Written by Donna Rock AKA Rock D Amadeus (@df_rock) and Joe Naz (@Naz_islike)
With a bit of luck, something that I do not have a lot of, I was able to secure two advance viewing tickets for The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug… Courtesy of Midtown Comics and AMC Empire 25 (that’s the one in Midtown Manhattan, a block from Times Square & across the street from the Port Authority). Of course, I excitedly (i.e. screamed) to Donna that we were going. It was to be our romantic Christmas season date. So on Monday we stopped at our favorite pizza place; picked ourselves two slices each, a drink, and went on our way. 2 train stops, and a nine block walk in the blistering NYC cold later… we arrived at AMC 25. They lined us up outside. In the cold. I’m used to waiting inside for our movies, but what the hell it’s free and we get an advance viewing, so I’m willing to stand around outside while a falafel cart tries to muscle me out of where I’m standing. They finally start to let us roll in at around 7:45pm. We get these cool bracelets, a ticket for a free bag of popcorn (Awesome) and a long panoramic poster. As we enter the theater we found out that we will be seeing this movie in IMAX 3D — fucking awesome. We get searched by some very serious security guards and threatened to be promptly tossed the fuck out if they see a cell phone while the movie is playing (understandable).We grab seats in the upper level, dead center, and sit in some of the most comfy seats my J.Lo ass has even sat in. Shout out to AMC 25 for having one of the most legit IMAX screens in the area, and also for being a really nice theater in general. This is it, were here. A few minutes later a movie called Her (looks amazing) and Grudge Match (ha two old guys fighting). The feature presentation starts, the theater goes silent, and we’re going on an adventure!
Now I’ll preface this review with a disclaimer: I’ve never read the Hobbit. I’ve actually just got my act together and put the book on my phone this very evening because after years of putting it off, I’m finally inspired to read the source material. I can just tell that there are going to be people unhappy with the way the movie is taking this story. But as a person who loved the LoTR movies, having never read the books, and going into this new story in the same old world with an open mind and no former conceptions or expectations – I’m enjoying it. It’s wildly entertaining. It’s a different flavor than the original LoTR movies. So as of now, I can’t comment on how close this is to the books, I can’t complain about how it deviates from the spirit of the original story (or any other commonly heard complaints). I’ve come into this trilogy of movies with no preconceptions at all, so maybe I can enjoy this story a little more freely. Hey, sometimes ignorance can be bliss!
So here we are, the movie opens and we get an awesome back story scene that takes place a bit before The Hobbit. I wasn’t too much into it but really gives you more of a chance to get to know Gandalf and Throin more. When I saw the first movie, it was not in IMAX, or even in a good theater. It was at a local theater and the place is a bit run down, but hey it was cheap! Seeing this movie in IMAX was amazing! Everything looks so smooth and palpable. The transitions are flawless and the action scenes intense. Donna & I both agree we’re not usually all about IMAX 3D — I just can’t say I’ve ever felt I was missing out by seeing a movie in regular format over IMAX. The Hobbit is where we’ll eat our words. IMAX 3D really is the intended format, and It’s a beautiful move in IMAX 3D. For once I felt like the quality of the cinema and the format I was seeing it in was making a difference in my movie-going experience.
Upgrades! Again, maybe it’s because I was seeing it in IMAX 3D, but I feel like the quality of the CGI was much better in The Desolation of Smaug (I’m going to refer to it as DoS everywhere else) than in the first movie. Azog looks to be better quality (and Bolg is like a larger, more intimidating version of his dad – Good if you liked the character design for Azog, not so good if you didn’t). Some scenery looks better than others, but what stood out for me was the Dwarf kingdom under Lonely Mountain. It’s a beautiful set, great mood, great scenery, all around a wonderfully rich environment. The treasure room was a real feast for the eyes. But I’m getting ahead of myself…
Whereas the first movie had a lot of setup and was a while before action payoff, we’ve got action starting almost immediately with DoS. I’m taking the time to give a spider warning for this flick, for those who aren’t aware. Although, it’s a lot of spider ass kicking, so if you’ve ever wanted to live vicariously through a movie to get revenge on every spider that’s ever scared you in the shower… then you’ll get through the scene feeling better. There’s tons of hacking and slashing and fighting in this movie. Decapitations by the bunches! If all the fight scenes are what you’re achin’ for, then you’ll get your fill in DoS.
