The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug

Director: Peter Jackson
Lead Actors: Ian Mckellan, Martin Freeman, Evangeline Lilly, Orlando Bloom
Producer: Zane Weiner

Plot Synopsis:
We meet Thorin, Dwarf King, on the run and a wanted man. As he bellies up in a tavern for some food and a drink, we can see several nefarious characters eyeing him. This reminded me a lot of King Aragorn's status during the first Lord of The Rings series, before he proved himself as king.

Suddenly, out of nowhere, Ian Mckellan's Gandolf appears in this tavern, and he is a good two feet taller than anyone else.

I, along with most characters in this long Lord of the Rings/Hobbit series, am always glad to see Gandolf. He represents good and light, and if you watched the Lord of the Rings movies, you'll know that he has a talent for saving the day.

In this movie, he warns Thorin of the very real plots afoot to take his life, because he is, after all, an heir to a throne and fortune.

Gandolf also tells of a treasure being guarded by a sleeping dragon in the middle of a mountain. This treasure and a kingdom would go to Thorin, if only he could find someone to help him burglarize a certain stone buried in the treasure.

This scene is Jackson's way of exposing some of the plot. We then fast forward to Thorin in progress to the mountain with his assembled team of dwarfs and one hobbit - the adventurous Bilbo Baggins.

The always game Baggins has been chosed to steal the stone because  of his size, adventurous spirit and his resourcefulness. These are all trademarks belonging to any healthy hobbit. Baggins, also has a small ring in his possession that bestows him with many special powers, one of them being the ability to become invisible

So, Gandolf, Baggins and a surprisingly able and baritone-voiced team of dwarfs embark on an epic Tolkienesque adventure across New Zealand, wherein they meet giant spiders, beautiful and deadly elves, orcs, and the odd people of Lake City.

Who Would Like it and Why
Unapologetic and less critical fans of Tolkien. This Hobbit movie seemed to be a version of Jackson-lite, wherein we have some of the magic that made the Lord of the Rings series so great, but we are somehow lacking the real adult themes and foreboding that gave them staying power.

Who Might Not Like It and Why
There is an entire sequence where dwarfs are bobbing up and down in a white-water river scenario - dodging orc blades. There are "bouncy" sound effects and the orcs seem to have worse aim than the Washington Generals.

Indeed, it is clear that  the orcs are never meant to win or hit anything unless it serves plot development. This makes the movie a bit cartoony in more than one place.

Highlights/Top Scenes
The famous encounter between Smaug, the dragon guarding the treasure, and Bilbo Baggins was well done. The dragon seemed to be little more than a festering egotistical force that withdrew from civilization a long time ago to guard its treasure. It therefore reminded me of some of the older producers spending their dying days bitterly counting their money, trolling for beautiful lovers half their age in the Hollywood hills.

Benedict Cumberbatch, who seems to be taking over not only Hollywood but the BBC with his popular Sherlock Homes series (a show that costars Martin Freeman) - plays Smaug in this movie.

By that I mean they use his likeness to enhance the expressions of the dragon as it interrogates Freeman's Baggins. This was well done.

I say this knowing that many, many, many literary purists were enraged and furious over the adaptation. I am sure that to them, Smaug was an abomination and should never have been wrestled out of the pages of the original book. But I thought the whole sequence was quite fun.

The scenes in Lake City were rewarding. It was a fishing village with a dark history of its own. The acting and the set decoration were great. 

The dwarves, in general, are very interesting creatures who make up for their short stature with  bravado and bravery, and who also coalesce as a unit quite nicely. 

Evangeline Lilly stepped into a pair of elf pants quite well. She was believable and sexy as an elf captain.

Orlando Bloom seems to only do well under the direction of Peter Jackson. He was great in this movie and managed to have some great fighting scenes. Where were these chops in all the other movies he's done?  

The orcs in this prequel seemed to have more variety than they did in the later Lord of The Rings series. Even though they can't seem to fight and are as feeble-minded as they are feeble-bodied (remember again the Washington Generals parallel I drew earlier, they certainly managed to look scary.

Also, the first song to play in the credits was beautiful and oddly fitting. I thought that was a brave choice to have a singer and guitar music after such an epic movie, but it paid off. 

Grade: Two Mike and Ikes

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