Monday, December 30, 2013

The Hobbit: Desolation of Smaug simmers

Grade: B+

In a Nutshell:  Fill up your popcorn buckets early folks…this is a long movie. It feels good to be back in Middle Earth. According to the Associated Press, it looks like everyone was willing to spend Christmas with The Hobbit . The second part of The Hobbit trilogy won the weekend box office, bringing in $29.9 million over three days.  Tried and true fans of the Lord of the Rings have been supporting the Hobbit’s story, although most will admit this second trilogy isn’t quite as novel or spell-binding as the first.  (Terrible puns intended.)

Bilbo Baggins (the terrific Martin Freeman) continues his journey with thirteen Dwarves and Gandalf the Grey (beloved Ian McKellan) to reclaim the lost Dwarf Kingdom of Erebor within the grand mountain.  You can’t blame Director Peter Jackson for trying to cash in on a proven hit.  Did you know Pan’s Labryinth’s Guillermo del Toro was one of the writers?

Uplifting theme: Good vs. evil.  Light vs. darkness.  Courage vs. cowardice. In the first Hobbit movie, Bilbo was so frightened by the idea of a quest that he fainted.  With each progressing film, Bilbo develops heroic qualities and reveals hidden reserves of inner strength.  Mankind, and perhaps even WWI England, may be whom Tolkien wanted to inspire to greatness.  Epic literature often features swords with names to show the bravery of the holder, so it is fitting that as Bilbo’s courage grows, he names his short sword that killed the spiders “Sting.” 

Things I liked:  The dragon was amazing.  I loved how you could see the fire building beneath his throat and belly before he roared with flames.  Very cool.  It gives real meaning to their expression “the flames of war.” The barrel scene was whimsical and action-packed, albeit cheesy and not as polished as the rest of the CGI in the film.  You can see individual hairs blowing in the wind in the 3D version of the High Frame Rate.  At first, the 48 frames per second feels odd to the senses, but the quality is amazing.  I love the simmering Smaug played expertly by Benedict Cumberbatch. 

We learn another trick the ring can do: it allows Bilbo to understand what the giant spiders are saying.  Ick.  Fans of Lost will be happy to see Canadian beauty Evangeline Lilly take to the screen as Tauriel, one of the many new characters that don’t exist in J.R.R. Tolkien’s original book.

Things I didn’t like:  I tried to read The Hobbit when I was in college and shamefully admit I just couldn’t get into it.  While I loved The Lord of the Rings, there is something missing in this Hobbit trilogy.  It simmers just below being a really great movie. I confess that I was completely exhausted when I watched this film, so I don’t know if it was that or because the movie was dragging that caused me to doze off a time or two. 
What happened to sexy, playful Legolas?  He was angry and moody throughout the entire movie.  Poor Orlando Bloom.  Have you noticed that Orcs never walk, but are constantly running at a wicked pace?

Humans are always so greasy and dirty in these films, have you noticed?  The Master of Laketown’s assistant had some “ripe” zits that were incredibly disgusting to look at.  Gandolf’s only power (although effective) was to slam down his staff and bring evil-destroying light.  Other than that, he was fleeing on a horse or running…it would be nice if he could contribute more magic to get everyone out of their never-ending dangerous predicaments.

Funny lines:  
  • “What is that?”  “Our host!”
  • “Did he offer you a deal?”  “I did.  I told him he could #$%!#$.”  (We assume that’s some kind of profanity in Dwarf lingo.)

Insightful quotes:
  • “When did we allow evil to become stronger than us?”  - Tauriel
  • “Do not think that flattery will keep you alive.”   - Dragon
  • “What have we done?”  - Bilbo
  • “He cannot see beyond his own desire.”  - Bard the Bowman
  • “Such is the nature of evil.  In time all foul things come forth.”  - Legolas

Things to look for: 
  • The comical self-portrait and statue of Stephen Fry as Master of Laketown
  • Speaking of Laketown…did you notice Stephen Colbert in the movie?!  He played a Laketown spy and was invited by Peter Jackson who declared him the king of Lord of the Ring geeks.  Rumor has it he may in the third installment as well.
  • I know a guy in real life who looks just like the handsome Aidan Turner who plays Kili.  He’s an inspiring artist who makes super cool t-shirt designs at   He’s in the 3rd & 6th photo on the “Us” page.  There’s a shout-out for ya Nick!
  • Stunning black & white horses towards the beginning of the film
  • Cool transformation scene when the “Skin Changer” turns into a human
  • The Prancing Pony from Lord of the Rings at the beginning of the film
  • Beautiful, long Elf locks.  Someone from Loreal needs to make an Elf a spokes model
  • A quick peek at what a woman Dwarf and baby Dwarf look like in the photo inside the necklace.  Look fast!
  • The rock that looks like Rodin’s famous “The Thinker” just outside a cave

Tips for parents:  Lots of fighting and some scary scenes with spiders, Orcs, fiery dragon, and other creepy creatures.

Fun products if you're a Tolkien fan:

The Lord of the Rings (50th Anniversary Edition)
Tolkien Calendar 2014, The hobbit
Lord Of The Rings Sting Sword Letter Opener
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