That’s right, at long last, today I made it out to see The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug. This morning, I finally got my contacts back in and was all ready for 2 hours and 41 minutes of IMAX 3D adventure. And it is an adventure. Many critics of the first Hobbit film felt that it didn’t live up to the Lord of the Rings films. And I can see their point – for one thing, rather than making three films out of three long novels, Peter Jackson is now making three long films from one average-sized novel.
That said, I have thoroughly enjoyed both installments in the Hobbit trilogy. Yes, there is overall less going on than in Lord of the Rings and particularly less action, but Jackson has inserted a lot of backstory drawn from appendices and notes that J.R.R. Tolkein wrote, which is not found in the original narrative of The Hobbit. While this can start to feel tedious to some people, it is something that I have really enjoyed. I like learning more about the history of Middle Earth and it works well as a prequel to the Lord of the Rings trilogy.
The scene with giant spiders in Mirkwood was truly and genuinely terrifying for me. I am an arachnophobe. I will readily admit that if there is a spider even a centimeter wide in my room I have to work myself up to squashing it for about five minutes. And if you were scared by the scene in Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets in the Forbidden Forest – those spiders have nothing on what Jackson and his team at Weta did in The Hobbit. Then there’s the fact that it’s in 3D. It’s been a while since I last saw a film in theaters and nearly had to shut my eyes. Maybe I’m a wimp for nearly doing so in this case, but you can be the judge of that.
Enter Legolas, the old fan favorite – for female fans, anyway. It was nice to see the familiar face again and his fighting scenes were entertaining as usual. I particularly enjoyed him hopping across the river on the heads of the dwarves like they were stepping stones. And the repeat of his trick sliding down the stairs on his shield in The Two Towers – only this time using an orc he had just shot with an arrow.
Another key point I have to point out being impressed with is the full introduction (finally!) of Smaug towards the end. The sampling at the end of The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey was perfect, and the full thing did not disappoint. His first bit of speech to Bilbo is chilling in the best way possible. I don’t want to give spoilers too much here, but I think Benedict Cumberbatch was an excellent choice for the role. No one else could quite pull that off like he does. And I’m not the first to bring this up, but all those coins in that scene – how insanely long must that have taken to render? Kudos to all the post-production crew who worked on that.
If you’re interested, there’s a fun article from USA Today I found that goes over how they decided what Smaug should look like in the films here.
As usual, Martin Freeman plays Bilbo well with just the right balance of sense and wit. And I, for one, enjoyed the new character of Tauriel (played by Evangeline Lilly). The implied potential romance between her and Legolas was a bit lackluster to me, but a scene towards the end between her and Kili definitely tugged at my heart. I’ll admit it surprised me. Not the fact that it happened, but that I liked it as much as I did. I felt similar scenes in the Lord of the Rings trilogy between Faramir and Eowyn, and even Aragorn and Arwen, were a bit lackluster. I don’t want to say the line I liked best to avoid too much spoilering, but maybe you’ll know it when you hear it.
Overall, it’s a great installment in the trilogy, and having seen this one properly in HFR (high frame rate) 3D, as it was filmed, I’m even more impressed with the filmmaking. I had heard that the HFR made it almost too smooth, but I will admit that I like it. It is not necessary, but it does make a noticeable difference in the video quality that is nice to see in the theater, even if I won’t be able to at home. And that’s fine.
Anyway, go on out for yourself and see it! It’s definitely worth your time and money.