Tuesday, February 25, 2014

The Hobbit: Desolation of Smaug ★★★★

Image result for The Hobbit; Desolation of Smaug title shot

    Peter Jackson's "The Hobbit: Desolation of Smaug" is the second film of the trilogy based on the novel by the legendary J.R.R. Tolkien. Jackson is a master at blending superb special effects and computer graphics with tangible actors and actresses to create a spellbinding world, that, otherwise, could never be adapted into the medium of film. If "An Unexpected Journey" is the heartwarming beginning chapter to this sublime tale of Bilbo Baggins and the dwarves of Erebor, then "Desolation of Smaug" takes its rightful position as the climatic chapter of wickedness and divination.

    "Desolation" begins with a meeting between Gandalf the Grey and Thorin Oakenshield at The Prancing Pony of Bree. Similar to the opening of "An Unexpected Journey," this film sets the tone with a little back story. (Now, it is worthy to note that this seemingly chance meeting takes place prior to the events of the previous film.) Gandalf continues his role as the articulate initiator of fateful and perilous journeys; consequently, influencing Thorin to reclaim his throne among the majestic halls of Erebor and reunite the dwarves under his rule.

    This brings us to the current events at hand: Bilbo, Gandalf and the company of dwarves have successfully navigated past the Misty Mountains and escaped the wrath of Azog and his coterie of malicious Orks. However, that is the least of their worries. For, they are being pursued by another vicious entity who takes the shape of a colossal and thunderous black bear. Gandalf forewarns this company of the grave danger this particular circumstance presents and leads them to a nearby isolated home occupied by Beorn. After receiving aid from this "skin-changer," the company proceeds on their journey to reclaim the Lonely Mountain from the fire-drake of the North, Smaug.

    Subsequently, our heroic adventurers trek their way through some truly astounding environments that will captivate and enthrall the eye of the beholder. (In fact, I would go as far as to say that Jackson here is making a solid statement for the use of the digital camera when filming, even if there are several moments where the interplay between light and shadow falter; a known issue aligned with the use of the technology.) From the treacherous inner dwellings of Mirkwood to the splendid halls of the solemn Elvenking, Thranduil. Additionally, this film introduces numerous characters along with the revival of some familiar faces. Legolas, son of Thranduil, receives adequate screen-time to reign his destruction upon the hideous multitude of Orks that linger in the shadows of Middle-Earth. In addition, the introduction of the warrior elf, Tauriel, adds a much-desired air of femininity to the cast.

    The performances in "Desolation" are honorable in their own respect. Although the majority of the film is fast-paced and tends to indulge in extravagant scenes of action, there are a few notable showcases of talent. Martin Freeman reprises his role as the tedious and lionhearted Bilbo Baggins. Freeman continues to impress with his delicate execution of dialogue, especially when conversing with the dragon Smaug in the blackness enshrouded caverns of Erebor. Ian McKellen once again inspires all with his timeless depiction of the lovable Gandalf the Grey. Wherever this film has rough edges, McKellen smooths it over with his ebullient display of character, even if he is restrained in his on-screen time. (I very much desired to see Gandalf in the last thirty minutes of running time to no avail.)

    The performance to keep an eye on, however, is that of Richard Armitage and his portrayal of the heir to the throne of Erebor, Thorin Oakenshield. Armitage breathes life into this film where it is direly warranted, with short and emphatic soliloquies. Thorin is the blood that simply nurtures the veins of this film.

    This picture has been criticized heavily for its lack of plot development, among a number of other discrepancies. Unfortunately, it is an inevitable repercussion of attempting to extend a short novel into three films. Although, Peter Jackson finds an adequate balance between action and dialogue. Jackson even integrates the beginnings of a "love story" to please the female viewing audience. The ultimate downfall of being a filmmaker is the impossible task of pleasing all.

    "The Hobbit: Desolation of Smaug" is the reason we go to the theater; this film is made for the big screen. It delights, astonishes, and dazzles. It is a magnificent equipoise of special effects and conventional methods of filmmaking. There are a few scenes that involve somewhat horrendous executions of computer generated dwarves, most notably during the "barrel escape" segment. Nevertheless, I am forced to turn my cheek due to the realization that this is where filmmaking is headed. The days involving traditional camera direction and acting are done. The longing for films such as "Days of Heaven" is all but futile; however, "Desolation of Smaug" helps to ease this pain.

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