THE HOBBIT: THE DESOLATION OF SMAUG HFR 3D Review; "This Is A Sequel Done Right"
The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug finally hit theatres today, and you can read my spoiler-free verdict on the sequel, HFR (High Frame Rate) and 3D after the jump! Does it live up to An Unexpected Journey and The Lord of the Rings trilogy?
Like its predecessor, The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug is far too long. While there's no denying that the epic story is certainly big enough to justify being turned into a trilogy, it would have been far from a bad thing for Peter Jackson to use that as an opportunity to trim down some of the material. The Necromancer story may tie-in nicely to The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring, but it feels unnecessary and occasionally slows down the pace of this movie despite serving as an effective way of bridging the two trilogies. It does however appear as if these scenes will pay off in the third and final instalment, and minor niggles aside, the sequel to The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey is nothing short of perfection.
Before talking about the movie though, I have to address HFR (High Frame Rate). Many critics didn't fall for the format this time last year - perhaps explaining why it has been shown to them in just regular old 3D at this year's screenings - but it looks absolutely incredible once again. It's comparable to the huge difference between DVD's and Blu-ray's, something which is evident in the magnificent barrel sequence (as it contains a single shot with no cuts flowing beautifully across the screen). It does occasionally make CGI more noticeable, but it's hard to say whether that is in fact the fault of HFR or down to how good we've become at noticing it thanks to countless "Making Of" documentaries. The 3D is also fantastic and arguably the best I've seen this year. That too is enhanced by HFR and if you choose not to see the movie in this format, then you might as well not even bother.
The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug is faced with having to bridge the gap between the first and final movies, but is never dull and never leaves you wanting more (although the cleverly handled cliffhanger ending will mean you're counting down the days until There And Back Again is released). Without delving into plot details, the story moves along at a nice pace - perhaps slowing down for a bit TOO long when they reach Laketown - all the while delivering impressive set piece after set piece. Whether it's the battle with the spiders in Mirkwood Forest, the incredible barrel chase mentioned above or the downright awesome final battle with Smaug, the sequel contains some of THE best action of any 2013 blockbuster.
Performance wise, everyone who returns from the previous instalment is just as good as they were last time. It does occasionally feel like Martin Freeman's Bilbo Baggins doesn't get enough screentime, but this gives us the chance to get better acquainted with the dwarves; no bad thing by any means. The biggest new additions are of course Luke Evans (Bard the Bowman), Evangeline Lilly (Tauriel), Lee Pace (Thranduil) and a returning Orlando Bloom as Legolas. They're all excellent additions to an already amazing cast and each of them are given several scenes to shine in. They all bring something new to the table, and their interactions with the characters we already know from An Unexpected Journey prove to be fascinating. There is one scene in particular with Legolas which will leave a huge smile on the face of any fan of The Lord of the Rings movies, and it's proof that having Peter Jackson return to helm these prequels was always the smartest choice.
Of course, when it comes to the real BIG new addition to the sequel, you can't really beat Smaug! While The Hulk was undeniablly an amazing creation, what Weta have achieved with the titular dragon is truly unbeatable and perhaps the greatest example of special effects to ever grace the big screen. He FEELS real and the level of detail which has clearly gone into his creation is just stunning. Benedict Cumberbatch's voiceover work is also great and helps again to effectively bring the dragon to life. While I'm sure that hardcore fans of the books will perhaps have some issues with The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug, this is yet another superb adaptation of J.R.R. Tolkein's work by Peter Jackson. It fits in nicely alongside the other four, and will arguably be forever viewed as the definitive take on the classic novel. Simply put, regardless of a few minor niggles which ultimately amount to very little, this is a sequel done right and an absolutely essential viewing experience.
The second in a trilogy of films adapting the enduringly popular masterpiece The Hobbit, by J.R.R. Tolkien, "The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug" continues the adventure of the title character Bilbo Baggins (Martin Freeman) as he journeys with the Wizard Gandalf (Ian McKellen) and thirteen Dwarves, led by Thorin Oakenshield (Richard Armitage) on an epic quest to reclaim the lost Dwarf Kingdom of Erebor.
Martin Freeman as Bilbo Baggins
Ian McKellen as Gandalf the Grey
Richard Armitage as Thorin Oakenshield
Graham McTavish as Dwalin
Ken Stott as Balin
Aidan Turner as Kíli
Dean O'Gorman as Fíli
Mark Hadlow as Dori
Jed Brophy as Nori
Adam Brown as Ori
John Callen as Óin
Peter Hambleton as Glóin
William Kircher as Bifur
James Nesbitt as Bofur
Stephen Hunter as Bombur
Luke Evans as Bard the Bowman
Hugo Weaving as Elrond
Cate Blanchett as Galadriel
Orlando Bloom as Legolas
Evangeline Lilly as Tauriel
Benedict Cumberbatch as Smaug
RELEASE DATE: December 13th, 2013.
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