Face-to-Face: The Hobbit: Desolation of Smaug

Denver:

         One of the 2013’s most anticipated sequels was released on Dec.12, “Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug.” Now before I get into the review, I must say that I haven’t read the book so I cannot comment on whether or not it follows the book. I am guessing, like all book to movie adaptations, it probably doesn’t. That being said I really did enjoy this movie.

I think Peter Jackson has done something with “The Hobbit” that more books to movies should do — split it up into different movies. I always feel like some very key or pleasing parts of the books get missed. The obvious flaw with this is you may have a movie in which one of the parts is open-ended like the first part of “Harry Potter and the Deathly Hollows” ending with Lord Voldemort getting the Elder Wand out of Dumboldore’s tomb and having a wide open ending.

My absolute favorite thing about this movie was the dragon Smaug, which was handled so amazingly, it’s now my absolute favorite dragon beating, out former Puff the Magic Dragon. The voice actor Benedict Cumberbatch makes this monster sound like what you think a the terrible and cunning beast would sound if they were real and could talk. The way the other characters deal with the Smaug makes me convinced they are dealing with a real dragon, which is amazing acting for just looking at a green screen running from a dragon that have to imagine.

Speaking of acting, I think the entire cast does a brilliant job of keeping you immersed in the movie. Ian McKellen, one of my favorite actors, plays a fantastic wizard Gandalf, Martin Freeman gives us the brave, ring bearing Bilbo, and last but not least, Richard Armitage gives us probably the best portrayal as a dwarf, Thorin, making us feel sorry for him and hate him within the same movie.

This film, from beginning to end gave me action, adventure and some seriously cool CGI that left me amazed. It’s a long movie which is something I like, I know I am going to get my eight to ten dollars worth, for its quality and length. If you are looking for adventure, action and bang for your buck, go see “The Desolation of Smaug,” or at least rent it.

Pat:

There’s a certain pratfall when it comes to critiquing movies with loud, dedicated fan bases. What someone on the outside would perceive as a flaw would be brushed off by fans as “not understanding the material” or “hating on the franchise.” I would know, because I accused reviewers who poopooed “Pokemon X and Y” of the same thing. However, that’s the exact issue I’m having with “The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug.”

First off, let’s talk about the good things. As usual, Martin Freeman continues to be delightful as Bilbo and the Middle Earth set design is as nice as ever. However, the true standout is Smaug. Excellent voicework by Benedict Cumberbatch and the best visual effects in the film went into rendering this nightmarish dragon. The action scenes are nice too, except for the ones that drag on too long/have pointless amounts of green screen and CGI.

To me, this movie is a tedious exercise in padding, filler and bad special effects. This was a common critique of the first “Hobbit” film, and it’s only gotten worse in the second installment. If one were to trim down the scenes that went on too long and removed the pointless character cameos/fanservice, this thing would have maybe clocked in at an hour and a half. Instead, the film tries to match the runtimes of the original “Rings” trilogy by adding in scenes that do nothing to advance the plot, such as an out-of-nowhere romance between a dwarf and an elf that makes Anakin and Padme look dignified.

Then there are the effects of the film. One of the most impressive things about the original trilogy was how many practical effects were used, from the armies of extras to the extensive sets for every locale. Now, the men-in-makeup Orcs have been replaced by all-too-noticeable CGI monsters that seem to have wandered in from an XBox game and the very real and detailed sets replaced by the cast tromping through all-too-obvious video game levels.

That all being said, I’ve talked to many dedicated fans of “Lord of the Rings” that loved this film, and they are the people that appreciate the fanservice the most. I myself am not part of this fandom, so perhaps I “just don’t get it.” If we’re talking about fandoms though, a fandom I do profess allegiance to was served here: “Desolation of Smaug” had the first “Godzilla” trailer attached and it was expletively awesome, so, that’s something.