Hitting theaters this Friday, the middle movement of Peter Jackson’s “The Hobbit” is a must see in Imax 3D. Visceral, in your face, and expansive in scope, “The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug” will transport you to a far away land and leave you hanging on the edge of your seat by the time the film ends.
Picking up where the first one left off, “The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug” continues the voyage of Bilbo Baggins (Martin Freeman) as he journeys with the Wizard Gandalf (Ian McKellen) and thirteen Dwarves on an epic quest to reclaim their long lost kingdom. Along the way, the audience meets a familiar face in Legolas (Orlando Bloom). Anyone who has read the book knows that the heir to the elf throne was not in the original Tolkien story. Nonetheless, screenwriters Fran Walsh (The Lovely Bones), Philippa Boyens (King Kong), Peter Jackson, and Guillermo del Toro (Pacific Rim) infuse their version of the tale with even more fresh faces. Principal among these is the beautiful and deadly she-elf Tauriel played by “Lost” alum Evangeline Lilly.
Both new and returning stars suck the audience into the world of Middle Earth by delivering fantastic performances, but so too does the jaw-dropping scenery and high-flying action sequences. Shot using a 3D camera and captured at a 48 frames-per-second frame rate as opposed to the standard 24, the entire shire is given an added fantastical flair. Fire burns brighter, water rushes faster, and the characters take on an almost storybook feel as the audience is transported into the realm of Tolkien’s novel all the more.
In one particularly inspired scene, Bilbo and his Dwarf companions race down a ferocious river in old wine barrels. All the while, a pack of evil, ugly Orcs follow them in hot pursuit. This set piece is pure Jackson storytelling. Despite all of our protagonists fighting for their lives, there is almost a childlike fun to the moment. As a particularly pudgy Dwarf takes out an entire group of Orcs with his big belly, the audience cannot help but smile in amazement. Yet, at the same time, expertly choreographed fighting, bow and arrow shooting, and axe wielding play in the background.
With a PG-13 rating, Jackson’s “Hobbit” films emphasize the wonderment of the fantasy genre more than its more gruesome aspects. While the shire’s many beasts are indeed very scary, there is a much more captivating childlike quality to the story than the much more bloody “Game of Thrones” television series.
But when it does come to monsters, Jackson does not settle for second rate. Using longtime collaborator Karl Chrisholm (The Lord Of The Rings: The Fellowship Of The Ring) as his senior special effects technician, every mythical beast Bilbo and his friends face looks incredibly real. From giant spiders to an equally terrifying shape shifting bear, Chrisholm’s creatures are the best we’ve seen from any Middle Earth movie.
There is no foul beast creepier, however, than the film’s titular dragon: Smaug. Voiced by the talented Brit Benedict Cumberbatch, Smaug is absolutely massive when Bilbo first lays eyes on him. It takes a very long time to finally meet the central villain of “The Hobbit,” but it’s certainly worth the wait.
No one knows the land of Middle Earth better than “The Lord of The Rings” and “The Hobbit” author J.R.R. Tolkien, but filmmaker Peter Jackson is a getting pretty close. For over a decade, the writer/director has been bringing the pages of Tolkien’s classic fantasy novels to life. “The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug” is Jackson’s fifth jaunt in the Middle Earth kingdom, yet it is decidedly different than past journeys. There is a surprising leap away from the text in this second of three “Hobbit” motion pictures. But where fanboys might scoff at the many liberties that were taken in writing the screenplay, not even the most hardened follower can deny the pure, epic awesomeness of the final product. “The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug” takes the audience on an adventure, and will keep everyone in attendance thoroughly entertained for its lengthy two hours and forty minute run time.
The big question last year was how director Peter Jackson was going to possibly stretch the relatively thin novel “The Hobbit” to meet the cinematic needs of three feature films. The release of the second chapter, “The Desolation of Smaug,” firmly answers that question. Jackson can do no wrong in the land of Middle Earth, which will certainly translate into a huge Box Office haul here on regular Earth.
Rated PG-13 for extended sequences of intense fantasy action violence, and frightening images
By David Morris