Thursday, December 19, 2013

The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug

Get out your barrels and glowing swords, we're reviewing The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug!

Bilbo Baggins (Martin Freeman), Gandalf (Ian McKellen), and the dwarves are still on their quest to take back their home from the great dragon Smaug (Benedict Cumberbatch). Can they get to the mountain and defeat the dragon? Probably not for another movie.

Maybe instead of complaining about how ridiculous it is that Peter Jackson turned The Hobbit into three movies, we should be grateful that he didn't turn it into six movies because The Hobbit 2: Hobbit Harder felt like AT LEAST 2 movies. It is LOOOOOONG. Not that it's all bad (it doesn't feel as long as the first one) but this is a solid two and-a-half-hour movie. 

This feels like the Two Towers of the Hobbit trilogy because it has a lot more action yet painfully feels like the build-up to the last installment that it is. I'm glad they weren't tasteless enough to put a "To Be Continued" at the end, but oh baby is it a to-be-continued--darkest-before-the-dawn-cliffhanger ending. 

But back to the action! It's really good! The action scenes in the first Hobbit movie were all a blur of Orcs and walking, and I'm hard-pressed to remember anything truly substantial. But this one? Spiders! Giant ones! Awesome elf women! Barrels! Dragon! That's cool. Really, they had me at giant spiders, but the other two hours are quite nice, too. Orlando Bloom as Legolas returns and he's pretty great at shootin' arrows and shankin' orcs. And we also get Tauriel played by Evangeline Lilly who is a total badass. Lookit that! A lady that gets more than 5 seconds of screen time! And she actually gets to save the day and be a super-cool role-model! I mean, it would be great if there was more than one lady character, but I'll take what I can get! And hey, I saw some black people in a crowd in one scene! I didn't think I'd see any of those. They're not main characters or anything but they're there for a bit. I mean, that's enough diversity even though there are like 20 white male speaking roles right? Okay – what were we talking about?

Action! Right. The action is the best part of this. All the fights are really amazingly choreographed with lots of arrow-shooting and beheading and limb-removals and – wow, this is kinda gruesome, right? It's awesome! And the fights have a lot of fun to them. I'm glad they took the fun slapstick route rather than the super serious “Will they make it out alive?” route because, I mean, it is a prequel. We all know these characters are going to be ok, so why not have a bit of fun with it and have dwarves riding down the river, hopping in and out of barrels and cleaving Orcs in half? 

All the actors do great in their roles. I'm blanketing that statement because, again, with like 20 different speaking roles, it's hard to go through each and every one and say how good they all were. Standouts include Cumberbatch, who has a literal ton of fun as the voice of a giant dragon; and Freeman, who gets to add a bit of an edge to Bilbo. I like this turn for Bilbo's character – that he's more sure of himself, and possibly getting infected by the ring, rather than repeating the same arc from the last movie of him bumbling about and finding his courage. This time, he has a plan, he goes for it, and he doesn't back down. This is Cool Bilbo now and you just gotta DEAL WITH IT.

The art direction is fantastic. The costumes, the set design, the effects – everything comes together. The graphics are stunning, especially for Smaug. I think the 3D works much better here than it did in the previous film. There are tons of things coming at you and jumping forward off the screen. 

So, Hobbit Part 2: pretty fun and better than its predecessor. After the first movie, I wasn't really looking forward to this one, but after watching it, I'm pretty jazzed about the franchise again. Can't wait for the final Hobbit installment next year! 

THE GOOD: Great effects, great 3D, great action, great acting, some diversity, fun fight scenes. 

THE BAD: Cliffhanger ending (of course), very long, still not enough diversity.

THE VERDICT: $$$$$ It's a pretty great film. I really wish there was more diversity in Middlearth– especially more dwarf ladies because heaven forbid we show non-traditionally-pretty ladies, amirite–but there's at least one cool female fighter and she's got a lot of great action. 

MOVIES LIKE IT: The Hobbit, Lord of the Rings, Underworld, Dragonheart, Reign of Fire

ONE-SCENE METAPHOR: Bilbo fights giant spiders! What do you want from me? I'm a simple man dammit.

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