Sunday, December 15, 2013

The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug HFR 3D Review

It might make financial sense to make three movies out of J.R. Tolkien's children's novel The Hobbit, it probably wasn't a good idea from a narrative sense. To stretch out the book into three movies, Director-writer Peter Jackson, and writers Fran Walsh, Philippa Boyens, and Guilermo Del Toro used the appendices from Tolkien's The Return of the King to add to The Hobbit. What it did was to turn a tale of adventurous quest into a complex fantasy epic.

The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug starts where the first Hobbit movie ended i.e. after an ill advised flashback scene. Bilbo Baggins (Martin Freeman) leads the Dwarves to the precipice of The Lonely Mountain. In the mountain is the Dwarf kingdom which Thorin, (Richard Armitage)grandson of the king of the Dwarves, wishes to take back. However, it's guarded by Smaug, (voiced by Benedict Cumberbatch) your classic dragon who can roast our little hero into a hobbit shish kabob. The Dwarves send Bilbo since he's supposed to be a burglar to steal the jewel called the Arkenstone which will united the dwarf kingdoms.

Okay, what I've described sounds pretty simple. But the writers have fleshed out Tolkien's children's novel to produce side quests. We follow Gandalf the Grey (Ian McKellen) on a side quest that frankly should have been shortened. And while a trip to the village of Esgaroth is probably necessary for the plot, it's here among the humans that the film grinds to a halt. I'm not sure it was necessary to detail all the politics of the people in the village. These and other side tales drain the film of energy. And it's interesting that in this return to Middle Earth that there seems to be a lack of urgency unlike The Lord of the Rings films. The parts of the film that save it are the giant spiders, the elegance of the elves and the frightening Smaug.

Martin Freeman is once again good as the humble Hobbit, Bilbo. But there are times his performance is lazy. However, Cumberbatch's Smaug is remarkable. He's full of menace, arrogance and anger. Special effects are inconsistent. There's an over reliance on the CGI which at times makes movie feel fake. That's more laziness. Maybe Jackson is getting tired of Middle Earth. Perhaps, there should be more live action shot with real actors. Whereas some CGI feels fake, that can't be said for everything. The giant spiders and the dragon Smaug are unbelievable. Jackson who hates spiders really outdoes the big one in Return of the King. And Smaug really had me ducking in my seat.

I'm a proponent of HFR (high frame rate) 3D. After seeing last year's Hobbit, I'm convinced this is the best way to see 3D. Scenes for The Desolation of Smaug have pop. There's depth. Every object looks and feels like a three dimensional diorama not a pop up book. Of course, there's the clarity of the picture. Go see this movie in HFR 3D.

The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug ends abruptly with a cliff hanger. And I get it, that it's part two of a trilogy. But even part two of a three year trilogy must have an ending. The ending here feels like it was cut from the middle of a scene. It is a metaphor for the whole movie. The great parts of the movie are off set by the mediocre parts. The grade is B.

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