Review: The Hobbit: Desolation of Smaug + New Article

As regular readers of this blog may know, it’s very difficult for me to see movies in the theaters these days. There aren’t many theaters in the inflamed sphincter of nowhere, where I currently dwell. But there is only one force in this world that could keep me from seeing a Hobbit movie in the theaters. Know what that is?

Death.

Bilbo faces Smaug in the Desolation of SmaugThe Grim Reaper hasn’t gotten his grubby little mitts on me yet, so I had to form plans for a brief trip down to civilization to see the second installment of the trilogy, Desolation of Smaug.

I’ve now returned from my excursion to bring you my thoughts on the film.

How to milk your dragon:

I’m going to have to be honest: I was a little underwhelmed by this movie. Not to say it was bad by any stretch of the imagination, but it wasn’t the mind-blowing experience I’ve come to expect from Peter Jackson.

This movie takes a bit more liberties with the stories of the books, adding in more detailed depictions of Gandalf’s struggle against the necromancer of Mirkwood as well as new subplots dealing with the Elves of Mirkwood.

I think fleshing out the necromancer story was a good move. It has great significance to the greater story of Middle-Earth, and made for some very gripping moments.

A map of Middle EarthThe Elven story, though, did feel like little more than a shameless attempt to pad the story out to three movies.

It’s not even that it’s a bad story. It does a very good job of illustrating both the positive and negative sides of Elves in Tolkien’s mythos. They are very wise and noble, but also cold and indifferent to the world around them.

And more Elves is never a bad thing.

But this was already such a complicated movie. The original book was an epic, and the extra details added to flesh things out have only added to its complexity. In Desolation of Smaug, it reaches a critical mass where there’s just so much going on that none of the plots end up getting the time or attention they deserve, and the film loses a lot of emotional weight as a result. It jumps around so much that it’s hard to get invested in each story.

It’s like when you’re cooking and you add one too many spices to a dish. There’s nothing wrong with that particular spice — it might be delicious in another dish — but you’ve muddled the flavour so much you can’t appreciate each individual component.

Smaug the Stupendous:

Artwork of Smaug the StupendousBut this movie still has a lot going for it, and chief on that list is Smaug himself.

As sort of the original fantasy Dragon from which the modern interpretation of the archetype springs, Smaug is a character with a lot of weight and importance even beyond his role in the story of “The Hobbit.” It was very important that they get him right.

They got him right.

I couldn’t have asked for a better portrayal of Smaug. He’s a masterpiece of special effects technology, massive and terrifying yet still very real-feeling. His fire-breathing assaults are spectacular, but what’s perhaps most impressive is how expressive they were able to make his face. Getting a giant, ugly lizard to display emotion is no easy task, but they pulled it off very well.

I was also quite pleased with his voice-overs. It’s hard not to get a feeling of, “Oh, look, Benedict Cumberbatch again,” even as someone who hasn’t seen most of what he’s been in, but you can’t argue with the results. He does perfectly capture Smaug’s majesty, and his madness.

There were some other highlights to the movie, as well. Everything to do with Gandalf and the necromancer was as good as I could have hoped for. The plot is full of creeping dread, and it concludes with a truly spectacular confrontation.

The action sequences in general are as fun as one would expect. I was particularly fond of the scene in which the Dwarves escape Mirkwood in wine barrels. It’s one of the most absurd yet entertaining fight scenes I’ve ever had the pleasure to witness.

The titular dragon of The Hobbit: Desolation of SmaugAll in all, Desolation of Smaug is a pretty good movie. It’s just not as good as I’ve come to expect from Peter Jackson’s previous journeys through Middle-Earth.

Overall rating: 8.1/10

New article:

My latest contribution to WhatMMO is Combining MMO Classes. In case it isn’t obvious by now, I’m a bit bored with a standard class archetypes. But come on, rogues and necromancers belong together like peanut butter and chocolate!

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