Premise: Bilbo and the dwarves are back for another adventure! Woo hoo! This time they try to answer the important question: What has Orlando Bloom been up to since the last time we saw him? My guess was that he’s was in Lord of the Rings 10 years ago, then he was in the Pirates of the Caribbean movies after that, and somewhere in the middle he was in that one movie with a terrible name that no one saw, Elizabethtown. The real answer to that question (after looking him up on Wikipedia) is he’s been in almost twenty movies since Return of the King, 90% of which I’ve never heard of. I don’t know why I decided to bring down Orlando Bloom to start this off, I wasn’t planning on it, it just sort of happened. Anyway, it’s nice to see Legolas again.
-The general consensus with anyone who has seen this movie, and a thought that I completely agree with, is that all of the scenes with SmAAAuuwwwg are amazing. Smaug is wonderful CG creation, and everything about him, from the way he looks to the way he sounds to the way he moves, is great. In retrospect, it’s fun to think about Benedict Cumberbatch writhing around in a motion capture suit covered in those little white balls for all of that stuff. I hope in the future, someone is able to cut together a version of those scenes where mo-cap Cumberbatch is inserted over the actual Smaug.
-Martin Freeman is great, and he’s making the most out of what he can with his role of Bilbo. There’s a lot of subtlety and nuance in his performance that may get overlooked by all of the loud elements that surround him.
-The pacing seems much better in this film than the first one. It has a lot going on (probably too much), but at least it keeps things moving along for the most part.
-I actually enjoyed the female elf character they created specifically for the film, even if she was created almost entirely to insert a potentially unnecessary love triangle. In theory, this would have been an element I normally would really hate, but when I just thought about it again, it didn’t really bother me at all. If they’re going to try to make all of these dwarves into fully fleshed out characters, her being there, at the very least, gave Kili something of a purpose.
-I really liked all of Gandalf’s side stories, from finding the tombs of the Nazgul, to exploring the Necromancer’s castle and such. Gandolf just kind of does it for me.
-The bear dude was pretty cool, too.
-I don’t know if it bothered anyone else, but Peter Jackson’s return cameo as a carrot eating hobo from Bree in the first 30 seconds of this film really rubbed me the wrong way. One of the biggest general complaints about these Hobbit movies are that they’re just a fan service full of call backs that’s just there to self-reference and capitalize on the LOTR films, and his “look directly into the camera and do everything short of giving an obnoxious wink” kind of pushes that sentiment right in our faces. I have no problem with him eating a carrot in the streets of Bree again, in theory; it’s just the overly-cute, borderline-dickish way that he actually did it that almost made me *angry* within the first minute of the movie.
-I actually thought the barrels-down-the-river scene was pretty fun and goofy, and full of excitement overall. But then it went on a little too long and started to get obnoxious during moments when Legolas is like standing on the dwarves’ heads while shooting arrows behind his back while simultaneously doing a backflip and stabbing a different orc in the face. The action in this movie is really good, as expected, but it often has a problem of just going on slightly too long, and getting slightly too obnoxious.
-I might have just been tired, but I started to get a little fatigued once they got to Lake Town. Bard’s story just wasn’t that thrilling to me, and I was kind of at the point where I wished they were just dealing with Smaug already. Plus, I had to pee, so I was in pain. Don’t drink a soda during this movie.
-It kind of has a non-ending, DESPITE it being the second part of a trilogy. I mean, The Two Towers was the same situation, but it ended on a nice note with a *hint* of mystery, with Gollum deciding to lead the hobbits into Shelob’s lair. Desolation of Smaug just sort of ends. It had an ending that made me think “this is why this should have only been two movies, not three.” It felt like there was only about 45 more minutes to cover when the movie ended, and yet, we still have another three-hour film to watch next year. It’s just that all the extra stuff (which can be really enjoyable, to be fair) has basically changed this from being the story of The Hobbit, into the story of being Peter Jackson’s Lord of the Rings prequel trilogy.
-I saw it in 3D, and it wasn’t really spectacular in that regard. Nothing blew me away in terms of three-dimensional depth. I *didn’t* see it in high frame rate, because I don’t even think that was an option at the theater I was at. Is HFR even a thing anymore? I didn’t miss it much, I suppose.
Final Thoughts: As much as people like to say that these aren’t as good as the Lord of the Rings movies, they are still made with the same level of detail and enthusiasm that Peter Jackson usually puts out. In fact, it hurts my brain to try to think about what Jackson must go through making six of these movies. Like how he shoots scenes with an enormous mo-capped dragon chasing a real actor around a fake environment where every step the characters take require treasure to splash around in an environment that must look photo-realistic or else it will take us out of the moment. I mean, some directors have trouble blocking scenes of two people talking in a restaurant! If Peter Jackson doesn’t go absolutely insane by the time he’s 60 from what he’s put his brain though during his filmmaking career, I’d be extremely surprised. It pays off though. As much as you can nitpick these Hobbit films for not being as great as the Lord of the Rings films, they are still really good movies. If they were somehow able to be magically released without the dilemma of looming expectations, I think they would be received a lot better. But as it stands now, I liked Desolation of Smaug just as much, or slightly better than An Unexpected Journey. It’s worth sitting through just to get to the dragon. And despite the fact that I have no idea how Jackson plans to milk another three hours out of the material provided, I’m still looking forward to There and Back Again next year. Now, let’s all go to Denny’s before the Smaug Fire Burger goes away!
8.5 out of 10