I just want to talk about the barrel river fight scene. HOLY FUCK BALLS! You think you’ve seen awesome over the top brutal fight scenes before in the LOTR movies… but not like this. This was something brutal and hilarious at the same time. One of the characters uses his barrel as an armor suit and was just ridiculous. This part alone made the 3D aspect worth it. Hell, this part made the movie worth it. I’d see it again just for that scene. It was probably one of, if not the funnest scene I’ve seen in a movie in a very long time. We were laughing, cheering, ooh-ing, ahh-ing… And watch for the tiny LotR throwback… seems to be that even in his younger years Legolas had a penchant for skateboarding in battle. (Keep your eyes open for another LotR easter egg… the first time Legolas hears of his future BFF Gimli.)
Which leads me to the Elves… Obviously by all the media coverage beforehand we were going to see more of them in this film. The return Donna’s pre-teen crush Legolas (who is younger, brasher, and somehow more ass-kickin’ than his older LotR self)… Tauriel the new-comer (and sort of obligatory lady character/romantic interest plot point)… and Thranduil (who might just be Elven brother of Loki and Jareth from Labyrinth). The Elves are STONE COLD BITCHES. Snotty, aloof, pompous, ruthless, and cold. But wait! They aren’t JUST aloof, they’re border-line menacing and malevolent. Most of my aforementioned traits are really mostly applied to Thranduil who is a beautiful, horrible, pompous creature. It’s almost hilarious except that he’s so intense and scary on screen that you can feel his condescension, disgust, and ruthlessness in every line. And I love it. We get this hinted at side of the Elves with the first movie, and it has just delved deeper in this one. Lee Pace was simply fantastic. I loved every scene with Thranduil, and his scenes rank among some of my favorites from the movie overall.
I know a lot of fans were pissed by the addition of Tauriel, but have no fears and relax. She makes a perfect fit in the series and helps balance out Hawkeye (uh, I mean Legolas). Not to mention I think I have a crush on her. She’s ruthless, cute, brave and smart… Made my heart flutter in the movie theater for a bit. (Donna’s totally cool with this, since her love for Legolas pre-dates her even knowing me.) And while she is and does feel like she was placed into the movie to satisfy some need for a female character, and something to get the ladies into the theater while being eye-candy for the dudes, she is a true badass. She’s head of the Elven Guard, so she’s made for fighting. She is given just as much on-screen fight time as any other male character, and she kicks just as much ass as them, if not more.
There have been rumors of romantic sub-plots. Yes, this movie does contain a romantic sub-plot between Tauriel and Kili. And while I’m usually the one to roll my eyes and complain when the powers-that-be feel like they need to shove romance into a movie JUST to have it there, this was actually pretty adorable in the film and I found myself not minding as much as I usually would. Kili got mad game with the ladies — Guys take notes. Kili overall gets a larger role in the film, and besides Thorin, he’s the Dwarf that gets a good chunk of the screen time – in fact it seems the rest of the dwarves almost fall to the wayside in favor of bringing Kili out to the forefront.
In DoS It does take a while to get to Smaug under the mountain, but the good news is the first part of the movie is SO action packed I forgot that they were even supposed to “get to” the dragon part. The only part I felt like “Oh okay I just want to get to the dragon now” was in the human village of Lake-town. Stephen Fry is there, though! And he does a brilliant job of being a sleazy, unlikeable scumbag. Luke Evans, who plays Bard, is also there lookin’ a lot like Will Turner from Pirates of the Caribbean – so it’s like you’re watching two Orlando Blooms in the same movie. The Lake-town arc of the story was kind of meh for me, although undeniably important; but it did offer a lull from the super high intensity through the rest of the film. Maybe I just grew tired of Lake-town because I KNEW I just wanted to get to the dragon.
