Monday, December 16, 2013

The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug

Directed by: Peter Jackson

Cast:  Ian McKellan, Martin Freeman, Orlando Bloom, Evangelline Lilly, Stephen Fry, Richard Armitage, Benedict Cumberbatch, Lee Pace, Luke Evans, Ken Stott, James Nesbitt
Review by James Colt Harrison
Director Peter Jackson makes an Alfred Hitchcock-like cameo appearance at the beginning of his latest epic, The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug, that will only be caught by the most enthusiastic fans. A little giggle of recognition by those who are familiar with Jackson’s face gets one in the mood for what will turnout to be the most exciting ride in their life. Original author J.R.R. Tolkien probably didn’t envision his books to be as exciting as Jackson has fashioned them in this walloping and sweeping 3D epic.
There is the impression that kiddie matinees of the film will be packed with squealing teens who adore the series and who will be equally pleased with this enjoyable ride through the dwarf kingdom of Erebor. That is not to say adults won’t like it because they will enjoy the sophistication of the special effects as what they are and not as magic.
The mean old fire-breathing dragon Smaug (voiced magnificently by Benedict Cumberbatch) has stolen Lonely Mountain and all the gold that lies inside the dwarves kingdom of Erebor. The “desolation” of the title refers to the havoc the dragon has wreaked and turned it into a wasteland. Admittedly it is upsetting to the dwarf residents, so they and Bilbo Baggins (Martin Freeman) are on a mission to rid the land of the nasty dragon. Thorin Oakenshield (Richard Armitage) is the leading dwarf, and he is out to reclaim his homeland for his people.
They all encounter various terrors and obstacles along the way. The most scary for kids will probably be the giant spiders which spin the dwarfs into web cocoons for later dining. A spectacular sequence of literally going over the water fall in barrels gives the film a welcome push forward using thrills and motion. Waiting for them at the end of the falls is a wonderfully camp Stephen Fry, all gussied up in florid clothing and vain manners as the Lord of Laketown, who is up to no good. Fry chews the scenery but with humor and fun. His menacing manner is from the school of Abbott and Costello Meet Vincent Price. Fry has always been a favorite of this reviewer, although most of his humorous work has remained in his native England.
Bilbo is assigned the difficult and dangerous task of getting inside the castle and retrieving the Arkenstone gem from the dragon’s lair. This causes a showdown between the evil Smaug and Bilbo and a fight to the death. Jackson has created a rousing climax to the film with special effects running amok, the dragon breathing fire the temperature of the sun, and Bilbo using all the cunning he has to keep from being either toasted or eaten by Smaug. The final wrap-up goes on for a little too long and actually exhausts the viewing audience with a bit more action than is necessary.

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