thought those parts would be a lot bigger and be one half of the movie, but these are just small minor changes. These additional characters just appear in the regular scenes as sidekicks and the portion of Gandalf fighting the evil Necromancer is barely 10 minutes long. Not that much in a 3h movie and probably just a little glimpse of what will happen in the third movie. Also these parts are not entirely new they are just more detailed than they were in the Hobbit. Peter Jackson used letters and short stories of J.R.R. Tolkien to add this content. The only new thing that he created himself is Tauriel the female elf who add a bit of a love story that really fits well. It’s not too much bit a small faction. Also its great to have a strong female character appear that does things like all the other heroes.

The dwarves roles are quite reduced. Of course you see them all the time but they are more like puppets getting chased by orcs and Smaug. There are just a few moments where they achieve something. The only of them you will remember is Thorin the kind under the hill who has some good speeches and also a change of heart. He is the face of the dwarves. The lesser time for them is good because they look so much alike that you will get confused otherwise. That was probably one of the problems of the first Hobbit movie in comparison to Lord of the Rings that the characters weren’t so memorable besides Bilbo.

The best part of course is Smaugs chamber. It's filled with gold so much you can’t imagine the worth of all of it. The treasure lying there is as high as the mountain itself. The chamber halls are as big as Moria with high ceilings and big pillars to support them. Smaug is terrific. A true antagonist, the most powerful being out there and portrayed by the voice of Benedict Cumberbatch. I shivered every time he opened his mouth. His scenes with Bilbo are absolutely thrilling.
The music enriches the scenes but isn’t quite as original and powerful as the soundtrack from LOTR. It's quieter and harmonic instead of big fanfares suitable for this kind of movie. People tend to forget that the Hobbit was never supposed to be like LOTR. It’s a smaller story meant for kids. It’s about a group of adventures fighting a dragon instead of epic scaled battles against the evil of the world. Its are the small moments and dialogues that you will remember. Even thought the scale was much smaller but even then this one breaks the bounds of all other fantasy styled movies. There isn’t another movie out there that give you such gorgeous scenes, fights and creatures.

The movie ends rather harsh. It’s a cliffhanger but a quite bad one. It feels like the movie is cut right in the middle of the best part. Of course it's supposed to be like this especially because the movies never felt boring at any moment. You just want to see more and that’s something I can’t be mad about. Peter Jackson clearly outdid the first part and gets my expectations high for the last one even though I really don’t know what is left for him to show anymore. The only thing I know for sure is that I’m eager to see the finale.

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