Ah, Smaug. What is there to say about Smaug? Well first let’s give a shout out to Weta Workshop, they really did help bring the Smaug to live! From the size, depth, and movement, they truly nailed it. Way better than the dragons in Reign of Fire. If Smaug had looked shitty trust that I would be the first person bitching about a shitty CGI dragon, but he was beautiful — from close up to wide shot. Benedict Cumberbatch also did a pheonominal job portraying him. With the motion capture process did Smaug end up kind of looking like Benedict? No. He looks like a fucking dragon, guys come on. But his facial expressions were freighting. Did Smaug sound like Benedict? He sounded like a dragon version of Benedict, if that’s what you mean. The human aspect of Benedict was gone, leaving you with pure dragon. You could really feel Smaug starring into your soul, his voice forcing you to answer his questions. If I didn’t know any better, I would really believe they transformed Benedict Cumberbatch into a dragon to play this part. Overall: Benedict Cumberbatch did not disappoint (although did anyone really expect him to?)
And all this way into the review and I’ve made no mention of our little Bilbo! Bilbo Baggins! The bravest little hobbit of them all! (I’ve literally waited all article to work that joke in.) Martin Freeman was out of this world. I’m loving his character development. As we know, LOTR and The Hobbit is all about going on a life changing journey, something that by the end of it, you’re a completely different person. We get to watch Bilbo change before our very eyes. He still has The Ring from the first film and were watching his battle with it. We all know how it ends with him, but it still hurts to watch him struggle with the powers and pull that the ring holds over him. We get to see him be a brave warrior. He takes on spiders, saving his merry batch of dwarves; helps rebuild their morale and he tries to outwit a damn dragon. This will be one of the funniest scenes in the film. Martin Freemans command of body language is really does help bring the comedy to live into film. Donna’s “Fact About Me”: I watch a lot of silent flicks, so I appreciate the effect of body language without spoken word and how it can add so much to a movie. Bilbo had me consistently cracking up in the theater without so much as a single word said… Whether he’s trying to figure out how to escape after he frees the dwarfs, or when trying to play it cool in front of Smaug. And I don’t know if it’s because I was so absorbed already, but the scene in the treasure room where Bilbo finally comes face to face with Smaug was so incredibly nerve-wracking that I found myself getting anxious… the pacing was just right.
My only complaint in this movie would be Gandalf. I feel that we simply just didn’t get enough of him. While his scenes are big and bold, it cuts him off rather short. On the bright side it causes us to focus more on the dwarves and Biblo. The parallel plot-line of a growing evil is addressed throughout the movie – which primarily becomes Gandalf’s quest. We get a glimpse of Sauron as we come to know him in the LotR movies. This scene was one of my favorites in the film. I thought it was beautifully created and executed. Visually intense. Feel free to argue with me, but I thought it a great introduction to the iconic Eye. And his first face-off with Gandalf was soooo badass.
All in all I really did love this movie. The ending left us on such a blue balls moment that will cause you to scream in agony, but it’s worth it. I’m not even kidding, it’s the biggest tease of an ending. So prepare yourself for it now, lest your brain shut down for 15 seconds like Donna’s did. If you can, I would really SUGGEST you see this movie in IMAX 3D (get thee to a quality IMAX theater if you can find your way to one). Seeing it play at 48FPS and the depth that was added in with 3D was just unbelievable. After we finished the film was walked to our favorite burger joint — Shake Shack, got a double bacon cheese burger with fries and a shake and just ate our emotions. I suggest you do the same. Go on, eat your feelings, you’ll feel better if you do…