Archive for January, 2014

The Hobbit (TheByteScene Review)

Date: January 12th, 2014

TheByteDaily

The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug

3 Vast-Improvements-Over-The-Original out of 4

Peter Jackson’s first foray with The Hobbitwas an awkward mess of a film. From a purely technical point of view, the movie was fantastic, but it was spectacularly boring with much of the main plot dragging on for far too long. Ironically, the film suffered specifically because of Jackson’s refusal to veer away from J.R.R. Tolkien’s original story. Even some of the most mindless and inane details that were present in Tolkien’s novel managed to find themselves in Jackson’s film, and the production was weaker for it.

Ironically, a feature that so closely followed its source material was the exact argument against perfect book-to-movie adaptations. Jackson proved that a film that follows its source material’s story to the last letter will not only run for an unnecessary amount of time, it will also be boring enough that it’s nearly three hour run time will feel like far more.

Thankfully, viewers and critics alike will be happy to know that The Desolation of Smaug is a fun production and a great movie. The visuals are beautiful, the action is plentiful and well choreographed, the acting is a mix between scene-chewingly absurd and succinctly minimalistic, and Andrew Lesnie’s cinematography yet again brings a fantastic Tolkien feel to New Zealand.

Jackson and his cast of artists let their world speak for itself, succeeding in carrying on the tradition of excellence that the original Lord of the Ringsfilms helped pioneer. Simply put, The Desolation of Smaugis the movie that An Unexpected Journeycould have been if much of the fat was trimmed off.

Picking up a short time after the conclusion of its predecessor, the hobbit Bilbo, the wizard Gandalf, and Thorin Okenshield and his team of dwarves are attempting to outrun the vengeful Azog the Orc, who served as the first film’s primary antagonist. Continuing their journey to reclaim The Lonely Mountain, the heroes split up into two groups, with Gandalf leaving to search for a reemerging evil in Middle Earth.

As with many long-existing franchises with a consistent track record of success, The Hobbitfilms are no longer exercises in film-making. Instead, they represent a shift to a wider universe with more characters, more locations, and new stories to entertain diehard fans and newcomers alike.

I suppose at this point, it’s unsurprising that Peter Jackson is going to make a great movie based on Tolkien’s work.

That The Desolation of Smaugfeatures strong performances by Richard Armitage, Martin Freeman, Evangeline Lily, and Benedict Cumberbatch’s low baritone (who voices the eponymous fire-breathing dragon Smaug) is just icing on the cake. Additional praise should be given to Stephen Fry who cameos as the Master of Laketown – a fat landlord who rules his city with a tyrannical and well-fed fist. Stephen Fry’s talent should never be called into question, and watching him saunter on screen to act out anything is always a treat.

The much touted 48 frames-per-second visual quality is yet again on display, and the movie is a stunning piece of art to behold. Colours are bolder, and scenes look like paintings, with CG characters and backgrounds almost seamlessly blending in with the rest of the production. Again, it should come as no surprise that special effects created by Weta Digital under the supervision of Jackson and his crew are beautiful.

The truth is that Peter Jackson is clearly a talented filmmaker with a keen eye for fixing his mistakes in order to strengthen his work. My largest concern with An Unexpected Journeywas its monotonously slow pacing, and The Desolation of Smaugliterally fixes this problem with the opening credits. Gone is a long, heavily narrated opening sequence that serves to recap the previous film’s events. Instead, Jackson presents a short cold open, flashes the film’s title, and continues with the story.

Ultimately, all that matters with universe building is the story. As long as the story is interesting and well-paced, everything else simply falls into place. The Desolation of Smaugfulfils this criteria with an effortlessly unfolding story that does away with any concern for plodding exposition. Audiences are treated to an entertaining production that benefits from a strong script, and a cast of artists who care.

As always, this has been your Admin, the Blogger; comment, subscribe, and criticize, and DO remember! Always look on the BYTE side of life!

-SC(EK)