It’s been one whole year since Peter Jackson delivered the first part of his epic big-screen telling of J.R.R. Tolkien’s classic pre-Lord Of The Rings novel The Hobbit . With his first chapter, Jackson delivered a lavish, hugely expensive adventure, the likes we hadn’t seen since his last dip into Tolkien territory with The Return Of The King, the incredible and 11 Oscars-winning final movie in his Lord Of The Rings adaptation (Return has turned 10 years old this month). The movie was a roaring success at the worldwide box office, despite some critical backlash and a disgusting Oscar snub (3 nominations, winning none of them), even dividing fans on the movie’s merits. For me, however, I had nothing but good to say for it, and as someone who hasn’t read either Lord Of The Rings or The Hobbit, I feel I have the advantage of a fresh perspective with these movies. An Unexpected Journey had a troubled shoot and early difficulties involving the inclusion of LOTR helmer Jackson, but I personally feel it didn’t miss a step, I enjoyed every bit of it. But the question with three parts to one story… Can it sustain? Can it get better?… Here, it does.”
Kicking off practically from the opening scene, we’re thrown straight back into the adventure where An Unexpected Journey left off, but this time on an even bigger level. Everything has been driven up several gears, much like LOTR: The Two Towers. The action has increased to almost an unbearable level of excitement, the fight scenes are choreographed to perfection and the stunts have at the very least quadrupled since the last chapter. The visual effects, while AUJ has some incredible effects of it’s own, far surpass most of which we’ve seen both in AUJ and the LOTR trilogy, with everything from large-scale battles on rushing rivers to the tour de force of the entire story, Smaug himself, one of the most visually and exciting creatures I’ve ever seen in a movie. You haven’t seen fire until you see Smaug let out a long sigh, which is made all the more spectacular by the movie’s IMAX 3D, which aside from the one thing I hate of AUJ – The HFR (Higher Frame Rate of 48 frames per second), is the best 3D I’ve seen at a cinema, easily beating out the first Hobbit movie. But the problem I mention there, of HFR, is where things get messy.
HFR, for anyone who doesn’t know, is an option some filmmakers choose to add more realism to their movie, an increased number of frames per each second of the movie. Most movies we know are shot with a total of 24 frames per second, whereas both Hobbit movies opt for 40 frames per second, making each shot of the movie two times faster than we’re used to seeing in the majority of movies, adding a comical Looney Tunes/Benny Hill look to the movie, where everyone just appears to be skipping rope while walking, and every lavish shot we long for from a movie like this is completely ruined by racing by at twice the speed it should. However, as with anything that hits a 2.5 hr run time, you will become more comfortable once you zone out and find yourself getting used to people running like DC’s Flash and fighting like two women trying to grab that last party dress at a closing down sale. Also, there are alternative options to viewing the movie at cinemas, such as standard 2D and non-IMAX 3D, but losing the option of the massive IMAX screen is saddening.
The directing is, as usual from Peter Jackson, wonderful, he’s a man who gets the shots he wants and the shots we want to see. He’s stubborn (Hence his hilarious need to use HFR), but that stubbornness works in his advantage. He never misses a beat with the action scenes, the massive visual effects sequences and those gorgeous country/mountain side shots. He will win an Oscar for at least one of his Hobbit trilogy, this may be the one.
The score, always an important point for me, is glorious, Howard Shore on top form, balancing everything from the romance to the violence to the drama in every scene, he never gets it wrong, he knows just what he’s doing, and he’s a very important part of these movies. Also a real nice song from the very popular Ed Sheeran over the end credits, worth sticking around for.
The acting, while not Lord Of The Rings standard, is very decent, every does their job, gets their lines just right and looks well for camera, especially the treat that is Evangeline Lilly (Lost) as an elf in love with one of the dwarfs from the group of heroes. And Lord Of The Rings‘ Orlando Bloom returns again as Legolas, who also appeared in the previous Hobbit. One major flaw for me was the almost total lack of Gandalf, he just seemed so withdrawn from the story, whereas we all know how important he is in LOTR and Hobbit part 1, as if the writers just decided to cut down on the brilliant Sir. Ian McKellen’s workload, giving him maybe one or two fairly decent scenes. But thankfully, in his place, Martin Freeman is still lovable as our little hairy-footed hero Bilbo Baggins, and the dwarves are a joy, the sense of humour injected into this movie propel it over any other flaws it may have, they make up for everything, the script writers did a wonderful job with them, far better even than AUJ.
I will for now try not to delve into the story, so as not to spoil it for everyone, as even now it’s still being kept fairly under wraps, but as I mentioned, Smaug, when you see him, you will be amazed, a real feat of filmmaking, and with Benedict Cumberbatch (TV’s Sherlock with Martin Freeman, Star Trek Into Darkness) voicing him, he’s made all the better, such an engrossing incredible character (BC also performs as Necromancer once again).
I really enjoyed the whole movie, it’s completely down my street, a big, strong, spectacular blockbuster, worth every bit of hype The Hobbit movies have garnered, a wonderful visit to the cinema at Christmas time, one for almost all the family (Little kids may get scared due to increased violence and Smaug), I couldn’t recommend it more.
The Hobbit: The Desolation Of Smaug opens nationwide on the 13th Of December, with the final part, There And Back Again landing this time next year. And trust me, at the end of this movie, you’ll be counting the days for what’s coming next.